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Tag Archives: animals

We got through January with the help of books

Mathiessen with cat

cat books

Here is the late writer Peter Matthiessen with a cat. And a feline doing research.

After an easy December with little snow, New Englanders were hit with three big snowstorms in a row at the end of January. And 6-10 more inches are predicted for tomorrow, at least in southern Maine. I’m still digging out and neatening up the walkways. Thank goodness for the library. I recently read two notably good books: THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich and THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER, a collection of stories by Hilary Mantel. Erdrich’s novels are always rewarding, rich with native American wisdom, family history and humor. I really liked Mantel’s twisted, often dark stories. I want to read her WOLF HALL and sequels.

Consolations during this frigid, trying time of year include a fireplace, comfort food like mashed potatoes, stew and homemade bread, email with faraway friends, my cats and dog, “Downton Abbey” and other good things on TV, but most of all, books. I hope you have a big pile of them at your house.

Remember what made you happy…

beach library
London book benches

Advice I came across years ago that I find useful: think back to what made you happy as a child, say eight years old. When you feel overwhelmed by grownup obligations, these memories can help you focus on simple pleasures you may be neglecting that feed your soul.

My eight-year-old self loved books, animals, smart friends, the ocean, holidays of all kinds, writing and drawing, including making little illustrated books for my family. No surprise that I live on the coast of Maine, an animal lover, avid reader, writer and yes, publisher of books for the fun of it, not for profit. I still love holidays and playing with like-minded friends. If too much of what you were drawn to and made you happy as a child is missing from your busy adult life, perhaps you can find those uncomplicated pleasures again and be nourished by them.

On the theme of books and their importance: here’s a beach library, and examples from a clever project in London where bus stop benches are decorated as famous books.

Autumn in New England…and animal poetry

autumn leaves

Chandler with cat

Last night we had temperatures in the 30s, though my annuals didn’t die, so technically it wasn’t a frost here in Westbrook. At the risk of sounding corny/unoriginal, fall is my favorite season in New England (I’m not a fan of hot weather).

I’m working on a fun project compiling a second anthology of contemporary animal poetry. The first one, published in 2008, has sold well. All proceeds from that book go to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA), a private nonprofit mostly equine rescue organization in Windham, Maine. I volunteer for this excellent outfit. Check out the website at http://www.msspa.org and if you can, visit their beautiful farm and see what extraordinary care the horses and other animals receive.

That’s a picture of Raymond Chandler that I found online. Photos of writers with beloved animals are so cool. Anyway, I have put the second anthology on hold for a bit while I wait to find out whether Moon Pie Press and MSSPA will receive some grant money we have applied for to publish and advertise the book. I hope you will consider buying the first anthology and the second one when it’s out, too. These books are good gifts for animal lovers and benefit rescued horses and other creatures.

Children’s books and the worlds they open to us

boy reading on buffalo photo

I was a lucky child because I learned to read young (about 4) and it came easily to me. My sister, three years older, had learned to read, and my parents are both readers, and I could not stand it that they got to read and I didn’t. So I got hooked on the magic of reading (and libraries) at an early age, before school. In retrospect I was also fortunate that my family didn’t have a TV until I was maybe 10 years old. I know, hard to imagine; so don’t draft me for one of those trivia games about TV shows in the early sixties. Some of the books that captivated me as a child:

Treasure Island
The Wizard of Oz
The Wind in the Willows
the Dr. Seuss books
The Secret Garden
The Little House On the Prairie series
Anne of Green Gables
Black Beauty
White Fang
Lad, A Dog
Born Free
Tarzan
Kipling’s Just So Stories
Nancy Drew mysteries
fairy tales from all over the world
Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, the Booth Tarkington books

I’ll stop with this selection, which of course is a bit heavy on the animal-themed side, and rather old-fashioned.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say so, but staring into a screen, playing video games or reading graphic novels just doesn’t exercise the imagination (at least for me) like good old immersion in a book. Just as when I was a child, does it get any better than a sunny day, a new book and a few cookies? Oh, and add a beloved animal.