Books I Have Loved 2016

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Many of these are not newly published, so apologies if everything on here is old news to you! I don’t know what to say about this eclectic mess, or what it says about me. I can’t pick an absolute favorite as I liked each of these for different reasons. Here they are by month read, with a couple of “cheats” over the border of one month to the next for books that I liked better than anything else I read in the following month. Also discovered that I have a lot of “lost” books on my Kindle. For example Luther Siler’s Benevolence Archives, of which I loved the sample and even meant to recommend to a friend, got lost or it would most likely be on this list. I must make a TBR list, and learn to make Kindle collections. And read Benevolence Archives soon, before it gets lost once again in my massive TBR!

January
The Sorcerer’s Garden by D.Wallace Peach

February
How To Be A Tudor by Ruth Goodman

March
The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

April
Power of the Matchmaker by Karey White

May
Far West: The Diary of Eleanor Higgins by Linell Jepson

June
You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt

July
The Mini Farming Handbook by Brett L Markham

August
The Vampire’s Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

September
Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English

October
Through Streets Broad and Narrow by Gemma Jackson

November
The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman

December
Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss

Day After Solstice

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Day after Solstice

We take it on faith that the days are getting longer
though the nights seem as dark and the air seems as cold

We choose to believe that the light’s getting stronger
although all it sounds like a quaint fairytale of old.

We do not sigh or yearn for the simple old times
though it is always tempting to polish up the past

We instead choose to live, to embrace the darkling day
though our faith needs sharpening and our kindness won’t last

We know that this darkness brings some tests of courage
through the cold we prevail though our hearts are undone

We put our feet to the path, wave farewell to the summer
though this journey is ended, a new one has begun.

Christmas Pastiche

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Sentimental Deer by T.L. Ryder (c) 2017

It’s Christmas time
sleigh bells ring
in the city

The carolers sing
“Noel, Noel”

Are you listening?
Christmas brings
joy to the world

The bells ring
“Noel, Noel”

Candles gleaming
eyes all aglow
O holy night,

The angels sing
“Noel, Noel”

In the manger
flocks by night
to cradle run

The friendly beasts sing
“Noel, Noel”

In thy dark streets
come and worship
the newborn king

The holy star sings
“Noel, Noel”

((I cobbled together lines from various Christmas songs to make this pastiche like holiday ode. Give it a try if you dare! And drop me a link in the comments if you do.))

Chasing the Transcendent

Patti Smith on Singing at Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Ceremony

Smith’s essay in the New Yorker spoke to a thing that I’ve known for a very long time. I’ve been a singer most of my life. I was the music director for a UU church. I sang in a very large semi-pro symphony orchestra.  I sang many, many solos for contests and won a lot of prizes. I sang in a Celtic folk band, in a 60s revival pop band. I helped facilitate many folk nights, caroling parties and etc. I’ve stood up before audiences so many times that I can’t even begin to count them. Many of those I did a capella– nothing but me and my voice before the world. Smith says:

and in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty. Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them.

Occasionally as a musician (or as a live theater performer of any kind) one gets a perfect moment. They never come in the solitude of a practice room. Only with the participation of an audience can we suspend our disbelief and enter that transcendent performance where everything is beautiful. That moment exists beyond our understanding, and we create it with the audience. In those moments, we become vessels of the transcendent. It is a highly addictive drug.

Musicians, especially singers, often look like the most egotistical people one could imagine. Indeed, many times we are. I think that even in those cases when it appears that we sincerely think that we are “the shit”, as the kids say now, it’s all armor. And here, listening to Patti Smith, both in her essay and singing at the ceremony, perhaps one gets a glimpse of what that ego is, and why we need its armor. It is armor against the world, against the music, even. The music demands perfection, and yet it demands even more than that. It demands ours whole heart, even as it fills us to the breaking point. Sometimes we break, right there in front of you. Sometimes even a lifetime of practicing and performing doesn’t save us from the music, the pain, the beautiful horror of it all. All the contents of our heart and soul spill out. And that, my friends, is real music. No perfection required.

So They Say

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Photo by Aimee Vogelsang, via Unsplash

They Say
it is wrong to speak ill of the dead
And So
they feast, eat us alive
They Say
honor your mother and father
And So
we duck our heads, and lie
They say
until death do us part
But No
there’s no severing of hearts.

dead, alive, mother, father, truth, or lie
there is only us, together and apart.

Advice for Hosts

As some of you may have guessed, my previous bad poem “Orphan at Your Table“, was a fictionalized account of my experiences as an orphan taken in by various people for Thanksgiving dinner.  My parents died when I was a young teen and neither of them had a lot of family left. I was quite in demand as an orphan to invite for Thanksgiving for many years. While many of the people were well-meaning in their attempts to include me, some of them were indeed mostly looking to show off what great people they were by having a semi-homeless waif over for a holiday. I was in foster care and reasonably well-cared for, so nobody imagine that I was living on the streets!

If you do want to invite someone over for the holidays because they are an orphan or living far from home or recently divorced or whatever other thing has washed them up on the shores of “alone for a major US holiday”, I have a few suggestions to make it nicer for them.

Book Release: Undead Embrace

This Turkey hopes that you are not inviting him to dinner. He knows how that ends!

      • Treat them like they belong with you. Most of us don’t like to be fussed over and treated like an exotic creature. Let them blend in with your family traditions as much as possible.
      • Keep the well-meaning sympathy on the back burner. Maybe they want to talk about their deceased loved ones, ex-spouse, or far away home. Maybe they don’t. Be open to the possibility, but let them initiate this. It could be that they would prefer a distraction over a sympathetic ear.
      • Tell other regular attendees in advance that you have invited this person. You might be amazed at the alarm, suspicion, and discomfort springing a surprise orphan on your extended nearest and dearest can cause.
      • Don’t introduce them as “the orphan” and supply a lot of backstory. “This is Jane. We work together.” or whatever is the case for the acquaintance will go a long way to making your orphan feel more comfortable.
      • Understand if they refuse the invitation, it’s not you. It’s us. Sometimes we really are more comfortable in the diner with a good buck.

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving, and bless your kind hearts if you’re taking in random guests, orphans or not!