Category Archives: Explorer of the World
It has been a long winter. Mother Nature sure did show her strength, endurance and beauty. But it is now Spring here on Cape Cod, and I’m loving every second of it. These photos were taken at Spohr’s Garden. Usually a zillion daffodils are in bloom by this time of year. Not so this year. No complaints here!
It has been 45 years since I was a freshman at UNH. That’s a long time! This past week, a visit to the campus was a welcome opportunity to relive the past and celebrate the present. David (class of 1970) and I spent two days roaming around campus. Some things stayed miraculously the same: the crisp white snow, clean sidewalks, many of the brick buildings and extremely friendly students all bundled up coming and going to classes. My dorm, McLaughlin, notoriously nicknamed “Virgin Hill” is still intact, and we even got to see the door of my old room, now adorned with someone else’s bulletin board and boots parked in the hallway. It is no longer an all female dorm; each floor is half male and half female. The pay phone in the hallway is gone, and the common room still has a huge piano and someone playing a guitar. The cute round window that I used to wave to David at 11 pm when parietal hours were over, and he had to leave, was where we left it. Needless to say, there are no parietal hours now!
When we were on campus in 1970, we studied in the Physics Library at Demeritt Hall; it was a quiet, quaint place to put our noses in books. How I looked forward to revisiting that old, beautiful building with wide, wooden board floors, tall windows, little cubbies and the smell of old books. We were saddened to see that old Demeritt Hall is gone and buried, and a new, modern building is in its place bearing the same name. It’s a gorgeous building, and we ended up being pleasantly surprised that there are enough students now interested in physics to warrant such a stunning facility. David’s graduating class in the physics department tallied less than a dozen.
The building that housed most of my English classes, Hamilton Smith, is standing strong with a few favorite classrooms still as I remember them. Ahhhh… tradition! The cafeteria we most often ate at, Stillings, exists, but the food is significantly different. I remember turkey tetrazini that looked like old string mops and slop. Today’s menu was more appealing than many restaurants. The piece de resistance on campus is the new student union, complete with a dining room that rivals any high end food court or Club Med facility. Every type of food, prepared a zillion ways, with all kinds of alternatives and nutritional information is readily available. Desserts were to die for–they even had a constant supply of warm cookies, right out of the oven.
A huge new business school/college fills what used to be empty space and seems to be one of the busiest buildings on campus. A serious network of buses provide transportation almost anywhere. Fritz’s food truck is no longer present, but there’s a cafe serving Starbuck’s coffee always within skipping distance.
New England Center was the new conference center built when we were in school. It was a beautiful high rise hotel nestled in a wooded area, with a top notch restaurant that served gourmet food. That is where I took David on a dinner date on Sadie Hawkins Weekend– the one weekend a year when the “girlfriend” paid for the “boyfriend”. Hmmmm… Does that date me or what!!! I bet there’s no more Sadie Hawkin’s Weekend on campus any more. Today the New England Center no longer exists as we knew it. It’s a UNH dorm. There was more need for student housing than for a conference facility.
I don’t regret or begrudge any of these changes… how foolish it would be to think that a university would remain static over almost half a century. Oh my, it has been almost half a century since I was a freshman. The visit was a nice way to check in with the past and also get to hear my favorite jazz artist play.
The Anat Cohen Quartet performed as part of the Traditional Jazz Series, sponsored by the UNH Music Department. It was phenomenal. Anat is so vibrant, talented, creative and her group takes jazz to new levels for me. There is no way I can do it justice here, except to tell you that they push through boundaries, blend genres, and make magic happen. Her new CD, entitled Luminosa, is exquisite and exciting. I have it on repeat, and it’s all I’ve been listening to.
UNH continues to be good to me, even though I only spent my freshman year there. It was a delightful revisit.
Yes, we have had a little snow here at the Cape lately. I firmly believe there is no point in bitching about it, because it really is quite lovely and succeeds in slowing down life in general. It has been great soup and bread making weather and hat knitting weather and great for reading the piles of books by my bedside. Also, it has been a delight to bundle up and take a few photos around the neighborhood, and let the world know that all is well. It’s just snow.
