If you’ve been lucky enough to have seen AMC’s new series Dark Winds, I’m guessing you are hooked like I am. Set in the 1970s Southwest, this riveting police procedural is produced by Robert Redford and George R. R. Martin and has a multifaceted plot which weaves Navajo tradition into its mysteries. The first season follows Navajo police officers Sherriff Joe Leaphorn, his new partner Jim Chee and deputy Bernadette Manuelito as they attempt to solve mysteries involving an armed bank heist, a missing helicopter and a murder of a young girl who appears frightened to death. With Indigenous talent, both in front of and behind the camera (the writers are all Native American), well-written characters, dark psychological themes, and a satisfying series finale, this show is destined to be a hit and has already been renewed for a second season.
If you can’t (or don’t) stream TV, you’re still in luck. Dark Winds is based on a fabulous series of books created by mystery writer Tony Hillerman. Hillerman wrote eighteen Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, from 1970 to 2006. When he passed away in 2008, his daughter Anne Hillerman took up the torch, writing an additional seven books starring Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito, with more to follow. Anne’s books reignite an already engrossing series by allowing Bernadette Manuelito to grow and develop as a main character. And, like her dad, Anne Hillerman paints a wonderful tapestry in each book, deftly juggling multiple plot lines as her characters are forced to solve complex local crimes, often putting them at odds with other members of their Navajo community.
Check out The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, and be prepared to deep dive into a character-driven, riveting mystery with folklore and the supernatural at its core, set against a barren and beautiful landscape. And then rest easy, knowing you can spend time with your new friends for many books to come, simply by picking up the next 23 books in the series.
If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, perhaps you like to imagine that their spirit is visiting you when a butterfly crosses your path. I know I do. It turns out that there is a good reason for that.
According to the smart folks at Baylor University, since Ancient times, the winged form of a butterfly was a symbol for the human soul. You can see this symbolism in Ancient Egypt, the Ancient Greek civilization and in Native American cultures, among others. One example comes from the The Aztecs, who believed that happy dead, in the form of beautiful butterflies, would visit their relatives to assure them that all was well.
In Andalusian Spain, an heir was expected to throw wine over the ashes of the deceased as a toast to the butterfly that would escape with the soul.
Butterflies are also symbolic in Christian imagery. In depictions of the Garden of Eden, the soul of Adam is symbolized by a butterfly, or drawn with butterfly wings, and the Gnostics depicted the Angel of Death by showing a winged foot stepping on a butterfly.
Sara Dykman, in Bicycling with Butterflies, must have felt blessed indeed with all the “souls” she witnessed on her 10,000 journey following migrating Monarchs. Have you started reading yet?
I’m inspired to hang out with butterflies, and this weekend I plan to head to the Butterfly House at the Miller Nature Preserve, part of the Lorain County Metroparks. Visiting the Butterfly House is free and open to the public from mid-June through Labor Day. I can’t wait!
For more inspiration, plan to keep reading all about butterflies with us this month. Until next time, keep looking up! ~Carol
I usually make New Year’s Resolutions and, like many, don’t keep them. One regular resolution of mine that I usually keep, however, is reaching my set goal of reading 52 books annually. While this might sound like a lot of reading, I know many people who put my numbers to shame, and that’s okay. Everyone’s reading pace is different. And, is it cheating to turn up the speed of audiobooks? (I say no!)
So, while I’ve been keeping this resolution over the last few years, I’ve kept a little blank book with lists of the books and the year that I’ve read them. I’ve been very proud of my little notebook and was sure I could keep up this pace…until 2020 happened. Oddly enough, in a year where I should have had more time to read than ever due to lack of socializing, I failed, and stalled somewhere around book #47! Even worse, it’s January 11th and all I can do is stare at screens (and no, they are not the screens where I have loaded e-books). I haven’t downloaded an audiobook, cracked a book cover, or even (gasp!), written the year down on the fresh page in my aforementioned precious notebook that mocks me from across the room.
How can I face that notebook knowing my intentions have changed? Yes, I will read. Yes, I likely will even read 52 books this year. And yes, I’ll likely record these books somewhere. But first, I’m going to be kind to myself about this. And, when I’m ready to turn a page, I’m sure I’ll find myself immersed in my next favorite novel.
Until I have a book to recommend, be kind to yourselves and one another. And, if you are feeling like I have been feeling, know that when you are ready for distraction, information, entertainment and connection, the library will be here waiting for you. ~Carol
It’s a new month, a new year, with Winter and the long months of January and February providing a time to either snuggle in for contemplation and calm, or to go outdoors for a chilly adventure. Either way, here are a few books, tips, and links that can guide your journey.
Self-care is essential right now: burn some scented candles, enjoy a bubble bath, drink tea and read (always recommended), try a few puzzles (come and get one at the library) or word games. You just need a blanket, and some fuzzy slippers. It’s also time for some resolutions – they don’t need to be about change, but can just be about learning – taking on a new hobby, signing up for an online class, participating in a book club, or starting seeds from scratch.
The next time it snows, go take a look at snowflakes up close. Then return inside, snug with a cup of hot chocolate, and read the book Snowflake Bentley, a lovely book about the man who first photographed snowflakes.
The Winter might be long, but there is so much to do!
