Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Becoming Miz Lillian

As much as I strive to grow old disgracefully, there's always a pie in the face joke that threatens to take over my life. This morning while I was having coffee I read a sentence that referred to Miz Lillian, the Carter family matriarch who emerged into public view when Jimmy became our president. Miz Lillian was a fine example of the energetic aging process, having just returned from a stint in the Peace Corps in time to attend her son's inauguration, after which she wrote her first book and showed the world that a woman could be wrinkled and proud of it.

I revered Miz Lillian in my late twenties. She was a clearcut illustration that a woman's life didn't end with her first wrinkle, and that being ancient did not preclude being fully alive. She also frightened me in the way that Girl Scout leaders used to when I was small. She looked like the kind of person who would be fond of barking, "Keep a stiff upper lip. Stop sniveling," when I would try to be funny about what I thought were adverse circumstances. Miz Lillian, I knew, was not the kind of woman who worried about her clothes or frequented cosmetic counters in hopes of free samples. She was indisputably old and well above all that.

At that point in her life Miz Lillian was in her sixties.

I will be sixty in a few months. I work with women who are in their early twenties. Last night as I regaled them with indiscreet stories about the past history of the bookstore that employs us all, I realized that I could well be their grandmother. This morning I understood with chilling horror that they could quite possibly see me in the same light that I saw Miz Lillian, an energetic, withering crone who provides a sterling example of facing age without whining about it.

And suddenly I wanted nothing more than an arid martini and a cigarette in a very long holder--maybe a white fur stole as well. By God, if I have to get old, at least I can turn my back on Miz Lillian and become Auntie Mame.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Meeting Amadi

For those of us who read in the same way that we breathe, sometimes it's easy to take that activity for granted. We forget the inherent magic that comes from the printed word floating from the page into an imagination and the excitement that comes when that flow first occurs.

When a book reminds us of how special it was to learn to read, and how much we once yearned to know how to do that, that book is special. Amadi's Snowman by Katia Novet Saint-Lot and illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo is one of those books that gives us back the hunger and eagerness that we once had for learning to read. A short story in the form of a picture book--and a beautiful one at that!--this book gave me chills as I read it, and when I finished the last jubilant page, I immediately went back to the beginning and read it again.

This is one of those remarkable books that is meant for all ages, where the pictures and the text come together seamlessly in a glowing, perfectly blended, and wonderful world of its own. I love this book and can't wait to share it with (and give it to) other people who will love it just as much as I do. Thank you, Katia, Dimitrea, and Amadi!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When I Grow Up...

The pixels are peculiar but the spirit comes through--this is how I hope to be in another ten years--or right now for that matter. This photo is in a gigantic coffee table book of women photographed by Richard Avedon which is in stock at the bookstore where I work, and when I'm feeling depressed over the aging process, I look at Marguerite Duras.

You can't see her face clearly here but she is so plainly in love with life---this is a woman who doesn't let her wrinkles get in the way of a good time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's the I.D.

In blatant imitation of my friend Tokyo Ern and with a nod to Mr. Rogers, here's a peek at my neighborhood:

A little terracotta

Chess playing concentration

Once a hotel

Sake barrel


More terracotta

It's the I.D. Jake.

And I will miss it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Learning to Swerve

Life is a long series of unplanned turns, and my latest swerve from my expected course recently threw me off balance. For a variety of personal reasons, my expected move to Bangkok has become an unexpected move to Mexico, a detour of a year or two before I return to Thailand.

Although it is a plan that leaves me feeling a trifle numb, it is far better than jogging in place in the Pacific Northwest. Much to learn, much to explore, and a way of living that I've been told is far more closely related to SE Asia than it is to the States.

So at the end of September, I'm off to Campeche, where I'll be close enough to my family that we can see each other at regular intervals, but far enough away that it will take a week to reach the US border by bus. If anybody has any information or insights about this portion of the world, I would love to hear them. I'm combing every book I can find but this portion of Mexico hasn't received huge amounts of print attention--which of course means it's a good place for me to spend some writing time.