Too many books?

I don’t have nearly enough shelf space for all my books, so they tend to pile up in all the expected places around the house. This is 1/3 of one of the 4 piles on the desk in my office – the top of the tallest pile that threatens to topple over at any moment. All but the King book are ones I’ve already read, but haven’t found a place for just yet.

The Michael Korda book was part of the horse obsession last summer – thank goodness that never went much beyond books! This was my least favorite of the bunch I read and I still haven’t managed to recycle it to the trash.

The Pine Barrens field guide more or less lives on my desk together with a wildflower ID book on the off chance that I’ll feel like puzzling over the bundle of photos I took there this spring and summer. The McPhee book is a great one, but I’m only a quarter way through it since October or so. I’m not really reading that one in a linear way anyway; instead picking it up and reading a chaper when it falls out of the pile at me.


Fields of Sun and Grass is a great book… one that I’ve read a few times; most recently back in April in preparation for that trip up to the Meadowlands in North Jersey

So… I’m wondering what you all do with the books you no longer have a use for? Anything natural history related that I’m willing to part with I donate to the local Audubon chapter for fundraisers, but the rest of them? Save me from being buried, please!

Weird Monday

Asbury Park has what I think is the nicest stretch of boardwalk here on the northern shore of NJ – too bad most everyone is too afraid to walk it. It’s empty like this even in the summer, except for the homeless people who sleep below it and then sit around leering at passerby during the day.

I’m caught deciding whether today felt more like an episode of The Twilight Zone or Candid Camera… ever have one of those days? Today’s field visits were going fine until I ran over a gull – that jinxed me, I think. Silly gulls were fighting over a bit of bagel or something along Ocean Ave. and this one decides to drop down and grab it just as I was accelerating at the green light… I think it tried to fly underneath, but didn’t make it. I hate killing things with my car!

I went by some of the local ponds to look for ducks at lunch time and every one of the good ponds is frozen. I was wandering around with my big lens looking for some open water and one of last week’s redheads or hoodies when this lady in a car stopped me and asked if mine was a good camera. I started to explain to her that it was reasonably ok for the type of photos I’m capable of and blah-blah-blah when I realized that she was trying to take pics of the Canada Geese with one of those cardboard throw-away cameras from Walmart. Pfft! Shut me up quick.

My next visit was with a lady who was off-her-rocker-crazy. Before I even got in the door I knew I was in for something interesting. I’ll just say it was a very short visit and I kept the door in clear view at all times.


This evening I went to the Y for a yoga class and then tortured myself for a bit with the weight machines afterwards. There’s this guy that I see there pretty often, old with a really bad dye-job and he wears those ridiculous spandex exercise things that show every possible … nevermind … you know what I mean. He really works himself hard and wears earphones the whole time, so I guess he can’t hear all the grunting and moaning he does with the strain of it, but the rest of the weight room hears it all. I sat there on the leg press listening to the obscene sounds he was making, trying to keep a straight face myself, and watching all the women in the room doing the same. At one point, all us girls were laughing openly at him, but every single guy in the room was staring straight ahead pretending not to notice. That just made it funnier to me!

What a weird, weird day.

Summer… or snow

The gray snowless sky is getting the better of my mood lately, I think. I love the winter and the chill wind, but it all seems pointless without a covering of snow to change the view some. It’s all just brown and monotonous otherwise.

I walked and walked in the woods this afternoon to get rid of the restlessness and to look for some color or something of interest. Finally I settled on the boost a visit to the greenhouse would give… that stifling heat and the smell of growing things and the color! I do this often enough that the ladies who manage the greenhouse know not to ask me if I need help with purchasing something… I’m there just to wander among the flowers and soak up enough of the moist air to help me remember that winter and its gray wont last forever.

I saw the beginnings of their Spring display, with primroses and pansies and the most wonderful of hydrangeas. Bunny topiaries and sweet little bird’s nest wreaths. It’s all deception now, in late January, like the seed catalogs with their pics of tomatoes red and juicy enough to make my mouth water at the thought of a summer afternoon wandering barefoot along the rows of my garden. That memory seems like such a luxury at this time of year, roaming around the garden to see what’s ready for picking, sitting down beside the pond to watch the dragonflies and the fish, hanging out there until the fireflies come to flash their love songs in the night.

My heart’s set on summer… or snow.

Horseshoe Cove sunset

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I had the time, or better said, if my work schedule permitted it, I think I would be in a place everyday where I could watch the sun set over water. Especially in the wintertime, when the colors are just so much more spectacular somehow. As it is now, it’s a race to be home before dusk, but everyday the light is lingering a bit longer. Have you noticed that yet? Spring must be on the horizon.

The silence of the yams

Since reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book last summer about eating locally (click to read my post about it), I’ve been on something of a kick with other *food* books when I come across a new one. Deb’s recent post on the subject, in which she shares her doubt about the viability of eating only locally grown products where she lives in Minnesota, made me feel a bit better about the difficulties I have in doing the same here – and let’s face it – the growing season in NJ is considerably longer than in Deb’s home state. Farmer’s markets here typically run from May through October only.

At any rate, I borrowed Skinny Bitch from a friend, mostly to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve never read a diet book in my life, and this one read a bit too much like one for my taste, but if you can get past the shock value of the language and past their insisting that vegan is the only healthy way to eat, you might just find something useful there. I could easily be vegetarian, but give up eggs and cheese and ice-cream? Well… I’m not there yet.

I’ve just about finished Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and find his measured approach a bit more helpful and, dare I say it, affirming of the food choices I regularly make. The crux of his *manifesto* is that we should eat food, but not too much of it, and mostly plants. The first two-thirds of the book are spent defining what *food is not* and explaining how the typical Western diet and our current focus on nutrition have caused so many of us to be unhealthy.

I don’t want to give away all of the gems of this book, but these are a few things that have really hit home with me:

*Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
*Avoid food products that are unfamiliar or unpronouceable.
*Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting!
*Shop the edges of the supermarket and avoid the middle where the *food-products* shout at you with their health claims, while the kale and carrots sit in silence on the periphery.
*Shop at farmer’s markets or CSA’s (click for a list) whenever possible. Shake the hand that feeds you.
*Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
*Eat well grown foods from healthy soils. Just as food sustains us, soil sustains everything that grows in it. Everything that is put into the soil should nurture and support its ability to give and sustain life.
*Pay more, eat less. Better food costs more to produce. Food needn’t be cheap, fast and easy.
*Try not to eat alone. A shared meal is part ritual, part culture.
*Only eat when you’re truly hungry and then eat slowly!
*Prepare your own food and plant a garden, however humble.

I’m not so inclined to recommend books, but this one is worth noting, I think, in that it offered me an eye-opening look into the food industry and how deliberately we’ve been led astray from what’s really good for us.