Saturday, November 18, 2017

...and her monkey named "Woo"

Rickshaw driver in Victoria, BC

On a rickshaw ride through downtown Victoria, BC our runner stopped at the most curious places.  Twice he pointed out homes of the famous painter from Victoria named Emily Carr. I wrote a note on my phone, 'Who is Emily Carr?' (to see photos and learn more click on this link:Emily Carr's house

Then we passed an outside museum of Totem Poles where we stopped and took pictures. Little did I know that one of the reasons Emily Carr became a famous artist in Canada  was because at the age of 27 in 1899, Emily took herself to the islands off Vancouver and began to paint the life and richness of the West Coast native people and the totem poles they carved.  Sadly,many of these totem poles were destroyed by loggers in the decades to come, but Emily's paintings saved them for us to enjoy. 

Arriving back in Seattle I asked my sister-in-law if she had heard of Emily Carr.  Immediately, she went on line and began showing her artwork, so many of which were in the Seattle museums.  Her pictures were filled with life and adventure in the Canadian wilderness, and we had just returned from an Alaskan cruise that had given us the opportunity to see the lands, trees, and  shades of green that I'd never imagined.   Emily had loved and painted these places that gave her strength and energy. 

Squee Stah a Lo He...

Like Emily Carr, I'm never alone if there is a tree or trees nearly.  It is books and stories that create the art in my imagination and connect me to others who journey through life.  In Louise Penny's book The Brutal Telling I jumped up with energy and curiosity when I read these lines:

     In dowtown Montreal Inspector Gamache stood outside of Heffel's Art Gallery on Sherbrooke st. searching for an answer to a clue.  What was Woo and what did Woo mean?How can knowing Woo solve the mystery?  What he saw was an almost life-sized bronze of a frumpy middle-aged woman standing beside a horse, a dog at her side and a monkey on the horse's back. 
     "This is 'woo'?" he asked.
     "No, this is Emily Carr. It's by Joe Fafard and is called Emily and Friends." (to learn more click on these linksImages of Emily Carr    Joe Fafard's statues of Emily Carr

Emily Carr and her Monkey Woo in Montreal
     Gamache looked more closely at the bronze woman.  She was younger here than the images he'd seen...They almost always showed a masculine woman, alone. In a  forest. And not smiling, not happy.  This woman was happy.
     "Normally Emily Carr looks gruesome. I think it's brilliant to show her happy, as she apparently only was around her animals. It was people she hated." Supt. Brunel said. 

Emily moved to London and then Paris seeking experts to teach her about painting, but what she saw and painted was not in vogue, nor noticed. Her health began to fail in the confines of the cold wet cities.  Coming back to Victoria she gave up painting and lived off pennies selling pottery and other crafts and running a boarding house. In despair, she struggled to survive.

In 1927 a gallery owner, looking for art of the West Coast, heard of Emily's paintings and asked to see them.  Stored in a dusty attic she brought them down for him to see.  Her paintings were sent to the gallery and a show of her works introduced her to the art world. 

At the age of 56 she began to paint again. Buying an old trailer, she called The Elephant, she loaded her pets and began to travel into the deep green forest where she painted in solitude, surrounded by nature and her pets. When her curious monkey 'Woo' squirted the green oil paint, the deadliest of colors, into his mouth he nearly died. She nursed him with a hot water bottle and epsom salts. During the night she dreamed of a hillside covered in greens that began to move. She wrote in her journal,

     "The next morning, the light was so pure that I decided to go out and paint....I felt the nearness of God, the invisible spirit inhabiting he leaves of the trees, the rocks under my feet, the clouds in the sky..every scrap of the Universe seemed to advance and recede, to move, swirl and dance in a continuous celebration of joy...the full pure joy of life." 

As her health began to decline she continued to paint and also to write her memoir, in her journals, and stories. One book call Klee Wyck won the Governor General's Award in 1941. 

