Yesterday on the bus I started reading Sarah Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans, newly out from CUNY’s Feminst Press. It is a beautiful book! Just the right size, with black endpapers and that nice porous book paper. I can’t name the typeface, but it’s nearly identical to the one in my copy of Harriet the Spy (1964), and Cosmopolitans is set in 1958.
In short, every element is thoughtfully designed. I looked for a colophon or Note on the Type. There wasn’t one, but there was “A Note on Style” about the book’s connections to Balzac’s Cousin Bette (1846) and Baldwin’s Another Country (1962), neither of which I’ve read yet. The end reads:
I also try to evoke the era [of Cousin Bette] through slight allusion to the Britishized American English that dominated commonly read translations at the time. Whether the source was Flaubert or Dostoyevsky, these novels often sounded, in English, like they were being recited by Katherine Hepburn. And so, that tone, in a way, represents the period for American readers.
I am already in love with this book’s attention to detail. And I will be sad if a day comes when print books of this quality are too rare to check out from the public library and carry around on the bus.
I went and looked at the rest of Feminist Press’ catalog and picked out Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner (2002, original 1970) to read next.
Speaking of matters typographical, I no longer believe that one space after periods is the only way. This article changed my mind.
In other news, the water is on in the Keller Fountain!
And zoe_1418 was in town for a conference, and took sanguinity and me to breakfast and autographed my copy of her coloring book, Mindful Mosaic. I highly recommend coloring in a book designed by a friend, as it feels cozy and collaborative.
The little birds are back to tapping on the bathroom window. Since they will no longer be nesting in the walls of the house and demonstrating how about-to-fall-apart everything is, it isn’t nearly as irritating as last year! My in-laws gave me a birdhouse and some nesting material to hang up, so I hope the birdies will move into that instead.
Remember how a few weeks ago I was yearning for something new to happen on my way through the Reed canyon? Yesterday I had just come down the slope from the street to the canyon floor when the bleeding-heart plant next to me started rustling. I leaned closer to see what little critter or bird was in there, then saw that the noise was coming from water drops hitting the leaves. It was a cloudy, still morning; had a rain shower started? But when I looked up, all the droplets were falling from one tree branch. I stepped back to get a better look, and confirmed: I’d almost been peed on by a squirrel 30 feet up. So that’s new.
At a trail junction a mother and daughter were staring at something I couldn’t see. “What are you looking at?” I stage-whispered, not wanting to blunder through and scare whatever it was. It turned out they were looking at the thimbleberry bush right in front of them, where one of these perched on a leaf:
None of us knew what it was, but the internet told me later it’s a banded alder borer. (Photo by Patrick Loes for forestryimages.org.)
When I passed the bee tree, it was very active and I could smell it! Like honey plus sap.
A kingfisher flew down the canyon on the other side of the water. I was looking through gaps in the greenery and couldn’t see it for long, but I could hear that rattling call that I always try to remember for the future.
Last weekend I hardly got out for exercise at all, and it made me restless and moody. I realized it was like I was tapering, but there wasn’t even a race to give it a point. Also in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading race reports with renewed interest. I think I’m ready to–and need to–ramp up the running again. Sang is going to be working most evenings for the next couple of months, so I have all sorts of plans for after-work writing and workouts. We’ll see.
By the end of the week, on Friday, I was feeling nature-deprived. In the car on the way home from chinuk lolo I said to Sanguinity, “On Sunday we could go for a hike in the Gorge.”
“We could do that,” she allowed.
“I want to.”
She agreed right away. It was that kind of I-want-to in my voice.
On Saturday, while Sang was teaching in Salem, I ran down through the college canyon. Well, mostly I walked, especially once I was on the trail and looking around. I became aware of how much I was telling myself stories in my head that I already knew, about what plants were growing near each other, what was in season, what birds were on the water. Sometimes I find it comforting to know all that stuff, feel local, narrate it to some invisible audience in my head. But now I was sick of it and felt a strong desire to learn something new from walking through and watching. Anything new, just something.
