Monday, September 14, 2009

Wake Up and Smell Lake Michigan

Wake up calls come in funny ways, don't they? Almost always arriving unannounced, they frequently represent an omen of sorts, prodding us to get off the couch and do something before it's too late. Recently, I discovered that these messengers to one's psyche sometimes call out with laughter and awe as well.

Two weeks ago, author Loren Niewenhuis and her brother, Phil, dropped by the store in the afternoon. We spent some time talking about books, wondering where the next Hemingway and Steinbeck are hiding. Loreen had emailed the previous week to say she would be in town, and since an out of town friend and I were planning to catch up over dinner, I had invited Loreen and Phil along. We met for dinner later that night, Jacque, Terri, Loreen, Phil and I, and boy, am I happy the group thing panned out. Never ever ever - not even when I was intensely studious and my brain synapses were firing at rapid speed - would I have been able to hold up my end of the conversation with these two.

My goodness! Loreen, who was just finishing a journey around Lake Michigan is amazingly, modestly bright, and I believe she can do anything she puts her mind to. Her degree is in some complex science area, and she spent time doing bone marrow research. The strong draw she had to writing prompted her to earn her MFA in Creative Writing. Loreen's short stories have been published in several literary anthologies, and she is currently shopping for a publisher for her novel.

Then there's Phil, who, for most of the night, let Loreen take center stage. Again, modesty won out, since we had to pry this information out him. It seems that Phil is a composer. He doesn't write cheery little jingles, or angst ridden folk songs, he writes symphonies. And they have been performed by major orchestras. How about that!

Now, both Phil and Loreen were gracious, never letting on that they recognized that the breadth and depth of my knowledge on any single subject is weak. Honestly, compared to them, the level of my questions fell somewhere between "What's your favorite color," and "Wanna hear a story about my dog?" Thanks to Terri and Jacque, both fascinating individuals with lots of life experiences, we all had a fine time.

So, what alarm went off in my head that night? The one that says, "Hey, you are one lucky duck.!" I live in my own little Mount Joy here at the store, and interact with such remarkable people. The members of my book group, theatre buds, customers who have become friends, and the writers who drift in and out, bring wealth to my days. Because of them, my worries are few and my days are filled with the anticipation of what will come next.

Check out Loreen's blog, and watch for her published account of her walk. She is in love with the lake, and that is why she walked. As she spoke, I couldn't help but recall Thoreau's words, "I went to the woods to live deliberately." There is passion in her eyes and voice - in her whole being - as she speaks about the beauty of the lake and the environmental issues affecting it. She spoke of the people she sought out along her journey, some home townies like us, and others who understand and share her emotional connection to Lake Michigan. Loreen's walk ends with a huge celebration on Saturday, September 26th on Chicago's Navy Pier. She is walking the last 100 miles of the planned 1000 from September 21-26. Surely, there will be a big tub of warm Lake Michigan water for her to soak her tootsies in when she arrives.

What am I reading? Still working on The Club Dumas, the book upon which my Johnny Depp's "The Ninth Gate" was based. The movie left me with tons of questions, all of which are being answered in this book. If you enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind, you'll like this book. It's one of those moody pieces about people, societies and desires most of us don't know exist unless we read about them. Who would ever think that people are willing to risk their entire fortunes, and perhaps their lives, for a single, hand written chapter of a book? Can you imagine a job where you are hired to travel the world to unravel a literary mystery, without totally knowing who you are working for, or why? I have to finish this soon. Loreen sent me copies of her short stories, and, I am honored to say, she also send me a copy of the manuscript of her novel. After reading the first chapter, I knew I wanted to read her medical mystery straight through, so it will have to wait a while...a short while.

My rant of the week...About two years ago, I got dish Network and was all pumped about the selection and quality of channels. Not so anymore. The programming has changed dramatically, many channels are repeated, and more and more infomercial, and home shopping channels spring up every day. OK, so last weekend, I decided to inventory exactly what I am getting, and you'll never guess what I found. I now have an entire channel devoted to Klondike bars, and another that is all about Country Crock margarine. Crock is right!

Can you indulge me for one more mini-rant? Please? I get my gas from a station that plays music and ads at the pump. Today, I was assaulted by an ad reminding me that winter is on the way, and I should be sure to remember they can supply me with all the warm drinks I need to combat those below zero days heading our way. Really. We live in Wisconsin. Must we be reminded of what's coming?

Until then, I will enjoy the beautiful weather and watch the leaves turn shades of orange. I will look forward to snow days, held captive indoors with bad TV, a good book, and coffee I am capable of making for myself. And, I will find a new without a doomsday prophet.

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