Saturday, January 9, 2016

Inch Ninety-Nine: New Year

I have not yet grown used to the idea that it is a new year. Oh, I am getting the date right on checks and letters, but another year? Already?

The first nine days of January have been a hodgepodge. Some days off, some truancy mediations (already), some sunny cold days, some warmer but rainy days. We continue to have no snow. This morning, Warren and I took a walk in weather more like mid-April than early January. Portland got some snow and ice at the beginning of the week; the video of Ramona playing in it showed more snow clinging to her mitten than we have had all season.

Our tree—the one that dropped needles before it was even in its stand—is still with us. The press of time on Warren and my personal lack of energy have guaranteed that the holidays will linger yet a bit longer in this house.

To say I have been reading a lot these last several days would be an understatement. I just finished rereading The Lord of the Rings, not for the first time. Before that, I inhaled Roger Angell's This Old Man, a collection of his short pieces, most of which appeared in The New Yorker, a magazine which he and his mother and stepfather before him have been associated with almost since its inception. Angell's stepfather was E.B. White and by some magical, non-biological process, he inherited a goodly portion of White's writing skill. Angell's mother, Katherine S. White, was a formidable editor and no slouch at writing herself, but she was not E.B. White. She may have taught her son a sense of structure, but the effortless sentences that Angell turns out could have come straight from White's pen. As my good friend Margo noted, reading Angell is so easy, "like floating."

During my chemo sessions, which are twice a week, I am reading for the first time War and Peace. It's a lengthy tome, but there are lots of chemo sessions in the future. While sitting in the waiting room waiting for chemo, I read an essay in a cancer magazine on the nearest table. The essayist talked about her changed priorities since receiving her diagnosis. She no longer spent time on things that did not interest her, such as "boring" books that "were supposed to be good" for her. On the strength of that conviction, she chucked War and Peace.

War and Peace boring? Boring? Lengthy, yes. Freighted with complicated names and lineages and story lines, absolutely. But boring? Never. I put down the essay in disgust.

For my home reading, I am rereading Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon. In the dark of winter, in the start of the new year, it is good to read and dream of road trips down the blue highways of our own choosing.

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