Friday, May 15, 2009

Rain Everlasting

Last spring, Arkansas experienced incredible flooding and torrents of rain.  If I remember correctly, the rain caused the dirt supporting a storm drain near where I live to get washed away, causing the city to shut down a stretch of road until they could repair it.  The farmers sighed and offered what produce could grow is such soggy weather, since crops need both sun and water to grow properly.  Too much rain, after all, delays their production. A funny paradox of farming, I suppose--too much of a good thing and all.

Anyway, I'm not really wanting to talk about farming so much as weather and my life events.  I did participate in commencement last week, but that's for another post, with pictures! What I'm inspired to write about today is rain.

It has been raining almost non-stop for the last three weeks (or maybe not three weeks, but it's been going for a while).  We'll get a day or two--or even a partial day--where there is sunshine, but other than that, it's been raining. And raining. And raining.  Hard, torrential rains (with the threat of tornado), light spring rains, mist, sprinkles--we've had all the flavors of rain one could experience with a dash of thunder and lightning.  I feel like perhaps our weather patterns are changing to make our state a damper one.

The weather pairs up strangely with graduating. For me, this was a huge event, three years in the making. I surmounted a thesis and course work while working full-time, and the ceremony signaled the close of that phase of my life.  And then it was raining, though it didn't really rain during the ceremony, which was a relief since I had lots of family and kids who probably didn't need to get wet on their way to the venue.

The rain marked not so much the lack of sunshine for a celebration, but something rather more complex.  Two major members of my family were voluntarily absent from commencement, so in some way the rain signified that the celebration was marked with clouds.  The weather couldn't be perfect for a day that was missing someone(s).  While I had a wonderful time, and while I really enjoyed being able to participate in commencement, there was still a hole because of their absence.

More importantly, however, the rain has come to mean that something new is coming.  Something that I can't see yet, but a something that is working on sprouting, wriggling through damp earth, and waiting for the sun to shine so that it can burst forth.  I can feel it--this phase of my life is over, a phase that began four years ago when I graduated with my BA.  I can see how much I've learned, both academically and personally, and I feel good about the future.  I may not know what's coming, but I'm excited to see what happens.  And so our rain, while preventing us from camping, hiking, biking, and generally enjoying the Arkansas spring before it becomes muggy summer, helps me to wait hopefully for what's to come.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

YA Lit: The Mysterious Benedict Society

If you look at my bookshelves, you will quickly realize I enjoy a range of literature--and I really like good "young adult" literature. I have everything from Anne of Green Gables to the series to Harry Potter. I frequently reread books from my childhood, The Secret Garden being a perennial favorite.

When I was last in Barnes and Noble, I wandered through the children's section to see what I could possibly pick up for my nieces. One book caught my eye because of its cover art: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart*. I picked it up and read the first two chapters, and was instantly hooked--A is begging to borrow it because she did the same thing the other night at my apartment.

Without going into too much detail on the plot (A, after all, reads this blog), the story is compelling and empowering for young adult readers. Adults can also take delight in a story well told, as well as identify with the characters, who could contain shadows of our younger selves.

The Mysterious Benedict Society (the first in a series) has all the elements of a good narrative: compelling characters, a villain, mystery, secret agents, and a satisfying conclusion. I even teared up a couple of times. I definitely recommend it for adult readers who enjoy a good story and for older kids who want an adventure read.

*Who, incidentally, lives in Little Rock.