I was secretly excited to learn that I'm not the only American who knew nothing about Canada's most famous woman painter and writer. Susanne MacNeille from the NY Times writes with the same joy at having discovered Emily Carr and her works.Vancouver Island Through an Artist's eyes 

It is through life's journey that we discover writings, paintings, sculptures, history, and people across all continents...and the pure joy of life.   

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Mysteries and the Allure of Times Gone By

Original backdrop to the stage productions from 1929.

Lobby of theatre with Mr. Dillon
LAn afternoon tour of the historic Coleman theatre, on Route 66 in Miami, Oklahoma, opened my eyes and filled my head with layers upon layers of stories about the wealth that came out of the lead and zinc mines in Ottawa County from 1910--1950's.  Learning that George L. Coleman believed that he could draw the world to Miami, Oklahoma if he built a stage to match the elegance of the European theatres. Which he did in 1928-1929. The magnificent Spanish Revival era Coleman Theatre was built to match the style of Louis XV, complete with gold leaf trim, hand woven carpet with the Coleman insignia of a pick and shovel, velvet curtains from Belgium, and a crystal chandelier from Czechoslovakia. I found myself and friends spellbound with every story shared that day by Danny Dillon. 
Ceiling and staging

However, George L. Coleman also built a golf course, as a place for his son George to practice, and for Hollywood stars to play on when they visited the Coleman mansion on Rockdale Blvd. In the early 1920's Rockdale Country Club was built. During my childhood in the 1950's I met Ben Hogan, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Mickey Mantle and other great golfers and performers. These celebrities, I began to realize, all visited my home golf course thanks to the connections of the Coleman family and my father, Johnie Stapp. 

Dave Marsh, Mickey Mantle, Patty Berg, Johnie Stapp 1956

Pondering those pieces of times gone by an epiphany occurred. I discovered my next writing challenge. It became apparent that this colorful history of a golf course built by a visionary man in the 1920's needed to be recorded--through research and through the eyes of child who witnessed part of this history.  Slowly, I began to dig and sort, through the NewsArchives, notes I'd taken, and stories collected. Then one night, my puzzle pieces began to fall into place, when much like George L. Coleman I found a jewel of a story.

Ky Laffon, a champion golfer, who learned to play golf in Miami at the tutelage of Ed Dudley, spent decades crisscrossing the country playing professional golf, returning to Miami from time to time. My father willingly told stories of Ky, and I'm sure to retold some tall tales in the classroom after his visits. 

It is recorded that Ky's uncontrollable temperament more than likely kept him from winning more first place trophies in professional tournaments, but it did secure his place in history through his legendary act of "club-icide."  After watching his putt lip out on the 18th hole, and numerous other putts that didn't fall that day, shaking with anger he walked off the golf course carrying his putter.  Reaching the trunk of his car he pulled out a gun and proceeded to shoot his putter three times, yelling in a colorful slang the entire time.

Ironically, the same weekend I visited the Coleman Theatre I also laid a personal story to rest. Thanks to John Finley, Rob Kimbrough, and others at the First National Bank of Miami, we were able to lay my father's "Pro Emeritus" stone to rest outside the Dobson Museum in Miami, Oklahoma. It originally had been placed by the putting green at the old Miami Golf and Country Club, after my father died in 1989.  The putting green where many a man won and lost bets during an evening a friendly putting contests, where hundreds of people took lessons from the pro, and where famous stars once walked.

Where one story may end, another begins.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Along the Way--the Graveyard Search

Puzzles can be hindrance for me. In frustration I often say enough is enough, but the last few years of genealogy searches, becoming acquainted with new and equally curious relatives, and constantly sorting notes, has pushed me out of my small comfort zone.  Inquiring mode is not my strength, but perseverance is.

