Books are my friends.

While I was at Jessica’s over Thanksgiving, we watched an Oprah she had taped. It was one of the the shows which dealt with a woman who had become a hoarder. People who hoard to the extent that woman did have a compulsive disorder. Like many disorders, hoarding is a fairly harmless tendency that many of us have that has gone wild in the hoarder. Jessica and I got to talking about what we tend to hang on to or acquire beyond what we need. I confessed that with me, it is books.

I love to read. I always have one or two or more books going. My bedside table attests to this.

I also love to acquire books. The earliest presents I remember getting were those “Little Golden Books” that used to cost a nickle or a dime. Instead of badgering my mother for candy or toys when we went to the store, I would bargain for a Little Golden Book. I was pretty good at it and eventually, I had a whole shelf full.

I have moved many times and on each of those moves I have packed and hauled boxes and boxes of books. I think I do this in part because my books make me feel secure and at home. I also think they represent a kind of wealth to me, a wealth of knowledge. My books are not rare volumns and are not intrinsicly valuable, bit they are mine and comfort me.

Periodicially, I cull my shelves and thin out those books which I am sure I will never read again or read for the first time. I ususally give the culls to my local library of which I am a very loyal and frequent patron for their annual “Friends of the Library” sale.

My hoarding tendency is stocking up on even more books before I have read the one’s I already have. I do this constantly. Then, to make matters worse so that I fall even further behind in reading what I already have, I go to the library and check out even more books to read.
If I am not content with what my local libraries have on their shelves, I order more through interlibrary loan. The two libraries I use, the local library and the university library, have made it only a matter of a few clicks and keystrokes for me to access millions of volumns for free.

I am always on the lookout for new authors and new books. I read several blogs dealing with books. Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust and Nonfiction Readers are just two of them. Before the internet, I used to read Booklist, the ALA publication about new books, regularly in order to make lists of books I wanted to read. I guess the list making is another manifestation of my own book lust.

I am trying to cut back. I have put myself on book probation. I cannot buy any more books for myself until I have read 10 of the books I already have and have not read. One of the rules of this probation is that I can use the library. This is not meant to be a cruel punishment, rather it is just to get me out of the habit of acquiring more books than I have time to read.

I plan on keeping track of what I have read by making a list for this blog. I also plan on celebrating when I finish reading the ten books by buying myself a present. A book.

Birds of a feather

After spending a few days in relatively warm Austin (40, overcast, rain), it was nice to get back to the dry, sunny, cold Laramie. Sunday was my first day home and we went up to Pole Mountain to run or hike. There were a few clouds, but it was a bright day and not much wind. The trail I took, Headquarters, is a point to point trail, but there are several places where other trails join or intersect so you don’t have to hike the whole way. My plan was to hike out about 45 minutes to a place where the trail comes to the top of a ridge and the trees thin out and then take another trail back to the truck. From that spot, on clear days like Sunday, you can see the front range with Long’s Peak and Mount Meeker in the distance to the south. If you move your line of sight a bit to the west the mountains of the Rawah Wilderness poke their white heads up above Boulder Ridge. Further west is the seemingly solitary Jelm and then the Snowies are almost directly west of this vantage. The altitude at that spot is about 8800 feet so it’s no surprise you can see a ways.

It was late afternoon as I was standing there taking in the view. The sun was about a foot above the horizon. The slanting light was bright and clear. As I looked, a flock of birds flew up in front of me. At first I thought they were just misc. brown birds. I watched them roil through the sky in that wonderful way flocks of birds have. How do they fly like that and not smash into one another?
As they flew, over and behind me, I noticed that they were not just misc. brown birds. They were larger than sparrows and had a different look than starlings.
The flock of about 50 or 60 birds landed in a dead pine tree about 20 yards behind where I stood. Since I was between them and the sun, they seemed to be in a spotlight. I could clearly see their plumage and markings. I knew they were waxwings of some kind. The only kind I was familiar with were cedar waxwings. However, these birds had a rufous patch on the bottom of their tails. When I got home and looked them up, it turned out that they were Bohemian waxwings. I kicked myself for not bringing the camera along. As I took a step to leave, they all flew out of the tree.

In anticipation of the winter blahs.

Disclaimer: I don’t like to shop at Walmart, but sometimes it is my only option. Shopping is very limited in Laramie. Sometimes, the only place I can find a thing in town is to go to Walmart. So I did.

I went to Walmart yesterday and bought two amaryllis. They each came in a box which had a big tablet of compressed growing medium (just add water), a pot and a big bulb. I planted them this morning. According to the blurb on the box, they should bloom in 8 to 12 weeks. That will be anywhere from the middle of January to the middle of February, just when the long, cold winter is starting to get a bit oppressive. With luck we should have some spectacular blooms to provide relief and remind us than it is just four more months until spring.

Waiting for the other shoe to fall

It’s the middle of November and after a long and warm fall, the other shoe is about to drop. It is almost 60 today and will be almost that warm tomorrow, but on Tuesday, when all of UW is poised to hit the trail to grandma’s house, the other shoe will fall. The forecast is for snow and much colder temperatures. Highs in 20’s and lows in the single digits. This is the kind of weather we usually have this time of year. One of the Thanksgiving traditions in this part of Wyoming is a Thanksgiving blizzard making travel difficult, and getting to the airport in Denver damn near impossible.

