Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

I love surprises of the everyday variety; I don’t always relish big life surprises. But here, a handful of the most delightful:

1. Loving my first job out of college – an admin job on campus – as much as I did.
2. Bethany moving back to Abilene, for a year and a half of wonderful “borrowed time.”
3. Finding another family in Abilene (and staying there as long as I did).
4. Becoming a total tea addict. (I never touched the stuff until college.)
5. Interning in Hawaii for a month one summer. (Surprises every DAY.)
6. Learning to navigate traffic on a bike in Oxford, and loving that, too.
7. Moving to Boston – the difficulty and the richness, and lots of other things besides, have surprised me.
8. Actually writing a novel in a month in 2008.
9. The surprise party Jeremiah gave me when I turned 21. (Yes, I was totally surprised.)
10. Singing a brief solo in the Les Miserables medley during a choir concert in college. (I was so sure I hadn’t gotten it – but I ended up with a solo from “On My Own,” my favorite Les Mis song.)
11. Writing a cover story for Radiant magazine – how surprised I was to be asked!
12. Being told (not asked) to learn to play the piccolo for a high school band concert in London.

How about you? Any wonderful life surprises to share?

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If you’re a reader, a writer, a reviewer or just a book junkie, you’ve probably heard the news about Borders – after closing a few dozen stores this winter in a desperate effort to stay afloat, the company has filed for bankruptcy and is liquidating its 399 remaining stores. Sadly, this includes the two-story behemoth in Boston’s Downtown Crossing area – easily one of the company’s biggest stores, and the only one close enough (since they closed the Copley Square store) for me to browse on my lunch break.

As much as I love my indies – the Brattle, the Booksmith, the Concord Bookshop, the Harvard Book Store and any other indie I happen upon – I’m still sad to see Borders go. For one thing, as so many folks have said, fewer bookstores always means bad news for the book industry – fewer outlets for books to reach readers. (This is, of course, particularly bad news for little-known authors.) For another, many towns will now be bereft of their only physical bookstores, which simply breaks my heart. I grew up in a town whose only bookstore is Barnes & Noble, and went to college in a town with only Books-a-Million – and I would grieve if either of my hometowns were left completely without a bookstore.

Perhaps most importantly, I have good memories of time spent and books purchased at Borders stores – which were there for me when I needed a bookstore in several different states and even across the ocean. I used to stop in at Borders in Oxford on my way home from the grocery store (it was open later than Blackwells or Oxfam), and browse the 3-for-2 tables or the new bestseller lists or the plentiful magazine selection. I still have the copies of Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating and Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days (the gorgeous UK edition, of course) bought there. Sometimes I’d meet a friend at the little Starbucks in the back, and we’d sit at a round table and drink chai lattes to ward off the misty chill outside.

When I spent a month interning in Honolulu one summer, Borders provided me with good beach reading and a quiet, bookish escape when I needed some solo time. I’d grab the keys to the church van (known affectionately as the “blue whale”), back out of the driveway and head to Volcano Joe’s for a chai latte or a smoothie, or to Borders to grab a new book. My copy of The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (Traveling Pants #2) from that summer still has sand in it, I think.

And finally, I’ve enjoyed browsing the Borders in Downtown Crossing once in a while since we moved to Boston a year ago. I loved its solid, steady presence overlooking a bustling square, which contains the Irish Famine Memorial, the Old South Meeting House, and plenty of street musicians, pigeons, businesspeople and tourists. The area will be poorer without it, and I’ll no longer have a place to pick up a new book if I decide I just have to have it today (as I did a couple of months ago with The Penderwicks on Gardam Street).

I’ve been to the closing sale once or twice – but the chaos, with Caution tape everywhere, just makes me sad. (And so far, the discounts aren’t enticing enough to make me buy books there instead of at my other favorite bookish places.) I hope the store doesn’t stand empty long – but I wish it weren’t closing at all.

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Being a landlocked girl from West Texas, I’ve spent very little of my life on coastlines. I live on one now, of course, but the beach near our house is a city beach, and the view includes the skyline of Boston. It’s a lovely view, but it doesn’t quite give you the feeling of being on the coast, indeed on the edge of our continent.

