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Full Moon on the Desert

October 4, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Last night, the full moon slid over the horizon, painted pink and mauve by the setting sun at the other end of our world. Swiftly, the moon thrust itself into the sky, impatient to shed light across the high plains. As the sun slid out of sight to the west, briefly limning the Sandias with orange and gold, the moon lit our world well enough to see without outside lights. Not many stars can stand against the brilliance but it’s worth missing a few constellations to bask in the silvery light.

We moved from California to New Mexico in the full moon. This was a bonus since a drive which should have taken thirteen hours actually took twenty four and we needed every advantage we could find. Three vehicles containing most of our lives friend crept up the long private road and into the driveway at the top of the hill. We didn’t need headlights to see the large fenced yard, waiting for our Salukis to get out and stretch their legs. We split the dogs among the three of us: my husband, myself, and our dearest friend, who had put her own life on hold to help us move, and walked them around the yard.

Most of our dogs had seen wide open fields in California but never had they lived where nothing blocked their vision for miles. It wasn’t as bright as midday in spite of what might happen on the night before Christmas but it was bright enough to see the closest neighbor’s house plus a few lights out in the distance for those who felt the need for a night light. Not many do in this part of the world.

Since that time, full moon nights mean just a bit more to us. We’ve been here a year and have put our personal stamp on the property. Even so, we wonder if we’re going to wake abruptly from a dream. Full moons remind us of the drive, of first stepping into this house as owners, walking through echoing rooms to peer out windows at the quiet night landscape.

When I have to travel away from here, I make a point to go outside at night, to see the stars and the moon from a different part of the earth. If indeed I can see anything but ambient light or cloud cover. Once while in New Zealand I looked up to total disorientation. The stars are in the wrong place in the sky when you’re at the other end of the world.

If you’ve never experienced a full moon out in the desert you need to do so at least once. The most pragmatic among us would be ready to believe in pretty much anything under this light.

Monica K Stoner

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September 18, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

From your Member at Large

Recent travels took me to a Festival of the Saluki in England. Salukis are slender graceful hounds, originally bred to hunt game in the middle east and now bred to drive obsessive dog feeders nuts. Or so I’m told by friends. Since Salukis have been part of my life since 1972, they seem perfectly normal to me, it’s those other dogs that look entirely too fat.

So, England. For various reasons I’ve never been there before. Judging assignments have taken me to Finland, Australia, and New Zealand, but never England. Due to an eclectic reading appetite, I’ve traveled the narrow lanes of the English countryside in a jog cart, galloped to hounds across the rolling hills, and watched morning workouts in Lambourn. All vicariously, of course. In spite of watching BBC America more than regular television, I had no idea what England is really like.

Mind you, when one’s life has gone to the dogs, a trip anywhere isn’t quite the same. The main purpose of this trip was the gathering of Saluki people from around the world, for a Symposium and a few dog shows. In between, rather than act like a normal tourist, I visited with my hostess and her puppies, and took in day to day life in England. Then again, when your hostess’s house is next door to a pub called Hand and Crown, and you learn this is where Henry VIII stayed while pursuing Anne Boleyn, you realize more than ever how close history is to the here and now.

One of our walks took us through large fields, where my hostess casually announced the area had been an RAF field during WWII. Up near a stand of trees, a small memorial recognized the squadrons who had used that field as a base to take off in the fight against Nazi Germany. The runways are still in place, now lovely green mowed grass, surrounded by higher unmowed fields. A quiet recognition of an effort which has framed how we all live today.

Speaking of fields, as we drove away from Gatwick airport, I noticed fields stretching in all directions. England has the same population explosion as the rest of the world, but it is still, to my eye, a delightfully agricultural country. This trip did not take me into any metropolitan areas, but we did go through many smaller towns and villages. Roads are a method of getting from one place to another, and do not disrupt day to day life. In other words, except for the expressways, roads are narrow and follow the same winding pathway as they have for centuries. Don’t expect street lights, traffic lights, or thoroughfares widened to accommodate traffic plus parking. When people need to stop somewhere, they pull over close to the curb and stop. Too bad if they’re blocking traffic, you can go around.

Notice I said no traffic lights? The country is riddled with roundabouts, where you enter on one side and hope to exit somewhere before you’ve reached your entry point. It brought up memories of science fiction explanations of circling a planet several times gathering momentum before shooting off into the next dimension. Eclectic reading habits, remember, plus a mind drawing far too many parallels between fiction and reality. Which might have something to do with people casting odd looks in my direction when I try to explain my thoughts.

If you’ve never traveled to England, and I know there must be a few people still who have not, don’t go during the high season, which seems to end Labor Day. My ticket would have been half the price had I flown just a few weeks later. You don’t need a visa, but you do need a passport, which you can obtain at most City Halls. Up to date information can be found on the web with very little searching.

Be sure you find an airline with individual viewing screens, plus enough leg and seat room to keep you comfortable for a long flight. Since I am a particularly large member at large, seat size means a lot to me, and I also test the seat belt as soon as I sit down, just in case I need an extender. Expect the food to be awful. The wine is not much better but I usually end up splurging at least once.

Heathrow has acquired a horrible reputation for baggage handling, and it will be even worse if you use British Airways. Fortunately I flew into Gatwick, on US Air, and everything went amazingly well. You will expect to line up (queue in England, pronounced “cue”) several times before you can pick up your baggage and be gone. Do not expect air conditioning, ice in your drinks, or “real” coffee. Do expect delightful people, wonderful venues, and history seeping into your skin to lodge itself in your heart.

Food has to be a discussion for another blog, this one’s already late!

Monica K Stoner

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BOOK CLUBS – What goes on in a book club stays in a book club

August 29, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

There are faux book clubs. The members tend to read Oprah books, non-
fiction, and actually work the workbooks for discussion. The call
themselves book clubs and books are involved — but they aren’t the
real thing.

You also have sort-of book clubs that are more Branson than Vegas.
Members come and go. Anyone is welcome. Often there is a leader that
coordinates everything into a nice pleasant experience.

But the other book clubs, the ones that experience camaraderie that
goes beyond secret handshakes, beyond age, race, religion, or
economics…those book clubs are real book clubs. The activities they
engage in are never discussed with casual acquaintances, against the
rules in most work places, and isn’t even shared with spouses.

What do they do? The members experience a deeply private intimacy
that normally only a faceless author is privy to. In the context of
reading books together members share the fantasies that get them
through the lousy bosses, troubled teen-agers, no money, and even
death. What turns them on, what turns them off. What is beautiful,
uplifting or depressing. “This book has reached inside of me and I’m
going to tell you how.”

Intimacy and safety in a world where we don’t even know our
neighbor’s name — My Book Club.


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