The salmonberries were ripe, but the thimbleberries hadn’t turned red yet. A juvenile mallard swimming with its parents was still in its fluffy plumage, but not for long. The turtles were sunning on their usual log; the bee tree was busy.
I continued down across the landbridge and into the lower canyon. As I crossed one of the small footbridges I saw a heron out of the corner of my eye. It was close, a few arms’-lengths away, and standing still. Clearly it did not want to be noticed.
And that seemed to be enough for me– discovering a new heron hangout. I don’t even know if it’s a habitual one, like the spot further up by the peninsula. The itch for something new was scratched. It was even okay to skip the hike on Sunday for the sake of getting the tomatoes, basil, and peppers into the garden before it really was too late, instead of just feeling too late.
When I mentioned the heron to my dad in an email, he wrote back: Great blue heron’s 2nd defense, if not being observed fails, is to stab the attacker’s eyes. We had to wear protective goggles when banding g.b. herons in a nesting colony. Even nestlings know, “go for the eyes.”
I’ve been paring back activities for awhile now. Last week I was fighting germs, and just barely had the energy to get through the workday. But even before that I went into hermit mode in the hopes of getting my IPRC final project underway. I’m not training for any races. I’m not taking any new classes. I really don’t like to be busy, don’t like the feeling of wow this is a busy week even if I like each thing in it. I think it will be a net gain to give up the busy.
But still, something is driving me to go to the weekly Morning Birdsong Walk at Mt. Tabor. Maybe it’s another iteration of What Kind of Tree Is That? In any case, I got on the bus at 6:12 this morning to rendezvous with refgoddess and M and listen to birds.
The 6:12 bus is a quiet bus. I get the feeling people are sitting there quietly contemplating their lives and the circumstances that lead them to be on the bus at that hour. By contrast, when we join the bird nerds at the park gate it’s quite chatty. I’ve been twice now, and there have been a couple of dozen people each time. Almost all of them are real birders, with binoculars and lists. There’s a pair of teenage twins who have lived near the park since they were small and are respected experts on the birds of Mt. Tabor. They could easily be E.L. Konigsburg characters. The leaders talk about the local listservs, recent bird sightings around Oregon, and the new storm-petrel species one of them helped discover on a repositioning cruise between Chile and Alaska, which is apparently a lovely way to check off lots of seabirds from your life list.
People were excited today because the spring migrations are underway in earnest after a late start. We stood for half an hour, probably, facing a big-leaf maple and watching ruby-crowned kinglets and about twenty other kinds of birds zip around. This was great for the jaded and knowledgeable, but less convenient for us beginners. On my first birdsong walk I learned what a robin song sounds like. Today I learned that juncoes go tick-tick-tick.
I peeled off long before the walk was over, and caught another bus to work. It was very noisy: after standing on the curb while 20 minutes’ worth of cars snarl by, I got on the #4, which is standing room only already at 52nd Avenue. Rush hour and construction were both underway. I was glad to get to my desk.
We have a new rule at our house, and it is this: on weekends and holidays, Holly has to be playing outside by 10 a.m.
If this doesn’t happen, then most likely I am simultaneously reading the internet and thinking “I should go for a run,” in a more and more anxious, stubborn, and crabby state of mind. And not getting my daylight fix. And then I’m snapping something like “No, the oven is on for a reason,” while my family slooowly backs away.
So today I got out for my run very close to 10 a.m., and it was sunny! Sunny and muddy. On the boulevard in Eastmoreland I saw some huge five-toed footprints that I finally decided had to be from Vibrams. I predict lots of kids looking for Bigfoot in Forest Park after they see tracks like that.
Westmoreland Park was partly flooded, not that it bothered the ducks, geese, pigeons, and gulls. In case you’re wondering if birds yawn, I totally saw a gull yawning.
Today I met the roof guy and wrote him a really big check. And tonight my IPRC class starts up again. I’m going to go pack my lunch and get ready for tomorrow; it will be bedtime by the time I get home.