For to Read Good

I’m usually reading.

I read in the car, on planes, in bed, in lines for coffee or at the grocery store, at climbing areas between burns....Whatever the situation, I'm usually reading.

I read blogs, magazines and novels, not particularly in that order and never non-fiction unless Brad tricks me into a roadtrip-worthy book-on-cd that sounds like fiction, but turns out to have actually happened (he’s sneaky like that).

The things I read are always uplifting and rarely deal with heavy issues, with the exception of the New Yorker, which I read solely because it allows me, in what I like to call “grad school tones” to say things like, “Oh, did you see that article in the New Yorker about the fortune cookie fortune writer shortage? It’s heartbreaking that such a centuries-old trade is dying with its tradesmen.” (For more on this side of me, see here.)

Lately, though, I’ve read a few books that are worth a mention, by which I mean, “These books were so good that upon their conclusion I put my head down and cried because they were over.”

These weren’t my usual brain-fare, either; these weren’t chick lit novels or websites devoted to finding the Veronique Branquinho tie dye maxi dress Sarah Jessica Parker wore in the Sex and the City movie (which has only recently replaced my quest for the long, patchwork, J. Crew Talitha dress).

Full disclosure: I’m shallow and black-hearted and the search for these, the holy grails of dresses, does, actually, seem like a good and worthy way to spend my time. There. Now that that’s out there, we don’t have to go on pretending otherwise.

I mention these books now in hopes that you’ll rush out the bookstore and buy copies of these gems so that the authors (brilliant and hilarious) will receive fat advances from their publishers, allowing them to continue to churn out the material that delights me so.

(Add “selfish” to “shallow and black-hearted.”)

The first book:

"I Was Told There’d Be Cake,"
by Sloane Crosley

Wonderful and charming. More than once, while reading this book, I had to stop and put it down so I could throw my head back and laugh and clap my hands in delight. It’s that good. I want to be friends with this woman whose writing is so sharp while so subtle. From all the interviews I’ve read, it sounds like she’s even wonderfuller in real life – like she has that ability, unique to Swedes and hipsters from the East Village, to wear jeans and a black tank top and not look boring.

The second book:

"Possible Side Effects," by Augusten Burroughs

Actually, everything by Augusten Burroughs.

All his work is good. While a little sad at times (his unconventional childhood couldn’t have been easy), he manages to tell the unhappy parts with such a distanced bemusement that it’s not hard to read. One of my favorite parts of “Running With Scissors” (his big hit) is when he talks about how, as a kid, he covered his family’s Golden Retriever, Cream, in aluminum foil, because he “loved shiny things.”

So there you have it: my two-book list for pleasurable reading.



Today I Thought of Gary Snyder.

Early this morning, Brad and I climbed the Third Pillar of Dana with four dear friends. After waking and quickly drinking one cup of coffee (just barely enough), we left our Tuoloumne Meadows campsite early enough to see steam rising from the creeks.

This five-pitch route features what is widely considered the best 5.10 pitch in the Sierra; it is as close to perfect as anything I’ve ever climbed.

I almost didn’t go. I said that I needed to work, which was only partially true. Actually, I was scared. I was nervous about the approach that the guidebook promised was 2-3 hours. I was afraid of the “loose, steep gulley” that led to the base of the climb. I was nervous about the route itself – about getting lost, about the exposure, about loose rock. I was worried about not being able to keep up with the group, about holding everyone back.

In fact, it was fine. I kept up. The approach took us 90 minutes. The gulley was no big deal, and actually, kind of fun. The routefinding was tricky, but manageable, and the exposure was mild. The day was casual; the climbing stellar, not scary. I found a groove I thought I'd lost. I discovered strengths I'd forgotten about. I remembered that I love the mountains, the experience outweighing the possibility of danger.

And as I sat on a comfortable ledge in the warm Sierra sun and belayed Alex on the second pitch, I thought, "I can’t imagine missing this day."

And it struck me: this place takes patience. The routes wander, the approaches climb gradually. The descents require care, the stream-crossings caution. The Sierra is a place to take things slowly, to reflect, to consider.

Gary Snyder knew that. Here's a representation of his awareness:

Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout

Down valley a smoke haze
Three days heat, after five days rain
Pitch glows on the fir-cones
Across rocks and meadows
Swarms of new flies.

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.


Oh, you're still here?

I wonder if anyone's still reading?

I have been lazy about writing lately. It's been hot, I haven't been sleeping well and the more I didn't write, the easier it was to continue not writing, the harder it was to get my thoughts down.

So here I am, checking in and saying, "stay tuned. There's more to come."

It's just that I have to get some exercise right now, and I have to give Arnie a bath because he just rolled in dead fish at the river.

It's totally awesome that he's sleeping on the bed right now, too.



This weekend, Brad and I and some dear friends met in Idaho for some climbing, eating, drinking (thanks, Ian, for the grappa!) and campfires.

We were in the City of Rocks. Here are some photos, courtesy of Nicole (and you're so lucky, because Nicole is a total magician with a camera...check out her site to see how amazing she is).

Here I am with my boys (see my fancy and protective sunshirt? I bought it at a secondhand store for $8. It's like a Hokusai on polyester...):

Here's Brad sending a hard, technical route while the rest of us sat around and waited for him to put the rope up:

Here's Lizzie with the Foxy Moxie (note her pretty polka-dotted collar):

Here are some ponies:
I know I sound like Fletch again ("and here are the dogs who tried to bite me, and this is my rental car...") but I can't help it, because I think Nicole's pictures are so pretty, I want you all to see them.

And one final shot of Idaho. See? It's not all doomsday cults and potatoes. There are rocks there, too: