Saturday, June 25, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

Vacation is winding down and, Ann, don't read this, for the first time since I became a librarian,  I am not ready to get back to work. Hmmm-added to that dilemma is the fact that my partner Don has fallen in love with my hometown, Great Barrington, where I generally have knots in my stomach all the time, while I feel at peace and at home at his place on the Chesapeake in Maryland. Is it as simple as a mountain person vs. a water person?

Last night we sat on his deck with our wine and cheese thinking guiltily about those who have so little while we have options galore. It certainly gives one pause to be so overwhelmed with abundance even if it did come as a result of hard work and not just a little good luck. So many people struggle for a lifetime and never arrive at a place of contentment.

This led me to mull over the room at the Norman Rockwell museum, where we were earlier this week, that housed his most famous series called The Four Freedoms. Created, sadly, as part of the war effort during World War II, Rockwell depicted, through powerful scenes from every day life, the freedoms Roosevelt, and every other president since, said that we were fighting for: freedom from hunger, from fear, freedom of speech, and freedom to worship (or not) as one pleased.

I've been to the Rockwell museum many times over the years and considered Rockwell a man who wasn't afraid to make a political statement through his art, but Don noticed right away that Rockwell's world was very white. When he engaged the docent in a conversation about this fact, the gentleman told us that The Saturday Evening Post, with whom Rockwell had a contract, did not allow him to show blacks in his paintings unless they were shown in a subservient position. Can you even imagine? To his credit, we were told that Rockwell eventually worked on commission for Look Magazine which had a more left leaning philosphy. It's amazing what you see when your eyes are opened.

And here's another thing I learned last week. Did you know that we have a place in Washington called The United States Institute for Peace? If you didn't, don't feel bad, neither did we. Walking around down in the district, we had come from seeing the almost finished contstruction of the new Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorial that will open officially in August.

We were lamenting the fact that almost all of our national monuments are dedicated to wars. Walking up by the State Dept. we came upon this architecturally outstanding building - all open fretwork and glass, soaring ceilings,and transparent walls. Sure enough, it was the Institute for Peace. When we got home we looked it up online to see what it actually does. You want to hear the laughable irony? The Board of Directors all seem to be members of the Dept. of Defense!

You may be asking yourself, well, ok, enough about the vacation, did she read anything? Yes, folks, I did. But, if I tell you, I'd have to kill you. Library Journal will get my review of Tom Perotta's funny, ironic, sad, thought provoking new novel, The Leftovers. On my walks I've been listening to Lisa Scottoline's Why My Next Husband will be a Dog, recommended by my former roommate Cathy.

Ms. Scottoline was a keynote speaker at our Southwest Florida Reading Festival a few years ago and she writes the same way she talks. No wonder I love Italians! She's so warm, funny, and wise. This book, unlike her mystery novels, is a compilation of essays that she and her daughter Francesca put together about life and family in the twenty first century.

 Scottoline's love of her mother, her brother, and her daughter, and most of all, her pets, glows on every page and her comments about womanhood and all the vanities and trappings of keeping it together (spanx, makeup, gyms, hair color) are just hilarious. But the essay I loved best was the one about the graduation speech she gave to her daughter's class at Harvard.
While everyone else admonished the kids to go out and do, do, do - face the future head on, accomplish great things, she had the courage to tell them that they might want to slow down for a minute and savor the glory in each and every day. Advice we could all use.

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