I’m terrible at sticking to resolutions. So terrible in fact, that I no longer make them. But maybe this year can be different? I’d love it if just about everything in 2021 was different than 2020, so maybe a few resolutions are in order. But after the year we’ve had, I think it’s time to make resolutions about things that we WANT to do rather than ones about stopping things we think are bad for us. This article by Arthur C. Brooks in The Atlantic, says that when we make resolutions, the thing we are almost always trying to improve is our happiness. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/12/new-years-resolutions-will-make-you-happier/617439/
The reason many resolutions fail is that we discover striving for that one thing– weight loss, a daily workout routine, eating whole foods doesn’t actually make us happy. Most of our resolutions can be good things to strive for as part of the overall goal of improving our lives, but many of these things need not be goals in and of themselves if being more content is really what we want. This article speaks of setting resolutions around goals such as forgiveness and practicing mindful gratitude. Focusing on what has gone right rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong, and giving people the gift of forgiveness (whether they asked for it or not), with the main purpose of gaining peace for ourselves. Sound like a selfish reason to offer forgiveness? That’s ok! We all deserve a little self-love and to put ourselves and our mental health first sometimes.
I like that broader idea of setting resolutions around things that promote self-care such as gratitude and forgiveness, but those can be a little abstract for me. I need some concrete resolutions that I can cross off my list. Things like make one new recipe every month, try a new local restaurant for carryout once a month, try to spend 15 minutes in nature every day (even if it’s just a walk around the block), take a nap on your day off, and actually use all those fancy bath bombs that you got in your stocking. And of course, the best kind of concrete resolutions for many of us involve reading. I’m setting a challenge for myself of two books a month-one that is new and the other that is something I’ve always wanted to read but haven’t gotten around to yet. So often books get pushed down my list by newer ones until they fall off altogether. At the end of this post are a few titles that I’d like to try.
It is a lot more fun setting resolutions around things that you actually want to do rather than things “that would be good for you.” Give it a try, but remember the most important part- your goal in setting these is to improve your happiness and quality of life- so be kind! If you don’t manage to do all the things you decided on, it’s ok. So, skip that one and catch it next time–your resolutions are yours alone, and since they focus on things that bring you joy, you can have all the time in the world to complete them. 🙂
I can’t let 2020 end without sharing two of my most recent obsessions with you, that you too, ahem, can also realize courtesy of your local library.
First up is a book that would have made my “Top Ten of 2020” post, had I read it earlier. Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen was my Christmas weekend read and I’m still reeling from this gut-puncher of a debut. This dark and darkly comic novel is told over the course of a single work-week through eyes of Majella, a 27-year-old woman who works at the local chip shop. Majella lives with her alcoholic mom in fictional Aghybogey, Ireland, a depressed border town where tensions between Catholics and Protestants run deep and violent. Majella, who might be autistic, is just trying to figure out the changing world around her. In the week after her grandmother has been murdered, Majella is desperate to carry on with her usual routine, and returns to work. There, her descriptions of a typical night in the chip shop provide a razor-sharp commentary on her small-town and its inhabitants, and on her own life’s painful history. I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. Place your hold in our catalog.
My second new obsession has been watching A Suitable Boy, a BBC television drama based on a (over 1,300 page!) 1993 novel by Vikram Seth, set in 1951 in a newly-independent India. This six-part miniseries is the coming-of-age story of Lata, a university student who is torn between her family duty, religious loyalty and love, as three very different men try to win her heart. This show has it all: lush settings, a lesson in Indian history, great music, and romance, of course! Acorn released episode five today and I cannot wait to watch it. Did I mention that I stream Acorn (including this show) for free from the library? You can, too! Click here to get started.
In case you didn’t know it, today, December 21, 2020 is the day we mark the beginning of Winter, when we have the least amount of hours of daylight and therefore, when it is also the longest night. But this year is different (enter your ‘you can say that again’ joke here), not only because of the pandemic, but because of an event in tonight’s sky forecast that people are calling the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, or the “Christmas Star.”
While it looks pretty overcast right now, perhaps you will get lucky enough to witness this rare astronomical event– specifically, the positions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky closer than they have in nearly 400 years. If that isn’t jaw-dropping enough for you, it has been nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will this year.
There’s still time! You can still bake, and craft, and read, all the holiday treats your 2020 heart desires! (I qualify this to your “2020 heart” as this year is not like the others. Maybe you’re skipping, or maybe you’re all in, it doesn’t feel like there’s one, right answer. Aannyyyywho…)
I love giving books and will take advantage of any occasion to find something I think will fit my giftee, and that includes pondering if there’s something you might want to gift yourself of course! I sorted the titles into broad ideas of who they might appeal to but left the heavy lifting of plot description to the reviews on bookshop.org (Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mishttps://bookshop.org/books/weather-9780345806901/9780385351102sion to financially support local, independent bookstores.) I hope this list helps you finish off your holiday shopping on a high note!
And if you’re looking for a way to do something extra, I just discovered the United States Postal Service has a program called “Operation Santa.” This won’t be news to everyone as it’s been going on for years but if you, like me, hadn’t heard of it before I’ll drop a link here.
I wish everyone a safe, healthy holiday season, with a book (or two) to help you keep feeling strong!
Perhaps I used up all of my “thankful for”s last week but I’ll confess that not only am I am not sorry to see this month go, I’m actually eager to turn the calendar’s page. Are you feeling drained by this year, too? Why don’t we right now decide to take it easy on ourselves on this grey and rainy Monday and last day of November evening blog post (or whenever you are reading this) and seek out a way to shut down for a spell and to relax?
My way tonight will be popping in The Return of the King, the third and final film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We (re)watched the first two films over Thanksgiving weekend, and despite the fact that we were not able to gather with loved-ones, we were still reminded how nice it is to spend some of our other “old friends.” Gandalf, Frodo, Sam and the rest of the Middle Earth gang helped fill an obvious void, and time spent with them was a bit of a respite from scrolling through news and dodging the already prevalent holiday shopping ads. It helped, too, that we chose a favorite where we know the good guys win in the end.
Do you need a brain-break too? Why not pick up your favorite ‘oldie but goodie,’ or put your favorite titles on hold and see if your DVD player still works? ~Carol