Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Book

There's a small blue book in my life titled:  "Book of Things Pertaining to Happiness," but it goes by Happy Book for short.  In it I make a list (post on the joys of lists at a later date) of all the things-strange and insignificant-that make me happy.  It's the world's greatest exercise in optimism and remembering and distracting myself from my studies.  Please enjoy the first edition.

  1. bugging my evil cat
  2. hugs so tight I can't breathe
  3. "Frying pans...who knew? Right?"
  4. people telling me I bounce when I walk
  5. running to my car on Friday afternoons and singing at the top of my lungs the whole. way. home.
  6. talking more to one person in one hour than I had all the rest of the week put together
  7. my personal space heater
  8. "I'm as corny as Kansas in August...High as a flag on the Fourth of July..."
  9. planning entries for art/essay competitions
  10. cabin fever

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Hunting (Promise I'll get to letters soon!)

Image courtesy of Salt Lake Daily Photo

Rare Books. Prints Posters. Paper Ephemera. Vintage Photographs. Old Postcards. Antique Maps.

Looking up above the door of the shop, I always smile. It was the first place I saw the word ephemera, and I've been in love ever since.

Walking in, it is like coming home. I grew up reading books I'd find in my parent's storage boxes, old books smelling wonderfully of glue and paper and words. That's the smell of Ken Sanders.

Inside, it is a reader's paradise. Shelves from floor to ceiling, stacked and double stacked with all manner of books. Old books, new books, even comic books. There are bins full of old photographs, stacks of handbills and posters, and maps.

I've got a pattern down. I head straight back to the mystery section, then hit fiction, science fiction, and then Ed Abbey. After that, the rest of the shop is free game. Today, it was the beat writers (I want a copy of Dharma Bums), and then the art books. After that, I headed to the children's section... I still have an incredible fondness for children's literature. The people who write children's books are the true artists among us. They tell the same story it takes some of us 100,000 words to tell in less than half the length, and it is so much more powerful for that.

The haul
The Haul
I didn't find everything I wanted at Ken Sanders, so I had to make the long and arduous journey to Barnes and Noble. Amazing the contrast. Where Ken Sanders is running out of space for books (like me), BN seems like they don't have enough books to fill the space they had, yet I couldn't find what I wanted. It took talking to three different people to discover that the book I was looking for actually wasn't out on the shelf, even though it was in stock. So unlike the store where chance is the name of the game. Today, I found a copy of The English Patient for $5.00... and last time, I walked out of there empty handed. But that's the charm of the thing, why I like the used bookstore over BN. I can't guarantee that I'm going to find exactly what I'm looking for on a given day, but I almost always find something awesome.

So, to tie it back in to the bigger picture.

Shops like Ken Sanders are like the letter. They are amazing things, but things that are being threatened by our electronic society. By shopping there, I feel like I'm doing my part to save the written word, to keep the proud tradition alive. And truthfully, it's fun. I love shops where the owner is the one who helps you find what you are looking for, and they know who you are when you walk in the door, and greet you like an old friend. You realize you're part of something so much bigger and older than yourself.

The Shop

BW photo courtesy of:
Main Page
Salt Lake Daily Photo

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I AM NOT a city kid (inflection noted)--a cowcast of sorts

Growing up as a farm kid, seems like cows were just a part of life. It wasn't until probably fifth or sixth grade when I realized that most of the other kids around me had no clue what I meant when I talked about branding and what the smell of burning flesh and hair was like. All they knew of the cowboy way of life was what they saw in the movies, if they'd even seen a cowboy movie.

Me, I've lived the life every kid wanted. Been riding since I was five, got my first horse at seven, and spent my childhood summers running wild round the neighborhood, kids causing mayhem on their horses.

I'd spend Saturdays in the spring with my dad down at the pasture, feeding and sorting, chasing down mothers who had gone off to calf, and, when I was really lucky, I got to be the one doing shots when it came time to brand and castrate.

Don't let the movies fool you about what branding is like. If we're really lucky, we get a day where the corral is somewhat dry, but usually, we're slogging through the mud and the muck, trying to get the brand to take on wet hide. There is the sound of pain that sizzles on the hot iron, the bellow of the calf is it realizes just what is happening.

It's my job to dart in between the men, syringe full of penicillin in hand, to inject to requisite amount intramuscularly. This isn't like giving a shot to a human or even a horse. You've got two men holding the calf down, one cutting, one branding, all while the calf is doing its best to get free, to escape the pain they are inflicting. Into that mass of confusion you run, hoping to hit muscle on the first try, praying to not feel the jarring shock of bone and the exclamations from the men as the calf tries to escape once again.