John Clendening, about 1885

Luckily, the two combined to finally give me an answer to a family member lost over time: What ever happened to my grandmother's father, who left his two baby daughters to be raised by his sister after his wife died in childbirth? Did he intend to leave them only for a short time? Did he plan to send money or return one day? Did they ever see him again? Where did he go?

During a cold winter in Kansas a few years ago, I began sorting every picture and letter that my mother and grandmother had saved. Somehow in the hundred years that had passed, my mother managed to save her mother, Pearl's, few written letters from her father, John, written in the 1890's.

The few letters carried sad and somber tones:

 August 25, 1895 Denison, Texas
    I halve had beter health this summer than yoursal. I could not brag any fefor few 2 years. People ses that I look beter than yousal. We halve had now rain for a munth and it is getting very dry hear. The worms took to the cotton and hurt it right smart but we wil make some and I guess that it will be worth just as much as it would have bin.

Septemeber the 13, 1896
Dear Children, 
     I halve received to letters from Pearley sinse I halve ritin last....
     I don't hear much bout Christmas this year. Times are prety hard out in the country because the people did not rais much last year.
     We had our picture taken when we wer hunting and will send it to you. it is only tolerable good wane. It was taken down at the forks of the bagey river in the Indian territory. 

My mother and grandmother never spoke of John, and his letters stayed hidden in my mother's underwear drawer until her death.  Last year research done by our cousin, David Peters, found out that J.C. Clendening was buried in the Grayson County Poor Farm in Sherman, Texas. David notes, "John C. Clendening has the definition of a tragic character: losing both of his older brothers in the Civil War; his first child dying as in infant; then losing his wife at the age of 37 in childbirth leaving him with two little girls to raise alone. It is hard to imagine what the weight of the world must have felt like to him. Moving to Texas and starting over must have been his thought at the time he left." 

Jack and I decided it was time to find my great grandfather's grave. On our first trip to Sherman, physically searching for the Poor Farm Cemetery we looked for help and direction from the libraries, courthouse, and a postman delivering mail in the area where we thought we might find the cemetery. No luck.

Six months later and with more information than our maps, we drove to Sherman. Still after several hours of driving and searching we found nothing but a park, which we walked from East to West and North to South. Nothing.  

At last, and with the perseverance given to me by my father, I politely asked a crew of city workers if they knew anything about this lost cemetery.  Immediately, one man looked at me with a smile of curiosity. "Yes, Mme, I know right where it is. If you can wait till 4:30 I can take you right to it."  

Across the street from the park stood a row of Honey Locust trees guarding one cock-eyed gate. Like Sleeping Beauty, the fence row of gnarled trees protected the view of the long forgotten cemetery. 

Inside the gate, like the book had explained were more unmarked graves than marked.  We walked, searched, and read what we could and then realized that my great grandfather's grave
The Grayson County Poor Farm Cemetery
would never be found.  The records at the home had been lost in a fire decades ago. Our hearts broke as the man helping us pointed to a piece of old wood. "That is what most of the cemetery markers of these folks looks like.  I do my best to cut around them so people can find them, 
but the weather and the lands have covered most of them."

The resting place of each unfortunate is marked by a head and foot board, each made of well planked bois' d-arc, painted white with the number of the burial, which is kept in the "dead book" at the superintendent's office.

The city worker and gentleman who helped us find the lost cemetery. 

Now we know that my great grandfather was laid to rest December 5, 1925 somewhere on this hillside in Sherman, Texas.   

We don't think he ever returned to see his family again. How long he continued to "rite" is unknown. His daughter, Pearl, lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma from 1914-1920, so she may have been able to find her father in Denison or Sherman, but we will never know. More mysterious abound than were solved, but at least he is at rest in my heart.   

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Days gone by...
Riding on a streetcar in New Orleans
  remembering days gone by
A stranger's face looked familiar.

"Did we go to school together," I ask the man.
  He studied my face and smiled.
"Miami," I say, "Class of '65."

