A Good Book is Never Out of Place

Books are a permanent and essential fixture in our home.  Over the years, as I review photographs and memories, I realize that books are fixtures in our lives, not just our home.

Reading before dinner in Hawaii
Waiting for our table while dining in Hawaii

In the past year or two, I have made room in my life for a book club of wonderfully interesting women.  We meet every other month, sometimes  discussing the book at length, other times just enjoying each other’s company, food and drink, with the book a secondary focus.  We were honored with the presence of the author himself at our last gathering, as one of our members happened to have a family connection to him.  (By the way, our author-attended evening involved a definitely recommended read — The Theory of Remainders by Scott Carpenter — a suspenseful novel set in the Normandy region of France.  It is a captivating read that would be a perfect companion for a long car ride or flight!)  During a time of life where finding time to read for pleasure often takes a back seat, book club “forces” me to make time for an activity that always gives more than it takes.

Reading on the pontoon
Kicking back on the pontoon, book in hand, faithful friend as pillow.
Does life get much better?

Books are like friends to me — different personalities, different experiences.  Getting lost in a good book is the best.  (And as the weather turns colder, running a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine at my side and a good book in my hand is the perfect end to many a night!)  Some books are fine if read just once, but others demand repeat performances, often spaced over time, when life’s intervening experiences shed new light on the static words.  To Kill a Mockingbird (my book club’s next pick) is one of those always-fresh reads.  I believe this will be my fourth read of the classic novel, and I look forward to finding yet another new insight or hidden gem as I turn its pages once again.

Curled up with a book at the cabin
Cozy at the cabin with a good book (and, of course, that faithful friend!)

Other favorite reads (old friends) over time?  The list is long, but I will share a few , including several sentimental favorites:

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Taking a breather while exploring Ostia Antica
Taking a breather while exploring Ostia Antica

New books (like new friends) can add a different perspective, sometimes unexpected, sometimes fun, sometimes reflective.  A few newer reads that were worthwhile:

  • The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan O’Brien
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Reading by firelight
Campfire memories at Glacier National Park

What is one of your go-to favorites, that you have read more than once and always recommend?  Or perhaps it is a newer book that comes to mind when asked to recommend a good read?

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Morning

I am not a morning person by nature.  But I find that pitching the tent and unplugging from the world for even a few days has me greeting the world as the sun crests the horizon.

Sunrise at San Luis State Park campground, Colorado

Interestingly, some science may underlie this tendency for even night owls like me to convert to early birds when spending time in the great outdoors.  This article explains that the “nature effect” on night owls who go camping is the most dramatic.  Apparently, we are all morning people at heart.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Good Morning” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Unplugged and Off-the-Grid ~ A Change of Scenery (Part 6)

After two nights of camping on the island, it was time to pack up and begin making our way back to our original entry point.

Leaving Long Island Lake, BWCA

We had hoped to spend our last night at a campsite on Cross Bay Lake, but someone else had beat us to it.  Paddling on, we had our pick of sites on Ham Lake — technically outside of the Boundary Waters area, although virtually indistinguishable in beauty from many of the lakes on the other side of that boundary line. Following the recommendation of our outfitter, we settled into a campsite on a rocky peninsula.

Campsite on Ham Lake, off the Gunflint Trail, Minnesota

We quickly learned that wading in the shallow surrounding waters was not without its minor hazards.  My son insisted I take a photo of this lovely leech — the leeches attached themselves almost the moment your feet hit the water, and water shoes offered little protection.  We kept the salt shaker handy for the rest of our stay at this site!  

Leech from Ham Lake

A healthy sprinkling of salt on the leech prompted it to curl up and loosen its hold.  My husband quickly called “dibs” on the dejected leech carcass as it fell to the ground (with no one putting in a competing bid), as he put it to good use as fish bait.

Fishing on Ham Lake, off the Gunflint Trail, Minnesota

Thankfully, not all camp visitors were so dreadful.  While we did not intentionally feed the chipmunk pair that quickly made their presence known, they were always lurking and quick to take advantage of any untended crumb.

Chipmunk visitor at the campsite

Frankly, these little striped culprits are often more a threat to your food pack than the bears!

Chipmunk in the BWCA

The last night remained gray and cool, but the rain held off to provide some quiet reading and reflection time.

