This is mostly about books, and I’m good with that

It’s been since roughly early March, but I feel like I’m catching up on things around here. Which means this is the week I will catch up on things. Which mean something important and pressing will come along to distract me. Something will make me realize this is a false feeling, and that I am, in fact, behind on all of the chores and hobbies and other things I’m just behind on. I will find that note on my phone that has the list of things I want to do, and things I should do, and things I need to do, and then I’m instantly behind the eight ball once more. This is the way of things. But, for the next day or two, this is a good feeling.

So, please, no one write anything on the web. If I’m caught up, I don’t need you adding anything to the To Do stack.

Aaaaaaand … there it is, I just realized something I’m behind on. Oh well, I’ll get to it Thursday, maybe.

Besides, these guys demand all of my attention anyway. Demand it.

We’ve created monsters.

I wonder how long we will leave this box on the kitchen island since Phoebe has made it her own.

After an afternoon of box-sitting, she was ready to quietly sit next to us and take a little nap.

What, in the world, is cuter than that?

Not to be outdone, Poseidon would like to show you his sleeping technique.

How is that comfortable? And it’s easy to say “He’s a cat,” as if that explains anything. But that guy is as spoiled as can be. Not, his cat cave is sitting on the ottoman, because the cat cave alone wasn’t good enough.

So the cats are doing just fine, thanks for asking. And, once again, it is self evident why their weekly check-in is the most popular regular feature on the site.

This weekend, I discovered we have berries.

Who knew? Not me.

This, I assure you, is the moon.

The timestamp says I took that at 11:09 p.m. on Friday night.

Also, I had a 35-mile bike ride, but we’re just going to treat that it’s not even a big deal, in an effort to normalize longer bike rides. I’ll just say this, 35 is sort of the mental barrier. Once I get through that, I’m ready to go out on actual longer rides, and that’s the plan. I’ll continue increasing the mileage because the goal, as ever, is to take nice, long, enjoyable, bike rides. Tomorrow’s ride will be longer than Saturday’s, and so on, for a while.

This weekend we also returned to our best summer weekend system: reading in the shade on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday I read the great Willie Morris’ Yazoo. Morris was from Yazoo, Mississippi, but while he was working as the editor of Harper’s Magazine he made several trips back to his hometown to follow along with how his unique small town was handling integration.

(Most small towns think they are unique. Some of them are. Yazoo may be. How they handled integration, at least in those early stages, was different from most.)

Morris, being a liberal Southern Democrat, and more so while he was living in the north, was hopeful about those early days, as you might imagine one would be about a place he loved. He became haunted by what happened in the longer term. None of that is an author’s fault, when you expand on a longform article to turn it into a book, the book becomes a bit of amber, and the stuff frozen inside of it can be right, or wrong. What we get, from our modern vantage point, is a glimpse of a particular moment in time, 1970, and just more of Morris, the tremendous reporter and writer.

As I’m sitting there, a little insect flew onto the left margin of the page, sat there for an eyeblink, and then hopped-zipped into the pages. It was eager to be in the book. Perhaps it was eager to be a part of the book. One with the book. Or maybe it wanted to fly to Mississippi, and then thought better of it, because it quickly zipped away.

It’s a musty old book, in that delightful, yellow-paged pulp way. Probably the insect’s impulse had something to do with the paper’s aging process. And, almost as quickly, it thought better of it, and flew away. It was one of those things in life that seemed important, important enough that you wanted to share it, even as you knew, in real time, you had no way to do it, or the feeling, justice. And so here I am.

Anyway, I started it yesterday, I finished it yesterday. I’m pleased to have done so, as part of my quest to read pretty much everything possible that Willie Morris wrote. It isn’t all grand, but if you read Terrains of the Heart, you’ll understand the impulse.

I forgot to mention this entirely, but since we’re on the subject of books, last week I finished Marching Home. The subhead is “Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War.” Subtitles are a terrible modern publishing necessity, but they hit the nail on the head in terms of the thesis.

It turns out, we’ve never been especially good at supporting veterans. I knew that. It goes back to the Revolutionary War and has been a shame and sometimes downright shameful part of the American condition. These guys had it no different.

One part was physical, and one part was the rest of the north wanted to get on with it. Another part was, psychological therapy just wasn’t a thing yet. That’s seeing a 19th century problem through a 21st century lens. It is a thing we caution people about when reading about historical periods, but it’s easy to do, and easy to return to.

Another one would be: 19th century alcohol might have been less than helpful. The descriptions of some of the people in this book beggars belief. But the whole thing really does seem a shame. And while this is, of course, a book about the Union army, reading it makes the humanist wonder how these same real, gritty, daily problems impacted the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, too. As lousy as some of the northern infrastructure was for dealing with these problems en masse, it would have necessarily been hard for those guys, too.

After I finished that book, which was well-written and seemingly exhaustively researched — almost 40 percent of it were footnotes and other after matter — I asked the random number generator to pick another book from my Kindle queue, and I started in on Rising Tide. Again, the subtitle, “The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America” tells the tale. (Why not just use that as the title?)

Where I am, as of this writing, is still about 50 years prior to the flood, but it has been a fine read, and very digestible. These two pages are the bulk of what has been offered in terms of hydrology.

Even something like the movement of water is written in a lean-in style, to author John Barry‘s immense credit. And if these two pages intrigue you, even a little bit, this is a book for you.

I’m five chapters, I think, in. We’ve met three main players. Two of them were surveyor-engineers. One of them was fast, and the other fastidiously, obsessively thorough. The former died in the Civil War. The later did not, and, thus far, has proven to be something of a megalomaniac who becomes the head of the Army Corps of Engineers. And he’s just about to run, head-first, into the third main character, a captain of industry who Barry has thus far portrayed as an irresistible object.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll go back and continue on. When I last looked in, they were just getting to the problem of the legendary sandbars.

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