"Yes, we did," he laughed. "I'm Steve G, and
  your dad was the golf pro, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was." I smiled with pride. "I'm Letty."


Becky, whose heritage includes Cherokee,
It's a small world,  afterall
  is a walking anthology
Of people, places, and events.

A neighbor, and I discovered we both 
  knew Becky from different experiences, and
Becky knew another neighbor, Jay.

Our dog, Lucy,  knows our neighbors by sniffs and 
  dogs who bark behind the fences. 
We knew Jay because of his dog Cooper.


One evening walking we saw Jay.
  "Are you Jay, Cooper's dad?" He nodded, "Yes."
"We have friends in common," I continued. 

Back and forth the dialogue flowed,
  as we discovered common ground.
Goodbyes were said, then Jay turned and spoke.

"Squee stah a lo he." 
   I stopped, listening to the flow of his deep voice.
"Small World," he replied in Cherokee.


Letty and Melissa Young, Jefferson Dragons
On a rooftop in Columbus, Ohio
  Among strangers, we toasted to a Sooner victory.
Then a familiar smile appeared through the crowd.

Jumping up I ran calling, "Melissa, Melissa." 
  The teacher hugs were felt from deep inside.
Memories made it feel like yesterday, minus twenty years. 

In only minutes we shared our common threads: 
  My move to Kansas and teaching middle school,
Her move to Temecula, Ca. teaching elementary.


Knocking on a stranger's door to say, 
  "Your Halloween pumpkins are delightful."
Can lead to old friends uniting.
Spinning Pumpkins, attention grabbers

In a crowd of thousands dressed
  in Sooner reds or Texas burnt oranges
A voice calls out, "Ms Watt, Ms Watt." 

The teacher in me yearns to make connections,
  whether in 6 degrees of separation
Or right night door.

  as the Cherokee people say,
"Small World." 

What is your Squee Stah A Lo He story?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Oh, Chihuly

OKC Museum of Art, Chihuly centerpiece
Chihuly floor to ceiling 
Playfully reacting to art is how I define a memorable moment in a museum.  Even though Chihuly Art * strikes me as "Do Not Touch" glass, in reality it's expressive nature demands more than a stance and stare by viewers.  Dale Chihuly tempts and teases me to reach out and touch, "I dare you."  But years of my mother's quick arm lashings and Do Not Touch scoldings prevented me from doing something costly and stupid. 

While touring the OKC Museum of Art with friends Lora and Leah, we were delighted to walk through the Chihuly gallery filled with illuminated colors of topaz, gold, scarlet, silver, cobalt blue, emerald green, and shapes that shift like in a dream.

The three of us did our best to be content with looking from various angles at the colorful structures of sapphire, amethyst, canary, and indigo. When we walked into a hallway leading to another room filled with bold designs, we were stopped in our tracks.  The lighting in the ceiling flooded the hallway in streams of colors from the Chihuly art hanging above us. Our mouths dropped open in amazement.  Not being satisfied to stare with heads leaning backwards we took our own bold move, and sat ourselves down on the floor at the far end where no one would walk on us, merely by us. From sitting we finally built up the nerve to lay on the floor. 
3 L's laughing not lounging on the floor

A ceiling filled with Chihuly's colorful designs. 

We laughed, pointed, admired, and gazed at the incredible art illuminating the hallway.  Dale Chihuly's art gave us a moment to remember. His designs and colors still float serenely through my mind's eye leaving me with the desire to discover more  Chihuly at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas.*

The temptation to touch, to peek, lurks within my spirit. On the cruise ship last year a magnificent blue glass Chihuly stood in the middle of crowded room. Since no one seemed to notice the art amidst the throngs of people and with an ever so slight desire to touch the magical art, I walked over to view the glass tentacles of twirling blues and greens.  Suddenly, before I could reach out to touch two little girls scooted in front of me pointing, twisting their hands and arms like licorice, and giggling at the glass work that sat on the floor reaching upward to five feet in the air, just the right size for children.  It was their giggling that caught my attention, so rather than touch I giggled. After all, the glass work demanded a show of spirited feelings.  
Similar to the swirling art on the cruise ship.
It can be viewed at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

So, until I win the lottery and buy my own Chihuly to touch, I will continue to giggle in delight, twirl in circles like the swirls in his spherical shapes, and admire the glass art from a distance.

