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I have been cataloguing things at work, because, that is a large component of my job—the job I have had since November, not the job I am starting next week. So, my most recent large project, which I just finished up last Friday, was to catalogue a bunch of bound books stored in two different rooms. Most of said books were compilations of city council minutes. Because I am very nosy, I of course had to page through a book here and there. City Council minutes, even from the notorious Pendergast era, are much less fascinating and exciting than you might guess.

They’re mostly, from what I can tell from my brief surveys, about grading and paving streets, sidewalks, and alleyways. Also widening streets and designating park land. This makes sense, though, if you think about it, considering that one of the main points of a city is to have streets so that people can move from one part of it to another. Roads and streets have been pretty big stuff ever since people started using wheels, and before that, I’m sure folks had accustomed routes that wore down into packed paths. Heck, even cattle make their own walking paths through habitual use.

When I was a kid, I loved exploring, and therefore in the summertime, I would go on rambles through the neighbors’ pastures, following the cow-paths to their logical extreems, up and down along the riverbanks, or as far as I could manage along an old road-bed with my old Huffy. I harbored daydreams of Huck Finn adventures, taking off on my bike and riding wherever fate might take me, or navigating my stock tank coracle down the Niobrara river until it joined with the Mississippi, and landing it somewhere in the Louisiana delta. Whenever I would go on my pasture hikes, I would daydream of digging out a cave in the riverbank someplace and fashioning my very own hobbit hole. In the summertime, the sparkly beige sand of the riverbanks was warm and soft to lay on, and I’d often take a book and lounge out on the riverbank and read a story. Of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On The Banks of Plum Creek was an appropriate read for such a location, for in that book, they lived for a time in a dugout next to a creek (or crick, as we country folks are wont to say). Other excellent choices for summertime riverbank reading were The Hobbit and The Wind In the Willows. The Wind in the Willows is usually an autumn read for me, however. I always start wanting to re-read that old book in about November, in front of the fireplace (or when I was a kid, sitting on a cushion beside the chimney, with my back pressed up against the warm plaster). If you want to spark daydreams about the pleasures of life under a riverbank, those are good choices. Also The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe–the descriptions of Tumnis’s cave and the Beavers’ den are quite inspiring.

This time of year, I am generally in the mood for sprightly light reading, and re-visit a few childhood favorites. There are two ideal times to read The Secret Garden. One is the day after Christmas, for I received that book as a Christmas gift when I was 10 or 11, and read it cover-to-cover the next day, while nibbling those tiny, hard Christmas candies. The other best time for reading that book is in early Spring, when the world is, indeed coming back to life. In fact, I am going to weed out my strawberry bed tonight, much like Mary did for the perennial bulbs she found in her abandoned garden.

I’m anticipating a good year for strawberries, and plan to try my hand at making some jam this year. I like strawberry jam, but home-made, not the grocery-store kind. The grocery-store kind is usually too sweet and doesn’t actually taste that much like the berries that theoretically compose it. I reckon it’s because they use those gigantic, not-so-tasty berries, whereas the little ones that grow in my ever-bearing patch are almost violently flavorful. Plus, I have fun ideas for desserts featuring strawberries, and I am kind of excited to begin conducting my experiments.

Two more childhood favorites that I am likely to re-open sometime soon are Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd, and The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye. In Time at the Top Susan, an ordinary junior-high girl in the 1960s discovers a mysterious elevator which deposits her into her same neighborhood, but about 80 years earlier. In the past, she befriends another girl her own age, and helps the 19th-century girl, Victoria, to save her family home. In The Ordinary Princess the youngest daughter of a royal family is cursed by a cranky fairy at her christening, and is doomed to be completely and utterly ordinary. No curly golden hair, sparkling blue eyes, or rose-petal complexion. This little girl is a mousey-haired tomboy with a double helping of freckles and a penchant for mischief. Can she find acceptance, friendship, and love, despite not being the model of beauty and comportment?

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