The less time I waste on line, the more books I read. Gee whiz–how surprising! My selections have been eclectic, and I’ve been quite happy with my nose in a book. Here’s is the run down:
1. Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore
The devil is alive and well and moves forward and backward in history throughout this book. I’m totally engaged and can’t wait to see what happens next. The main character is, indeed, the devil dba Johnny Scratch, who is smart, compassionate and much nicer than I remember him from Catholic school. This devil is more than just an anonymous evil force, he’s a character. He has sassy conversations with God and criticizes God’s choices. He falls in love and gets dumped. He gets frustrated with stupidity. And he has a code that governs his super powers. The author’s imagination allows the devil to mingle with Ben Franklin, Pocahontas, all kinds of soulful musicians as well as being fully present in contemporary society. Poore is masterful with his creativity as well as his craftsmanship as a writer. My husband and I are reading this book chapter by chapter simultaneously, and we both find the point of view to be captivating and thought provoking. It’s a red hot winner (that was awful, sorry… mortal sin!)
2. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington
The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review, and I confess, I did approach this title with some negative attitude. First of all, how many books do I or anyone else need to read about achieving success without destroying your life? Secondly, why do celebrity writers think they have so much wisdom to share? Well… I was wrong. This book does have useful information, especially the chapters about self-care in the midst of chaos. Huffington takes a careful look at the price we pay for success and questions whether, indeed or not, it is success when one loses oneself in the process. She encourages meditation, yoga, getting ample sleep, and paying attention to one’s own inner barometer. Her writing includes references to serious medical research and is well documented. She also incorporates the ideas of the Greek and Roman masters and other Great Thinkers from around the world in her writing. It was an interesting read. The sections that bored me were easily skimmed, and I was quickly re-engaged and underlining my book. I made many connections to my yoga and meditation practice, and her chapters on unplugging and charitable giving confirmed what I already knew but appreciated the validation. It’s the type of book that after you read once, you keep it nearby and revisit it when needed. It is also perfect for gift giving.
3. Your Fathers, Where Are They And The Prophets Do They Live Forever by Dave Eggers
I can never remember this title and call it “Eggers’ Fathers and Prophets”. Eggers addicts know exactly what I mean. What I love and respect about this book is that it always keeps me off kilter and questioning everything. It makes me think, like problem solving, but better. The characters are weird, the plot is bizarre and yet, I couldn’t put this book down. Eggers ruffles feathers and the whole bird. This work reminds me of early Chuck Palahniuk’s writing, minus the body fluid excesses. Eggers chronicles the life of a man who is questioning the values of contemporary American society. He tries desperately to make meaning and find justice. At first we think he’s just another deranged character stuck in ennui, and then we start to root for him. Not everyone will drawn to this novel, but I found it exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Some Eggers books I like, some I don’t. This one was worth the work to make it from cover to cover.
4. The Story of Rose: A Man and His Dog by Jon Katz
I love a good story about animals and spent some time earlier this year reading Thornton Burgess, Beatrix Potter, as well as modern day Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus. I’m always curious to see how writers present the animals, make them come alive on the page and, hopefully, not just sound like humans covered in fur. That’s why I appreciated Katz’s The Story of Rose. Rose is a hard working farm dog, and the story is told from her point of view. The reader sees what she sees through her eyes. She has her struggles, and we are right beside her observing the world through her senses, feeling the struggles, and appreciating the determination she has every day from morning through night. It a very good read. I would have loved to read it aloud to my kids when they were little. It is a joy to read as an adult.
5. Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
This is one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in years. The authors successfully show the value in analyzing health issues as they affect both humans and animals. Crossing species lines and sharing information reveals all kinds of connections and possibilities that would not be noticed if one only focused on an individual species. The writing is superb: both well researched and written so well that I enjoyed the language as well as the content. This is another book that I bought five copies of to give as gifts. I kept finding interesting sentences that I read aloud to my husband… that led to entire paragraphs and pages… and finally I got him his own copy of the book.
I’m collecting books to read in 2015. It’s like making a list and checking it twice, only to ignore the list and enjoy the thrill of a serendipitously enticing book. I will keep you posted and hope you find yourself lost in many delicious books this New Year.