**Please click on the colored links to other sites. 

This is what we have to look forward to at Crystal Bridges.
Thank you Annette Mackey for sharing.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sex in the Sixties

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

It took me nine years and nine 
  To come up with that line.
I could have been laughing about it
  For nearly a decade.  

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

The playboy’s death must have
  Streamed through my mind.
I never wore a bunny tail
  And never felt sexy,
But oh, could I clean house and cook a meal
 To the music of Janis Joplin,Get It While You Can
Dance to Aretha late into the night, and
  Jump into bed and frolic till the sun came up.
Then wake up, go to work, sexercise before dinner,
  And do it all over again by a Bad Moon Rising
Sex in the ‘60’s is not the
  Same as Sex in the Sixties!

In the early morning sunrise
  We watch the bunnies play in the yard.
Cleaning house is teamwork
  Before company arrives.
Eating out is our reward for a     day
  Or to meet up with friends.
An evening drink on the patio gives us time to admire
  Our colorful flowers, butterflies, and birds.
A good novel to read, a game to watch on TV,
  Our needs and energies have changed.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

Then I looked at dining room tables and giggled
  Wondering how many positions we could enjoy.
Nature’s bushes and quiet lake shores
  Offered sexy retreats for couples.
On hot steamy nights at the drive-in movies
  Lovers parked on the back rows
Hiding their passions from their parents
  Sliding down onto the vinyl seats
Exploring, touching new places as hearts
  Beat faster and moans were muffled.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

Dancing is for the Stars now
  Since my back is not so limber.
Exercising is at the gym before ten am
  Naps fall anywhere throughout the day.
One day on the golf course
  Takes two days to recover.
Heating pads and ice packs give more comfort
  Than a shot of tequila or a “screaming orgasm.”
Maybe not…..

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay

  Rings of Otis and times that have drifted by.
Purple passions are the flowers in my backyard
  Not the drink that caused our bodies to gyrate.
I Want to Hold Your Hand means the same thing today
  As it did then, and goose bumps still signal that feeling. 
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow once consumed my worries
 But love in the sixties calms my soul and keeps my heart beating.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

Pushing myself day by day,
  My body groans in pain and aches.
Believing that I could do it all then
  And I can do it all now.
But I’ve been fooled before.
  Nightfall can’t come soon enough.
The gentle kiss, a light touch of love, a brush of the hand,
  Our bodies touching in pleasure.
With the deepest love of my life
  Sex in the Sixties is still Beautiful

* Take moment and enjoy the music that is linked to the highlighted words.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Along the Way-- The Mick

He stood bigger than life in the eyes of every child who'd ever heard his name. He'd always smiled at the kids as he autographed baseballs, golf balls, bats, and more. I stood near my father watching the commotion around us. Even though Mickey Mantle was nearly a household name for every American child in the 50's, seeing him in person and knowing his family made it special for many of us kids growing up in Ottawa County. 
My father, Johnie Stapp, with Mickey Mantle about 1956

One day he and his twin brothers, Roy and Ray, along with other Yankee players showed up at the Miami Country Club to play golf. It must have been in the summer because there were many people swimming, who suddenly jumped out of the pool and began to gather around the large and loud group of men. What I recall and what the facts are sometimes become twisted, but that day with a gallery of people we watched "The Mick" hit a tee ball off the first tee and fly it over the green (a par 4 about 360 yards), across Elm street behind the golf course, and into the fenced horse stalls owned by Mr. Lou Newell.  The gallery roared and the teasing and bets were on. "Johnny Dial" was the stud horse owned by Lou Newell, and for only a moment someone worried that he might have hit the horse, which made the golf shot even more lavish to retell.

