Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Books 4

Reader Feedback

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First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

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Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

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“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

Poem Challenge

Where Are You From?

Some time ago a Facebook friend*, who is also a follower of this blog, challenged us to write about where we are from. She suggested that we use as a template a poem written by Kentucky’s 2015-2016 poet laureate, George Ella Lyon. 

Where I’m From by George Ella Lyon

I am from clothespins, 

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride. 

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening, 

it tasted like beets.) 

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses, 

          from Imogene and Alafair. 

I’m from the know-it-alls

          and the pass-it-ons, 

from Perk up! and Pipe down! 

I’m from He restoreth my soul

          with a cottonball lamb

          and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch, 

fried corn and strong coffee. 

From the finger my grandfather lost 

          to the auger, 

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures, 

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams. 

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

I took the challenge and in a few short moments had no difficulty writing about where I’m from. I’m not a poet, but it was a wonderful exercise in turning memories over in one’s mind. It can also make us contemplate the impact our beginnings had on where we are today. 

Where I’m From by Sue Mattingly

I am from creek bottoms, 

crawfish, and chiggers. 

I am from an old apple tree,

Under which my rope swing hung.

I am from the hollyhocks 

in my Grandmother’s yard

from which she helped me to 

fashion fancy dolls.

I’m from biscuits and jam, 

      and from a galvanized tub for Saturday baths. 

I’m from water bucket and dipper

          and from the milking parlor down the road, 

from spunk and playing April Fool’s 

Jokes on my Grandfather! 

I’m from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

          sung with Pat on the front porch swing

          and Vacation Bible School every summer.

I’m from Crooked Creek and Anderson County

From the front yard so carefully mown by my Dad

using a push mower without a motor

and the four room house Mother kept spic and span.

Against the front fence leaned my brother’s bike

which I sat on and pretended I could ride

when I heard a car coming down the gravel road.

I am from those times —

and yet feel like a foreigner —

when I try to return.

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I challenge you to write your own and I would love it if you shared your poem with us in the comments section here. I look forward to reading and to learning more about your beginnings. Thank you and a special thank you to *Cindi Carmen. 

If you are interested in reading more about Lyon see: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html

Death – to Bury or Not

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To Bury, Cremate, Donate, Plant – Disposal of Human Remains

Another decision that must be made concerns disposal of bodily remains. For many years burial in a family or church cemetery was the norm, however that is changing for both environmental and economic reasons. In 2015 cremation rate in the US was 48.6% and expected to rise each year into the future. Rates vary across the country with over 60% in the West and as low as 25% in southern states.  There are other options, of course which actually increase the cost, such as cryogenics, ashes blasted into space or adding ashes to an artificial reef in an ocean. 

Cemeteries 

Interment in a cemetery has fallen into disfavor due to cost, but also because of what many see as misdirected use of land. While I personally prefer cremation and scattering of ashes (also called cremains) back into nature, I must admit that I have always found cemeteries interesting to visit. In old cemeteries I would go further and say that reading tombstones can be fascinating. I know that I am not alone, because many books have been written on the subject including:  9781586853211_p0_v1_s192x300 “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography” by Douglas Keister  and  “Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks 1850-1950” by Abby Burnett which was reviewed in The Courier Journal  in November 2015. Some of my favorite epitaphs from this book are these: “Killed by a live wire” (1905), “Revenge is my motto” (1869) and “This can’t be death. I feel too good” (1906).

 

When I was in Russia a couple of years after the fall of the Soviet Union, I toured a large old cemetery that was, according to custom there, divided into sections by profession or status. There were sections for the arts with subsections containing poets, musicians and actors. fullsizeoutput_a21.jpeg There were others for military, government officials, Communist Party members, working class (the proletariat) and even the Mafia.

 

I noticed many tombstones that bore the skull and cross bones symbol and inquired of the interpreter what that meant. Her response? “They’re dead”.     IMG_4036.JPG

The skull and cross bones, while perhaps peculiar to Russia, are part of the monument period of Terror which represented symbols of fear of the afterlife. This was followed by the Romantic fullsizeoutput_a13.jpeg and then Personalization Periods.  The Contemporary period in which we now live, leads to what are often attempts at humor. A word of warning about being too creative however, as what is funny today may be confusing or fall flat when it has become outdated. A couple of examples come to mind: A monument depicting a rotary and corded telephone simply said, “Jesus Called”. I’ve seen photos of others that show a calculator, an expired parking meter and even a brownie recipe. 

One of my favorite tombstones is from Clay County, TN which explains that the deceased was “killed by bushwhackers” in 1862 in neighboring Fentress County. Unfortunately the photos taken and provided for this post by Steve Baugh have been lost due to my error.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it” Mark Twain. 

 


Note 1/1/18:  Another Option for Disposal    https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/06/infinity-suit/

Death – Funerals

Funerals

Funerals are not high on anyone’s list of favorite social events. Well, there may be a few exceptions. One of my sweet aunts, who will not be named here, lived a block or two from the funeral home in her small town. When she saw activity indicating visitation or a pending funeral service at the establishment, she would dress in her Sunday clothes and walk to join the mourners. She was not being nosy, there was every reason to expect she would know the deceased. She had lived in this rural Kentucky County her whole life and knew just about everyone. She especially liked the young funeral director who always welcomed her with a hug. 

