August 16th, 2005


A Good Book!

I have two axioms for good health: drink plenty of water and have a good book to read in the bathroom. Well, at least handy to the bathroom (Kathy complains if I try to keep it in the bathroom). It can't be too interesting; it must be a book you can read a page or two then put it down until the next day. My personal favorites are nonfiction: travel journals and autobiographies. I usually get my books a sack at a time from used book fairs or the sale racks at the local library. Sometimes you pick good ones, sometimes you don't.

I just finished one I've been reading over the last three or four months. It's a good one. Spring on an Arctic Island by Katharine Scherman, 1956, Brown, Little & Co. It's a story about a six week scientific expedition in the summer of 1954 to Bylot Island which is in Canada some 450 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I liked Ms. Scherman's work so well I searched the web for her other books and bought three (used): Daughter of Fire: a Portrait of Iceland, The Flowering of Ireland Saints, Scholars, and Kings, and The Birth of France: Warriors, Bishops and Long-Haired Kings.

Below are a few exerpts from Spring on an Arctic Island that I particularly liked:

--Ms. Scherman was aware of the impact of civilization on the balance of life that sustained the Eskimo people for thousands of years--

"...because the little man-made religion and all the other little man-made things were slowly and inexorablly taking over. We moved like a glacier, we and our civilization, inevitably bringing print dresses, Sunday school, a sense of guilt and canned beans into the land of the wolf, the seal and the Stone Age hunter..." [pages 182-183]

--everyone has experienced times when you can't back up, but must proceed forward at full speed, taking life as it comes and hoping for the best--in the book they cross miles of sea ice, rotten, full of leads, and getting worse by the minute and at the end a respite--

"It was twelve o'clock noon. We had been traveling nineteen hours and during all that time we had had no rest. We sat in the cook tent, talking and talking. Full sentences wouldn't come out, and we couldn't remember words. I had never known what it was to be tired before.

But tiredness was nothing; a strange exhaltation possessed us. We had done more than we could do, and the triumph of spirit was a light, pure and exciting as the cold fire of the nighttime artic sun." [page 310]

--the final words of the book while they are flying away from the island--

"...Our beautiful island was spread beneath ua. The great Aktineq River tumbled through a narrow gorge at its source in the forbidding, deep-seamed gray expanse of the glacier, and widened majestically between its low banks as it approached the huge white sea. Thule and Castle Gables thrust their black rocks in the air toward us. The tundra was all one color and would look like a desert to any eyes but ours...

I can feel it under my feet, bouncy and full of life. Wherever I walk birds spring up in front of me, fly high in the air and glide slowly to earth, singing with heartbreaking sweetness. There are clusters of flowers, yellow and white and purple, and many-colored mosses and new green grass, and patches of snow and old ice twisted and tortured and full of holes, and bees flying into and out of lemming holes. And the low sun deepens the colors of the alive tundra, red, brown, gold and green. The chill thin air feels like very early morning in very early spring. It is an enchanted island."

In a few minutes the fog enclosed it. A word had been said, a hand moved, and our island was gone." [pages 322-323]


Our Mercury is home from the family body shop. Chuck and Tony returned it mid-morning, and this afternoon, Kathy and I took it to Walmart for a new set of tires. Tomorrow, we go to Muskogee to get the front-end aligned. The damage repaired was both front and back bumpers and the mirror on the passenger-side, a curious combination.

Our son is lucky to still be sucking air. A left rear tire threw its tread, and he lost control of the Mercury while traveling 75 mph on the turnpike. It didn't roll. A favorable combination of heavy car, good driving, and major luck kept that from happening.

It wasn't an under-inflated tire, the usual cause of this type of wreck. The tire was old, maybe it just quit, or maybe he hit something in the road that cut the tread. Maybe that cut happened weeks ago. It's hard to say.

How it happened isn't as important as how it ended, and I'm really glad it ended the way it did!