Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Well-Read Wednesday: The Dreamer

"Neftali, do you not have enough old keys in your collection?"

"Keys unlock doors, Laurita. One can never have too many."

This book was recommended to me by an amazing person and writer, Lisa Hale. Then it took me about a year to pick it up and read it. She was right. The imagery, the figurative language, and the story is beautiful. So rarely do we find books so beautifully written with as much careful thought given to the language used to tell the story as the story itself.

"The Dreamer" is the fictional biography of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda. The author gives us a glimpse into the life of a young boy, Neftali Reyes, as a quiet, shy, sickly boy with a demanding father who tries to squelch his son's quiet unfocused daydreaming and his scrawling words on paper. The boy has a fascination with words, the world around him, and physical objects: pinecones, stones, feathers, old keys. There are poems here too, in the book, and prose that echoes poetry. We journey with Neftali: fearing his father, observing the world, learning, and growing older until Neftali has the courage to write. With the pen name of Pablo Neruda he finally becomes his own person and finds his own voice. And what a beautiful voice it is.

I love how the author includes some of Neruda's poety at the end of the book. The illustrations are beautiful. The book has a beautiful tone to it. It is one of those "quiet" books we hear about. The ones many don't appreciate or pick up because they aren't provocative enough, create enough buzz on twitter or cause us to turn pages fast enough. This book isn't a page turner.

It's a heart changer.
Read it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Whirligig in Wyoming

I came to Wyoming 2 years ago with no intention of liking it. It seemed mostly brown and barren--rangeland that stretched as far as the eye could see. Sometimes the horizon was pimpled with oil rigs, not pumping. I'd grown up in rural Idaho. I thought I understood remoteness and space and the barren distance between two places. I didn't. For me, Wyoming wasn't green enough. There were not enough mountains. My skin cracked and dried out like an alligator's.

Wyoming has a catch phrase: "Forever West." It's how they lure people here in travel brochures and T.V. ads. Ironically, being in Wyoming is the furthest East I've ever lived.

I came here with low expectations. And like Sally in the Disney movie "Cars": "I fell in love." I fell in love with a place where the traffic is slower and the cell phone coverage is sketchy at best. I fell in love with a town that feels like my own town did when I was a kid in late '70s. Locally owned businesses line Main Street. There is a McDonald's and a Subway and Safeway and a Family Dollar, but few other "chains." A shopping mall, Sam's Club, Target: they're all 2 hours away. Family is even further. But the town has what I value and need: a library, a swimming pool, a park, an ice-skating rink in winter, a golf course with groomed cross country ski trails when the snow is deep. I think we're the only family in town without a dog.

I never thought I'd leave this place. My soul had finally found a home, a place to land after flitting about like a caged bird. This was it. But things happen. The bad economy which seemed so far away is here too, with budget cuts and broken things. We're looking at another job change, at leaving here. I told a friend last night that with a job loss also comes a sort of mourning, not just for the loss of the job, or the income, or the security it provides, but also a sort of mourning for the life you had imagined for yourself. I'd imagined a life here: of raising my kids here, buying a house, writing a novel or two or twenty, of getting older, of biking up the canyon, and of backpacking every piece I could of the Wind River Mountain Range. It hurts to have to leave.

He told me that no one talks in language like that: "of mourning the life you had imagined for yourself"--and that I should be writing. And so I am. I wrote it down.

But it still hurts.