Category Archives: Thank You Library

A Solstice Year


I’ve been reading House of Rain: Tracking A Vanished Civilization Across The American Southwest by Craig Childs. It’s what it sounds like, a sort of travel journal blended with archeological research on the elusive Anasazi civilization. Elusive isn’t the right word. These are people that left roads, temples, full cities carved into the land in a very obvious way. I pulled up photos and North America has what looks like Castle ruins just as old as anyone else’s. What?? Why was I not taught about this in Elementary school?

Beyond single site construction, this civilization may have even shaped the topography of their environment into a system of artificial mounds and natural landforms in a vast network of signal stations, allowing rapid communication over vast distances.

The more I read, the more incredulous I felt about their absence from North American curriculum. In all fairness, maybe I just missed them. I was raised in the Southeast. And I had heard of them, read about them in Jared Diamond’s Collapse, even kept a friend company in college as she attempted to catalog and shelf countless reconstructed vessels for her museum practices credit. But I’ve never had as full a picture. And asking a few friends, nobody seemed too familiar with what I was reading about.

In Child’s book, he gives the analogy of trying to catch sight of a person passing back and forth the crack of a mostly shut doorway as the vision we have of the Anasazi.  They occupied the land in a much different way than western cultures do. They appear to have been inclined to inhabiting sites for eras, leaving for a generation or two, with an expectation that the land and climate would inevitably change and they would return or more likely their grandchildren would return to reoccupy the site.


While land sites shifted, their astronomical observations were keen and accurate.  They aligned their massive great houses and brick and mortar settlements to the moon, stars, and sun. Which brings me to solstice. In House of Rain Child visits Chimney Rock in Colorado, the site of a great house built more than a thousand years ago built, some believe, to be a lunar observatory as the brick and mortar construction has a site line that catches the moon rising in the center of two natural pillars on the winter solstice when the moon swings to its farthest point in its 18.6 year track. You can read details here.

With the Ancient Puebloans in mind, and winter solstice approaching, I reread some articles on other ancient sites like Newgrange, where massive construction was a marker for the light and the change of the year. In my own culture, the darkening always seemed incidental to the year change. It occurs and then a stutter step later, digital clocks and satellites alerting that another year has started. It’s so precise, we all stand together and count the exact seconds down. Then that new year is upon us in full force, and most of us seem to be suddenly jogging 5 miles in icy wind or carefully recording every dollar we spend.

I’ve found myself reveling in the idea of the year that doesn’t switch instantly, but is instead looked for as a birth is expected. It’s a beautiful idea to have the year begin in weakness, the days only briefly shining, the way a newborn baby only briefly rises to consciousness. In that spirit, if a year is born and grows in strength, maybe what we do in that year should also start out in a weak fumbling sort of way. Not in the instantaneous expectation of perfect change, but instead in an intention that grows and builds on itself.


Thank You Library: Teenage Wasteland

I blipped out the last couple days because we are all sick. Sick, sick, sick, and sick. Even the cat is puking all over the place.

Oddly it is a little gratifying. I was really dragging the last couple days and I kept wondering what my problem was, why I was having such a hard time motivating myself. It’s nice to see my affliction was mostly physical and not purely psychological.

Though we’ve been dragging, we did make it to the library 3 times this week. I found myself a couple books I thoroughly enjoyed. While I like to think of myself as a mature reader, my recent reads sent me back to teenage land.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Mitchell is the author of Cloud Atlas which I read then reread and reread again. While Cloud Atlas hops around through time and place, Black Swan Green focuses on a 13 year old kid, Jason Taylor, confined to a small English town in the 80s. He’s also constrained by a speech impediment. As alliances at school change and relationships at home fray, Taylor finds himself increasingly hemmed in. The tension between humankind’s inclination towards predatory tribalism and an individual’s personal morality and desires makes all the usual middle school antics fall into place as part of our universal human struggle. The writing is beautiful. And while painful stuff happens, Mitchell lets Jason Taylor care and love so much, that it felt impossible not to care and hope for him.

Quote: The world never stops unmaking what the world never stops making.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

This is a book that started showing up everywhere. I felt like the universe kept shoving it at me. A friend here, another friend there, a couple good reviews on different sites I read, all sang its high praise. So when I saw the audiobook sitting on the library shelf I grabbed it. Somehow I didn’t realize it was about teens or love or cancer, subjects I usually avoid, well mostly the teens and love. Earlier this year, I read Emperor of Maladies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and was feeling done with cancer reading for a while. Aaron had also requested I take it easy on the terminal illness reading. But once I was half way through the first cd, I was hooked.

I don’t think I can review this book rationally, it just made me care too much. The book does a beautiful job at recognizing that cancer and life in general is not fair, does not make any sense, and causes terrible suffering that nobody is equipped to handle, but illness does not make us anything other than human. The main character’s mix of dark humor and love of life was a treat.

Quote: Some people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them,” I said.

“Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.”


“Grief does not change you…it reveals you.”

For Thanksgiving, the kids have loved these stories.

Thank You Sarah

The story of how Thanksgiving became a National Holiday.

The Bone Man

This book is terrifying which I think is part of the reason the kids love it so.

Thank You Library: Election


Happy Election Day. We are lucky enough to have our voting station in walking distance so we went down as a family and stood in line and voted. I really love seeing everyone in the community come out to do their civic duty. It was fun to remember the last presidential election. R was born three days after I cast that ballot. A lot has changed in four years.

On the subject of elections, we checked out the book “Grace For President” a few weeks ago. The book tells a story of a girl who is outraged to learn America has not yet elected a female president. She immediately launches her own political career by running for class president. Her campaign involves a lot of community service, debate, and strategic lobbying of her classmates, not all of whom are created equal. For some reason each student is allocated the electoral votes of a certain state, so some kids’ votes are worth 3 while others are worth 55. I guess it gives kids a good view of the mixed up process.

M fell in love with the story. She carried the book from room to room and dragged it along on car rides. We read it at least four times a day. After renewing it three times, I let her know we needed to return it to the library. Miriam took strategic actions of her own. When I came to collect her and the book, I found her sitting on her bed. I asked her where her book was. She replied that she’d hidden it. I searched all over and couldn’t find the book. We ended up having to renew it again. Eventually it was located and we returned it. M immediately relocated another copy on the library shelf and demanded we check it out.

Miriam continues in her support of female candidates. This morning as we walked to the polls, Miriam again confirmed her endorsement of “Princess Leia with the robots” for President of the United States of America.