My memories of Mickey seem quite colorful, when I recall my dad coming home from work sharing episodes of the days when Mickey and his friends came to the club to get away from the crowds and feel at home.  Billy Martin, Mantle's manager, asked my dad to give him golf lessons. Dad suggested that Martin come back often,  "so we can get that slice fixed." Martin just laughed. 

The Yankee players who came to Miami along with Mickey, George Coleman, and other celebrities sometimes played what dad called "destruction derby" with the golf carts.  I'm sure it wasn't what my dad liked to see, but Mickey and his friends always paid for the damage they imposed, and the men loved to retell the stories.  

Along the way, decades pass and memories grow fuzzy. This summer on my way to a golf tournament in Joplin, Missouri, along with my friend Kay Dalke, we took a sideways trip along old Route 66, and stopped at the Dobson Museum in Miami so I could take care of "burden and worry" that wouldn't leave my mind. As I talked about my problem with Jordan Boyd, Kay noticed the display on Mickey Mantle. Jordan suggested we locate the Mantle home a take a peek at history along the way to Joplin. 

With map in hand we headed north on Route 66 to
find his Commerce home.  Kay regaled me with her love of baseball and childhood family memories. Her grandmother's brothers were Paul and Lloyd Waner from Harrah, Ok. They are both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Baseball Hall of Fame treated her family as special guest when they visited. She, like so many of us, remembers meeting Mickey Mantle, so finding his home was very special to both of us.

We were humbled by his small home. The plaque read: At the age of 5 or 6 his father started teaching him how to hit, they used the tin barn as their backstop. Mutt, his father (a miner) would pitch righty and Mick's grandfather would pitch lefty while teaching him the fine art of switch hitting....

Kay said, "Seeing Mickey Mantle's home was so exciting. It is hard to imagine the life of simplicity some of the greatest athletes of our lifetime have come from." 

Along the way, there's just so much to see and think about.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August Heat

It was a hot and sweltering night when the winds shattered the
summer silence. The thrashing limbs battered the roof as I sat glued to my book, lost in the mystery of who murdered Julia.  

"Get away. I'll toss the kid over." Bean was suddenly thrust into space, and the murderer barely holding on. Even with the tape over the child's mouth Beauvoir could hear the scream.

Then lights flashed inside and out and our house went dark but not quiet.  Rain and winds pounded the roof while I searched for my cell phone. At last I felt my phone and flashed a glimmer of light into the air. The dog bounced and whined in fear of the storm. Finding flashlights, I placed them in various rooms. 

The book had dropped to the floor in the excitement. I really wanted to know the name of the murder. I'm not beyond cheating on a book to find out who done it.  Taking a deep breath in frustration and exhaustion, I declined to cheat and savour the moment the next morning.  I crawled into bed and said goodnight world. Nearly four hours later the lights awoke us, I stared at the book and wisely returned to bed. 

Telling Jack the story the next day made us both laugh.  Such timing for the plot and the real storm to come together. Yet, I discovered in life that things occur that you simply can't explain.

It's been a summer filled with opportunities to meet new friends, to travel, spend time with friends from years past, to find peace in my heart as we approach a date marking eighteen years since I last hugged my parents, and a time to inwardly touch my mother's heart and say thank you, Helen, for saving Katy's life when a car ran the intersection and T-boned her.  

Like a character in the book A Rule Against Murder, I've learned to count my blessings each day, and say Thank You. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Readings and Greetings: Delightful, Delicious, and Dangerous

My husband and I both enjoy warm summer evening on the patio.  Fresh cheeses, berries, a variety of crackers, and a bottle of wine create a delightful summer atmosphere, even when the temperatures are soaring. Summer is our season, when we may ache from too much golf or gardening, but our muscles are not stiff, tight, or sore from the cold. 