But last Sunday, I found myself in Rockport, tramping through a state park with my husband and a few dear friends. And we walked to the cliffs, big chunks of granite leading down to rough rocky beaches, with red seaweed growing on the stones. The water was gray and so was the sky, with glimmers of light and the occasional duck paddling around. And it was literally impossible to tell where sea ended and sky began.

I’ve only had that feeling a few other times – standing on the shore of the North Sea in Whitby; walking along the beach or standing on Diamond Head on Oahu, Hawaii; and standing on the cliffs of the Aran Islands, watching the sunlight glitter on the sea, the wind so strong it literally pulled my breath out of my lungs. Sunday’s breeze was a little gentler, the light softer, the weather cooler. But as I stood there I remembered what it felt like to stand on the other edge of the Atlantic. And in both cases, I felt like an explorer, standing on the edge of the world, looking out to endless new horizons and possibilities.

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linen trouser thoughts

The trouble with wearing linen trousers – even smart, black well-cut ones – to work is that they were meant to be worn barefoot. And they’ve been insistently whispering that to me all day. My work flats are just a little too sensible and suburban. These trousers, and their owner, want to be on a beach somewhere.

Which is odd. I’m not really a “beach person” – I have fair skin and burn rather easily, and I’d rather cool breezes than hot sun, usually. But today I’d love to feel warm sand between my toes, play chicken with the waves at Makapu’u Beach as I did four years ago, and flop down for a couple of hours (under a tree, but still on the beach) and lose myself in a good summer paperback.

(I did buy these trousers to wear on the beach in Spain this summer. Maybe they’ve already picked up an intimation of their destiny.)

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Sixty-five years ago today, Japanese forces attacked a sleepy airbase on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. About 16 months ago, I made a trip out there myself, to see what has become a name that looms large in the American consciousness. Pearl Harbor: everyone knows about it, and everyone instantly grows quiet and somber when it gets mentioned.

Cole and I got up at the crack of dawn on my last morning in Hawaii, and we drove out to Pearl Harbor together in Scott’s big blue whale of a van. We arrived early enough to beat most of the crowds, and were ushered into a small theater where we watched a film – actual newsreel footage of the attack. (I always wonder who is brave and foolhardy enough to film these things as they’re actually happening.)

After the film, we wandered around the exhibits for a while, reading all sorts of information about the war, both armies, the ships and other equipment they used, battles on other Pacific islands, and firsthand accounts from servicemen, which I found most interesting. Many of them were near my age, which was 21 at the time. They witnessed horrific destruction that day, and lost people who were very dear to them. War is no respecter of persons. It cuts down the young, old, infirm or healthy, and wounds the hearts of all.

The morning ended with a short ferry ride out into the harbor, where the remains of the USS Arizona still lie sunken under a white floating dock of sorts. There is a wall of names, much like the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. – the casualty list of those who died that day. There’s an open space surrounded by railing where you can look down into the water, and I remember seeing flowers. Bunches of flowers – leis and bouquets that people had brought in memory of their loved ones or in honor of the soldiers. And on the water around, patches of oil still leak up from one of the hatches. A fitting, if obvious, metaphor for the fact that wars don’t end when peace treaties are signed. Their effects go on and on and on.

That day, Cole told me about a song he was writing called “Infamy,” which has since become one of my favorite JamisonPriest songs. It’s about a woman who lost her husband at Pearl Harbor, and it weaves together the attack, swing dance, grief and memory. That song has perhaps done more than anything to ensure that I will never forget. In my mind with the images of the Arizona and the exhibits is an image of her, remembering…

She dreams about a soldier in the dark
Shaven face, a pretty diamond ring
She holds onto a chain of metal tags
And fifty years unbroken wondering

In her closet underneath his uniform
A pair of Mary Janes that she has never worn
He brought them home to her in 1941
The day their child was born
And now she’s waiting patiently for Friday night
The big band and the horns…

You can read the full lyrics at http://www.jamisonpriest.com. And whether you do or don’t, stop and take a moment to remember.

*title from “Infamy” by Cole Bennett

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