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The funeral home industry and its traditions have changed greatly over the years. There was a time when the deceased was embalmed at home and “laid out” in the parlor for the wake which usually lasted three days and nights. Just as the wake was transferred to a formal “funeral parlor” the venue of the funeral itself has moved, in most cases, from houses of worship. Today an abbreviated period of “visitation and viewing” has become the norm and funerals are “celebrations of life”. When visiting a funeral home today one likely encounters videos of the deceased on flat screens strategically placed throughout the parlor. Often there are photos and collages and posters honoring the life that has passed. So called “theme” funerals may focus on the deceased’s favorite sports team, hobby or profession. The coffin is often closed or not present at all or there may be an urn containing ashes. The memorial service can be planned for a time in the future that is more suitable to the family’s circumstances as it is no longer necessary to have all this occur immediately after the death. This delay allows the family to be passed the initial shock of the loss and to more fully receive offerings of support and sympathy. 

So, there are traditions, there are religious cannons, local laws and there are one’s personal preferences. Your preference, what would you like your final event on this earth to be like? While you are reading this, still capable of making important decisions is the time to communicate your wishes. This can be part of the discussion when you have “the talk” https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ with your family. It is also helpful to have a few things written down, such as favorite poems, music, speakers. If there are things you feel strongly about clearly document those and if you have reason to doubt your wishes will be honored, they should be included in your Will, which is binding. 

Many people complete their plans formally and even pay for their funerals in advance of need. Whether planning your own funeral or a loved one’s it is critical that you ask questions of the funeral home staff and have concrete information. One common misconception is embalming is required by law. It is not and electing to not have embalming can save a significant amount of money. Embalming is a mysterious process to most of us and because of our reluctance to think about death, we often do not want to know what actually takes place in order to preserve the appearance of a corpse for just a little extra time. Further, the impact upon the environment by use of toxic chemicals can be significant. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) embalming provides no public health benefit. It also has no roots in most religions, including Christianity. For more information on the actual process you may reference http://www.fcasocal.org/embalming-facts.html

The funeral or memorial service, besides reflecting the life that has ended, should be a comfort for survivors. Those who are part of a religious community are comforted by common beliefs and the expectation of an afterlife. Music can be heartbreaking or inspiring. November 18, 2016, The New York Times asked readers what their deathbed playlist preferences would be. The range, not surprisingly varied from hard rock to classics. Probably the same music we would enjoy hearing in our last days or hours of life, would be appropriate for our service, too, as long as it would not be offensive or hurtful in some way to others.  Most of us recall fondly at least one song from each of our loved ones’ funerals. Poems are frequently read that reflect the deceased’s philosophy or special interests. A eulogy may be provided by a close friend or family member. Such a tribute should be written out so if the person delivering the words becomes too emotional to proceed, the minister or other person officiating can be prepared to read it. 

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Eulogy

This is the eulogy I delivered at my stepfather’s funeral. I was pleased to be able to honor his memory and after all these many years I still feel his life can be a lesson for those of us living today. 

We are here to honor Leroy’s memory. Each of us knew him on a different plane. He may have been your neighbor, your customer or friend, a relative, by birth or by choice. 

Whether you knew him for eighty years or eight, you no doubt, knew him to be a good person, an honest man to be trusted and one who loved the land and took pride in his profession of dairy farmer.

He was many other things too. SECURE IN WHO HE WAS, holding no old fashioned gender roles – the same hands that worked the farm washed dishes and cooked a mean casserole.

GENTLE – he watched birds, fed kittens, loved to see magnolias bloom. Small children were given his full attention, whether playing a silly game or observing an earthworm on the sidewalk after a rain.

TOLERANT – he had convictions, but allowed us ours.

A ROMANTIC – taking his bride to Niagara Falls and each anniversary giving her one red rose for each year of their marriage.

FAITHFUL – to his church and more importantly to his Lord. 

And he was, of course, many other things, but there is one last attribute I want to share with you. I learned this about Leroy after the death of his only son, Bobby.

He was a very PRACTICAL person. Even though he grieved his losses, he did not allow those losses to steal the happiness he was offered by each new day of life. He did not deplete his energies agonizing about things he could not change. I think he would remind us of that today. 

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Next time we will look at one more remaining decision, disposal of remains. This will not conclude the list of things that must be decided upon at the time of one’s death, but will have covered the most crucial ones. 

I Am a Tree

A tree, old and weathered
I bear not leaves,
but the marks of time.
On my limbs you can see
rope scars where swings used to be.
I am a tree.

A tree, tall though bent
I bear not fruit,
but the signs of time.
On my trunk, crudely carved,
initials and hearts you can see.
I am a tree.

A tree, in winter I appear cold and dead,
but deep in the earth my roots are warm with life.
They feed my tired trunk, give strength to my weakened limbs
and the sap of life itself which awaits the returning spring.
I long to be renewed, to return to the real me.
I am a living tree.

 

Written 1992 by Brenda Sue Baugh Mattingly