Ham Lake off the Gunflint Trail, Minnesota

We almost had a hint of a sunset through the clouds.  A solitary duck swam across the lake, as if set to a metronome . . . quack . . . quack . . . quack . . . and our last night of being unplugged and off-the-grid drew to a close.

BWCA 42 6_22_13

Ciao! ~ Kat

Other posts in this series:

Coming soon, the final post in the series:  Heading Home

Unplugged and Off-the-Grid ~ The Call of the Loons (Part 5)

Ahhhh, the call of the loons.  It is a sound that goes hand-in-hand with time spent on the lakes in Minnesota.

Loons on Long Island Lake ~ Boundary Waters, Minnesota

Across the small bay from our island campsite on Long Island Lake, a pair of loons were nesting in the tall grass between the rocks.  They did not wander far, and were never gone for long.  We assumed the nest contained an egg or two.  While we were respectful enough to give the loons their space, and observe them from afar, other residents on the lake were not as considerate.

Loons staying close to nesting grounds ~ Boundary Waters, Minnesota

On the fire-burned island behind the loons’ home, an eagle or raven frequently would perch on a desolate branch, keeping a close eye on the nest below.  The loons would nervously call out as the unwanted visitor hovered and lurked.  Then, with little warning, the raven or eagle would swoop toward the nest and one or both of the loons would make a ruckus, flapping furiously and going after the intruder.  We watched the loons tirelessly and vigorously defend their home and future offspring from repeated attacks.

One cannot not help but admire this handsome bird.

Loon on Long Island Lake, Boundary Waters, Minnesota

When the loons felt safe, we would observe them swimming by as they fished for their next meal, diving and popping up periodically at various locations in the surrounding waters.  And in the evening, as we lay in our sleeping bags drifting off to sleep, the loons called out with a distant response from the next lake over.  The long wailing calls, the more animated or alarmed expressions, and the soft murmurs between the dedicated parents-to-be, weaving into our dreams.

Loons on Long Island Lake, Boundary Waters, Minnesota

I will leave you with a brief example of the call of the loons, particularly for those who may never have had the privilege of sitting out on a summer evening listening to the haunting sounds float across a lake.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Other posts in this series:

Coming soon:  Part 6, A Change of Scenery

Unplugged and Off-the-Grid ~ Exploring by Canoe (Part 4)

The weather was gray and wet, and often windier than one would like for taking the canoe out for a relaxing exploratory paddle of the surrounding lakes.  And there is something to be said for just enjoying the beautiful spot where you’ve set up camp, and kicking back with that good book or fishing rod in hand.

We did set out one day to explore the nooks and crannies of Long Island Lake.

Long Island Lake map

The boys set off on their own, map and compass in hand.  I thought about the fact that as parents we are so used to having that electronic tether to our children now — the cell phone that provides the ability to send off a quick text to say, “I made it safely” or “We decided to head to the beach and then I’ll be home.”  While it provides much comfort when children begin their solo outings and begin traveling farther afield, it is so important as a parent to have the ability to let your child spread their wings without that leash attached.



My husband and I headed out on the lake later in the day, and had a bit more luck with fishing, landing a northern pike.

Fishing on Long Island Lake, BWCA

Northerns can be tricky to filet and quite bony to eat, so we ultimately decided to throw him back and let him swim to see another day (particularly since the hoped-for shore lunch fish fry was going to be a bit sparse with only one fish to share among the four of us).

Fishing on Long Island Lake, BWCA

We spotted a canoe or two in the distance, and paddled by an occupied campsite, but otherwise had the lake to ourselves.  That is the magic of the Boundary Waters.

Shoreline of Long Island Lake, BWCA

In northern Minnesota, we are fortunate to see American bald eagles on a routine basis. I always feel a sense of awe when I see one perched in a tree, sitting in its enormous nest, or soaring above in the open sky, no matter how often I see this majestic bird.  

A pair of eagles must have been nesting nearby, as the boys saw the two of them perched in this dead tree along the shore, but by the time we paddled close to it, only one remained. Frequently during our stay on Long Island Lake we would see one or both of the eagles perched in one of the burned out trees from a fire several years ago, or flying low over the lake looking for their next meal.

With weather uncertain, we turned back for “home”, paddling at a leisurely pace.  We had the evening ahead, watching the loons and the eagles, enjoying the solitude.   

Long Island Lake island campsite, BWCA

Ciao! ~ Kat

Other posts in this series:

Coming soon:  Part 5, The Call of the Loons