Lately, I’ve been coming home from La Baquette with fresh light croissants filled with buttered calories that bring a smile to my lips or a fresh baguette.  Finally, my husband asked me, “Why the sudden interest in croissants and baguettes?”

Without a moment of reflection I laughed, “Hah! Blame it on Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache.”

“Oh, is this another French or Canadian mystery you’ve been devouring like chocolate mints?”

I smiled sheepishly. “Yes, the rich meals served by Gabri and Olivier at the Bistro in Three Pines are described like fresh honey from the hive. I can nearly taste the crisp baguette, smeared thickly with pate, as the characters indulge themselves in the foods.”

Later that evening I interrupted Jack’s television viewing to read from Louise Penny’s The Cruelest Month. Standing in the doorway to his computer room, I announced,  “Here is the type of description I’ve been reading for the last six months.”  Placing his computer on the floor and smiling at me, like do I have a choice, I began to read.

Just then Olivier appeared with their dinner…Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat on their own white serving dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in pan-fried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir. A mound of frites sat on his serving dish.
Beauvoir could have died happily right there and then, but he’d have missed the crème brulee for dessert.

“Sounds rather heavy for a summer meal.”

“It’s not summer in this story it is during a blizzard in Three Pines, near Montreal, Canada.” I explained still standing in the doorway to his man cave.

“It does sound like a meal Pat French would prepare for us in her restaurant in Eau Claire."

"Yes, even the name of her restaurant, The French Press, is appropriate” The French Press

“Yes, it does. I think she’d like these books, too.”  I stepped back out of the doorway and reached for the phone to text her, but instead ended up on my computer writing about the foods and good reads.

Louise Penny touches our senses with emotions and teases our intellect, as we listen to Inspector Gamache question then listen as the characters share their stories. Always showing patience, always attentive Gamache listens for what others might miss. He gets to know each character surrounding the mystery, while the reader seems to be listening and looking over his shoulder. When he trips in the dark, the reader stumbles too. Just as the mystery begins to unfold for me, there’s another twist, and I’m sent back to rethink the clues over and over.    

I’ve skipped around reading Penny’s books, beginning with the A Great Reckoning. Each book is a standalone, but after reading several out of sequence I decided to go the beginning and start through the series correctly. I’m so glad I did because now I know more about the poet, Ruth Zardo, and her pet duck.  Her poetry is blunt, rough, and painful to read sometimes, but she is such a powerful character I can’t help but want to get to know her better.

Then last week I picked up a new book by mystery writer Donna Leon called Earthly Remains. It is book twenty-six in her mystery stories about Commissario Guido Brunetti set in Venice and the surrounding islands. As I’ve read today I felt myself carried to the luguna where Davide, a caretaker keeps his bees. Over a two week period, as Brunetti relaxes away from his demanding job as a detective, he and Davide row daily in the fresh air and waters around Venice.  Like Inspector Gamache, Brunetti is served fresh summer meals from the Mediterranean Sea. A platter of fresh shrimp, baby octopus, mussel, clam, canocchie (mantis shrimp), latticini de sepia (cuttlefish eggs) is served with olive oil, fresh baked breads and a bottle of wine.

Then Davide, who has become a friend to Brunetti goes missing, and the clues begin to fall in place, as the mystery unfolds.

Reading makes it so simple to escape my surroundings, and imagine another moment in time. After spending a day or two rowing near Venice on the Mediterranean, I plan to serve boiled shrimp, melted butter, fresh garden tomatoes, and a buttered croissant for dinner tonight.

I find that books are simply delightful, fresh foods delicious, and so much more fun when served with intrigue, danger, and mystery.

*Food for thought:  a Maple Bacon loaded scone with maple syrup, crispy bacon chunks and drizzled with maple frosting served with hot tea or coffee from The French Press