I’m supposed to fly out of Denver on Wednesday. When my daughter was here for a visit this summer, she invited us to come to Austin for Thanksgiving to get out of the cold. I would have been just as happy to get out of the nice fall weather we have been having and not have to drive on ice in the horizontal snow.

Stay tuned to see if 1. the blizzard arrived on schedule, 2. DIA is so backed up because of the weather that they start serving turkey sandwiches at McDonald on the concourses, 3. Whether they close all the roads out of Laramie so that I miss the turkey sandwiches at McDonalds. Can you tell I am a bit pessimistic about this trip?

Mooses come walking…

This morning I took the dogs up to Happy Jack to walk the trail that runs by a series of beaver ponds along Pole Creek which have been constructed over the years. I saw what looked like fairly fresh moose poop right on the trail. Moose poop is easily identified. It looks like rabbit pellets only it is about the size of the first joint of my thumb. If you smash a pellet open, there is what looks just ilke sawdust on the inside. Moose eat lots of willows and the sawdust is what’s left after it has been processed. I think the mooose must not have been long gone because the dogs keep circling around and stay a long time in the willows.

A couple of months ago, we spotted two moose in the willows on the far side of one of the ponds. The prevailing southerly winds kept our scent and any sounds we made away from them, so we got to watch them for a while. It is always exciting to see moose because it happens so rarely. Mosse are usually very shy and timber up during the day.

Moose are shy. They are also usually solitary. You may see a cow and calf or maybe twins, but it is very unusual to see several moose in the same spot. Last fall Konza and I saw a group of five up in the Snowies right along the highway. Of course I got very excited and took many pictures. Thank goodness I had the camera along.

The group consisted of a bull, a cow, what looked like a previous year’s mostly grown calf and twins from this year. There was another bull laying down in the willows on the other side of the flats.

This is the bull. Moose are huge, ungainly looking animals. However, they can move quickly when they need to. Like most animals they would rather avoid confrontation, but will charge if threatened. Their kicks are vicious.

This cow had two calves.

I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the fourth moose in this group. Here’s the best I could do. I think that this was an older calf. I don’t know much about moose rut habits, but don’t imagine the other bull which was much larger would have tolerated this one if it wasn’t part of the family. It is in the center of the picture looking right at us.

As I mentioned there was a fifth moose on the other side of the flat. He seemed to be unpreturbed, just relaxing and chewing his cud.

One of the silly things we do when we see a moose is recite Arlo Guthrie’s poem about moose.

I seem to be having a tougher time adjusting to the time change this year. I haven’t fallen back very gracefully.

Winters are long here in Laramie. We usually have our first snow in September and by Halloween winter has come to stay. Not so this year. Our first snow wasn’t until October and it is still warming into the 50’s during the day, though the temperature drops like a rock when the sun goes down. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Winter was coming slowly this year. Fall was going down like a tire with a slow leak. It was warmer than usual and it was still light when I walked home after work. There was even time to go up to Pole Mountain for a hike some evenings.
Then the time changed. Now, the sun has already set by the time I leave work. In a couple of weeks I will be walking home in the dark.

The dark is the problem. The dark seems darker in the winter. At least it does when there is no snow and no moon. The winter dark is confining. It closes down like a thick, heavy blanket. I avoid going out again once I get home. The older I get the less I like to go back out.

This dark will last for almost four months. The days will continue to shorten until the winter solstice when they will be only 9 hours and 11 minutes long.
Then slowly the light will return.

We have talked about living in Alaska. I don’t know that I could deal with the dark there when the sun is up for only 5 hours and 27 minutes in Anchorage.

So many books, so little time.

Last entry, I mentioned that I was reading a book that was pretty awful. I wondered why I kept on reading it. I think I was hooked just enough in the story to keep going. Last night that all changed. I found myself skimming and skipping pages. Time to cast that crummy book aside; so I did.

Some people really get upset when I mention that I start books and don’t finish them. They are folks who are held prisioner by bad literature. That’s too bad since painful reading may turn them into nonreaders. They start books and keep on plugging awat, even though the book has no redeeming qualities and worse they aren’t enjoying it. Now, I do believe that you should give a book a chance. Something about it attracted you so that you picked it up and started reading. Some books are slow starters and don’t get going for a chapter or two. Nancy Pearl , she of Book Lust fame, a prodigious reader and recommender of books, uses this guideline for when to give up. She suggests that you should subtract your age from 100 and read to that page. If the book hasn’t captured you by then, put it down.

Just because you put a book down doesn’t mean it is forever banished from your bedside table (That’s where I keep the books I am reading because one of my very favorite, life long pleasures is to read in bed.) I often pick up discarded books week or even years later and read them with relish. Maybe it wasn’t the book, maybe it was me. I may not have been ready for the book at the time I tried it earlier. Of course, there are lots of just plain awful books out there. I can’t figure out how some books got published. I’m not taking about taste. I’m talking about poor writing and worse editing.

I don’t know if I would religate Aunt Diminty to the trash heap. The series is, after all, just light fiction, meant solely to entertain. Since the series goes on and on, I must assume that a fair number of people enjoy the books and keep on buying them. I don’t think I will ever again be among them. There are just too many really enjoyable books waiting out there for me to find and read them.