Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Up North: Summer in Northern Michigan

At first, I thought about writing this post for my library blog, however, since it is SO Michigan-themed, I didn't think it would go over so well with the Pittsburgh crowd. So, my fellow Michiganders, this one's for you! :)

Nothing is more anticipated about living through a cold, gray, and snowy Michigan winter than the annual and ubiquitous vacation “Up North” in the summertime.  The sheer vastness of the Great Lakes, the warm days and cool nights, the many charming and historic small lake towns, and the gorgeous natural landscape (sand dunes, beaches, woods) that make up the beauty of northern Michigan are vividly evoked in the following titles.  (Don’t forget to buy some fudge! I wonder if there is vegan fudge?)

Author's photo. Lake Michigan
In Good Family, by Terry Gamble, filmmaker Maddie Addison, a privileged young woman, returns to her wealthy family’s exclusive summer house in Sand Isle, on Lake Michigan, where no cars are permitted—shades of Mackinac Island? -- to make peace with her dying alcoholic mother and reconnect with her quirky cousins and other extended family, years after a personal tragedy kept her away.  Beautifully written, with its lyrical descriptions of summer cottage life that makes you pine for summer, not to mention a family summer cottage of your very own.
The Water Dancers, Gamble’s critically-acclaimed debut, is also set at a summer cottage on Lake Michigan, but this time it’s the post-World War II era.  Rachel Winnapee, a poor Native American teen, takes a job as a maid at the March family’s summer home.  As her job requires that she also care for Woody, their emotionally wrecked son, a veteran, the relationship between servant to employer becomes friendship, which then blossoms into love.  Themes of class and race eventually collide with Mrs. March’s snobbish and ambitious plans for her only surviving son, and eventually spill over into the next generation with hidden secrets and prejudice.  
Many people don’t know that the well-traveled and world-renown Ernest Hemingway spent all his childhood summers in northern Michigan in and around Walloon Lake near Petoskey.  In The Nick Adams Stories, the main character grows from youth to adulthood amid a rustic and ever-changing landscape.  In two dozen coming-of-age stories, we first encounter Nick as a young boy accompanying his physician father fishing and then attending a risky Native American birth in “Three Shots” and “The Indian Camp.”  Later, he’s a teen on the run from conservation officers for poaching and selling trout in the quietly mesmerizing unfinished novella, “The Last Good Country,” and later, a soldier (“In Another Country”), married man (“Wedding Day”) and father in “Fathers and Sons.”  Here you’ll also find perhaps his most famous Michigan story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” about fishing and hunting in the wilderness that is the Upper Peninsula after the First World War, as well as some unfinished pieces not published until after his death.  In his signature spare prose, the descriptions range from meditative about the process of catching a trout or setting up camp, to suspenseful in “The Killers,” about an aged prizefighter waiting for death.  Hemingway wrote these beautiful stories over his entire lifetime, never in any particular order, but this edition puts them in the sequential order of Nick’s life for the first time, capturing the very essence of the Michigan outdoors in summer.
The peaceful serenity of summer is brutally interrupted by a violent crime in native Michigander Judith Guest’s The Tarnished Eye: a Novel of Suspense.  It’s based on a true-crime Michigan murder that claimed an entire metro Detroit family in the late 1960s, a crime which is still unsolved to this day.  A small town sheriff, in the fictional town of Blessed, tries to solve the senseless execution-style mass murder of the well-to-do Norbois family in their summer home, while also dealing with his own personal and tragic past.  Exclusive summer cottages never seemed so remote and lonely as they do in this novel.  Guest is perhaps best known for her classic, Ordinary People.
Finally, in Jim Harrison’s True North, we enter the Upper Peninsula, an area of the state that still feels like a completely different country with its wilderness-like setting of dense evergreen woods, sparsely populated few and far-between small towns, empty two-lane highways, and vast remoteness as it is separated from the Lower Peninsula by the tolled, five mile, mighty Mackinac Bridge.  In this sprawling family saga, David Burkett must come to terms with the destruction of the beautiful and wild land taking place around him that is the direct consequence of his family’s wealth and livelihood in the lucrative timber business.  Harrison, best known for Legends of the Fall fame, is also Michigan native who spent his childhood roaming the woods of northern Michigan.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's New in Austenland

My latest blog post for Eleventh Stack, the Main Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's blog, was all about newly-published books about Jane Austen's works. You can read the complete post here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Library Blogging

Music: Sense & Sensibility, soundtrack
Author's photo

I love that one of the things I get to do in my job as a librarian at the Carnegie Library is write. I'm working with an amazing group of writers at the library who contribute quirky, informative, and creative content for the library's blog, Eleventh Stack. So, technically, I'm getting paid to write! :)

Here are links to all of my posts since I started at the library. In future, I will post links here to others as I write them. I only like to write about topics that interest me a lot, so here's a sampling. Enjoy!

Reduce, Reuse, and Then Recycle. August 30, 2011

Summers Gone By. July 20, 2011

Toward a Life of Less. June 27, 2011

Go Outside! June 8, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What's Next?

Music: Jason Mraz: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.

As you've (no doubt) noticed, over the last few months, I feel like I have not had much material to write about for this blog. That is, vegan material. I think posting pictures of what I eat is old now because I no longer constantly seek out new recipes to try. I now know what I really like (& don't) and make often.

Perhaps I've written all that I can on how I am vegan? It has been four years since I changed my life in such a dramatic and amazing way. In the very beginning, it was to explain why I went vegan, how I did it and, since then, it has been how it has changed my life for the better. I just don't think I have anything else to write about on just this topic. For me, it's automatic, something I almost don't even think about. Oh, I still think about food constantly, but that's okay. I'm ever conscious of listening to my body.

So what's next? I'm thinking of just writing about topics that interest me at that blogging moment. It might be about Jane Austen, or walking, or being gentler to the earth, or minimalism. And, yes, even being vegan. These are the things that most interest me now. So it won't be solely focused on just one topic.

It has been a little over a year since I moved to Pittsburgh, got a full-time job, and slowly acclimated --who am I kidding? I'm still acclimating, probably always will until I move back home--to my new home. Moving didn't change my food habits (thank goodness) and I continue to inadvertently educate people I come in contact with when they discover that I am vegan. They don't always understand, but that's okay; food is a hot button topic for many people. I choose to live by example. I know what's right for me and what makes me feel incredible. I wouldn't change it.

Thanks to all of my vegan followers the past two and a half years. I hope you'll still follow but I'll understand if what I now write about doesn't interest you.  Stay tuned.