March 21st, 2007

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Easy Does It

Lest you pity us for our fevered week at the beach, let me assure you – it still served as a serious vacation.
Not only did we kayak, sail, snorkel and fish, but we built extravagant sand castles, took meandering beach walks, and enjoyed multiple naps. I think my heart rate dropped a few beats each day.
The sun was prickly-hot, the sand powder-fine, and did I mention the color of the water???
The thing I love about beach vacations is how they legitimize – even mandate – deep relaxation and a lazy pace. Nothing against New York or Paris, but grand city visits aren’t what I’d call restful. Museums and historic homes and the theatre are exhilarating and edifying, but negotiating public transport and crowds with a stack of guide books can take it outta you.
At the beach, you’re supposed to read a book a day, nap every afternoon and walk barefoot. (OK, so I’m still barefoot here at home, but the ole' heart rate seems to have popped right back up to its pre-beach pitch.)
It begs the question, how to best recreate that sense of peace in the midst of real life? 

My go-to get-aways? Taking a yoga class, and reading in the bathtub. The water’s not turquoise but I can’t quibble. Bubble bath seems to suffice.
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Beach Books

We read right through to the bottom of our book piles last week. Here are some highlights:

Babymice -- Elder daughter re-read Queen of the World and Our Hero... a few times. Much discussion ensued about the good old days of Dodgeball and the comeuppance Ms. Felicia Furrypaws inevitably faces.

The Sisters Grimm -- We read the first in this series aloud, with much edge-of-our-seats hilarity. Sisters Daphne and Sabrina discover they're descendents of the great Grimm brothers, and then must come to terms with the family baggage -- a mysterious and uneasy alliance with the Everafters (fairy tale characters) living in rural New York. Personally, I found some of the literary allusions a bit forced, but the girls were delighted and are begging to start on book #2 right away.

The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean -- I really adore reading Alexander McCall Smith, from The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series to the Akimbo books for kids. He's a master at subtle humour and wisdom, and his books are eminently readable. Harriet Bean is a departure -- more high hilarity and madcap mischief of the Pippi Longstocking variety -- but still fun. 

Amazing Whales -- Younger daughter checked this out at her school library and read it three times through during our week away. She's still a beginning reader and was bursting with pride at reading science. The series (which includes Amazing Snakes, Gorillas, Tigers and more) is the brainchild of The Wildlife Conservation Society, a preeminent player in the conservation world and, incidentally, employer of my dear brother-in-law, fighting the good fight in the wilds of Tanzania.

A Pale View of Hills -- One of the books I read to myself when kids were sleeping or otherwise occupied. It's a quiet and trecherous little read that touches on everything from Japanese society to a woman's role in the 1940's to the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Not uplifting -- it's full of heartache and tragedy -- but beautiful like poetry.

Who I Was Supposed to Be: Short Stories -- More adult reading. I'm a huge short-story fan and these were some goodies. There's something a little voyeuristic about them, peeking in on the quirky underbelly of everyday folk. But they're mostly compassionate and dang compelling. More Lorrie Moore than Alice Munro (and not quite as good as either of them), I zipped through 'em in a day.

The New Yorker -- I completely caught up on my mag reading, including a really moving piece about the Miami Police Chief, Seymour Hirsch's latest on our efforts in the Middle East, and some very, very funny cartoons. My husband, by the way, still hasn't won the cartoon caption contest, his fruitful muse notwithstanding. Wish him luck.