Even as the adrenaline pumps through your body, thanks to nearly injecting your dad, rather than the calf, there is something that further permeates the situation. And that is the smell.

I don't know if I'll ever find words to describe it. It's one of those things that burns itself into your memory the same way the brand burns into flesh. By thinking of that smell, I can go back to the pasture, the sounds, the feel of the mud on my feet, my hands, the cows and everything else. I can still hear the heifers bellowing as they are separated from their calves, the horses stamping at the rail, wanting to get in on the action, and the curt voices of the men at work, coming together in an incredibly vivid memory.

Thank you to Mike for starting the cowcasting trend. It's been fun.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spotlight: The Book Garden

I LOVE this place.  I am not allowed in during the school year thanks to the amount of distraction and the propensity for draining my bank account.  The Book Garden is a used bookstore in Bountiful, UT that has just enough disorganization and shabbiness to satisfy the wishes of my heart.  I seriously have the longest, most wistful daydreams ever of running this place.  Old books, new books, somewhere in between books, buy or sell, narrow aisles, and a cramped basement:  it is charm embodied.  Check them out at or at 2 North Main Street, Bountiful UT 84010

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One year, a typeandpen cast

I wrote this last night, because today is a most auspicious day.
7 January 2011
Tomorrow marks a year.

It was one of the hardest days of my life, but at the same time, it was one of the best. I ended a relationship that I thought meant something to me, and I took the first steps onto the path that I am now walking--the path I am meant to be on.

Talking to my friend the other day, I started to think about something. What would I say to the me of two years ago, as I was starting down the path that would lead me to that cold January day last year? If I wrote that letter, would I tell myself to not do the things I did? Probably not. Without those things, I don't think I'd be where I am today--finally headed in the right direction. I probably'd still be at my old job, hoping for something that it turns out I was never going to get. I wouldn't have had the guts to stand up to my boss and quit in order to take advantage of a most amazing opportunity.

But, there are a few things that I think I'd tell myself at the start of 2009. I'd tell me to stay strong. As usual, things get worse before they ever get better. But you can do it. You'll make it through and come out even better than before. And remember--there are people around you that you should keep close to you always, but there are those around you that hold nothing good--watch out for them. They'll only lead you into trouble.

Looking through the unsent letters and old journal entries, I can see the changes, changes you can see in my writing as well. I'm a little more careworn, a little more wise, and a whole lot more in love with life.

So, I want to put the question out to all of you--what would you tell yourself if you could send a letter back in time?


Courtesy of the QDL and Fischer Space Pen

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Once upon a time there was a little blonde girl who looks a bit like me, who ran the whole way home from her first day in 1st grade.  All because it was her birthday and they were going to Aunt Karen's the minute she got home.  Mom met her at the corner, every bit as excited as this little girl.  Mom and Dad and Little Sister and Little Brother and Blondie all loaded up and headed south.  They drove for seven hours straight into the Nevada desert.  That little girl got to sit up front and stayed awake and stared at the stars and waited.  She thought she even saw a mustang.  The family five arrived at half past midnight and let themselves into a quiet little farmhouse, set on the side of a dusty hill.  There was a minature cake waiting for Blondie and squashy couch on the front porch for her to sleep on.  She drifted off smiling. 
But things only got better when she woke up to another little blonde girl who'd begged to help make the cake because it was her birthday too:  Salem.  The two were inseparable for the rest of that week and from then on as all long lost twins should be.  Blondie cried herself to sleep on the drive home and once they got there Mom suggested that Blondie write Salem a letter.  And so she painstakinly did.  Month after month, year after year, infrequent visit after visit, they stayed inseparable through crayons and butcher paper; through scented markers and elementary school cursive paper; through gel pens and notebook paper; through birthday cards and lady-like stationery they filched from their mothers; gave up writing to live together their freshman year at college; started again and went straight on through to wedding announcements. 
Salem's married now and expecting her second baby.  She turned out to be one of those rare ones who's actually meant to be married before twenty.  We tend to emails now thanks to the stress of our individual lives a state apart, but we will always be letter writers.  I read them sometimes still and laugh at the inane things we came up with as little girls and gasp at the forgotten loves we chronicled for each other.  I read them because I stop missing her and it's almost as good as talking to her.  I read them because I hope we have kids who can be cousins and friends and writers like we are.  Emails give information, but those letters, we give ourselves.