Much of my reading these days is out loud with a five-year-old curled in my lap. My daughter has yet to meet a book she didn’t like. For me to enjoy a book over and over it must have an exquisite message, stunning artwork, or goofy enough characters to grip my reading buddy with uncontrollable giggles. Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth, written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, has both the message and the art. Also by the same duo is The Secret of Saying Thanks, which reminds readers of all ages that we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.
I recommend The Three Questions and Zen Shorts by writer and illustrator Jon J. Muth, who also combines enduring stories with engaging visual scenes. For straight-up fun my daughter will pull Skippyjon Jones (Judy Schachner) from the shelf. Equally entertaining is Skippy Jon Jones and the Big Bones. I am grateful my daughter now has the patience for chapter books. We are starting into one of my long-time favorites, The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter.
In the small window between my daughter’s bedtime and mine I often pick up a volume of poetry from the jumble of books on my bedside window sill. The thumb-worn copy of Stephun Dunn’s New and Selected Poems is never far from reach. Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room is also on top of the heap. I often re-read any of Wendell Berry’s fiction like poetry. Last night I flipped through Memory of Old Jack just to marvel at Wendell’s graceful negotiation through the complex convolutions of the human mind.
To keep despondency about our ecological trajectory at bay, I recently read Tim Flannery’s The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its People and R. Dale Guthrie’s Frozen Fauna of the Mammoth Steppe. Both books widen my temporal world view to the point I can breathe away some of my anxiety over all that we will not accomplish in time. On average, species are only around for 4 million years. Our looming extinction is nothing new. We’ll just bring the average down a bit.
In my woodshop, I am currently on a door-making jag. At night I sketch and read in anticipation of the next day’s puzzles. For anyone interested in building their own doors I recommend either Door Making by John Birchard or Handcrafted Doors and Windows by Amy Zaffarano Rowland.
Hank Lentfer lives on a creek bank in Gustavus, Alaska, where he is working on a book titled Faith of Cranes. He wrote the Coda “A Window” for the September/October 2008 Orion magazine.