Monday, June 29, 2015

Webs and Wings and Wild Things

There are dangerous and unstoppable spiders living behind the side-view mirror on the passenger side of my car. Dangerous not because they're poisonous (I hope not!), but because they're fascinating. I don't mean fascinating in a words-written-in-the-web sort of way (spoiler alert: Charlotte dies), but in a look-what's-caught-in-the-web-now-way. At first I was captivated by what had been captured in this intricate delivery system for lunch. It was difficult to keep my eyes on the road (and the other cars, with people in them) while caught up in the life and death drama a couple of feet to my right. So, in order to avoid becoming part of the life and death drama of a car accident, I pulled over recently and, with an unbent paperclip, gently detached the web and the spider, along with her take-out lunch, and placed them gently on the ground, then safely continued on my way, eyes on the road. I don't remember where I had to go the next day, but I needed my car to get there. I buckled up and was just about to turn the key in the ignition when I glanced over to my right. And there it was! Stretched delicately between the side-view mirror and the glass of the passenger side window was ANOTHER WEB! A gossamer gotcha! Yes, yes, I removed the web before starting the car and driving away. But the spiders are unstoppable. So I'm just going to ride my bike everywhere until school begins in August.


But I can't just sell my condo and move to avoid the moths (in league with the spiders, I'm certain) plaguing me this summer. I catch them out of the corner of my eye as they flit around the house, irritating for sure, but not dangerous. When not in motion, these moths look like tiny slivers of straw clinging to a wool blanket, wool pillows, and sofa cushions. Three closets now smell pleasantly of cedar and a couple of traps with bait have done their job, but searching for a nest hasn't been a priority. So for now the moths are unstoppable, too.

Little Mothra

Finally, before I get down to business and recommend a book, I spent several days with my family at Claytor Lake near Blacksburg, Virginia. These cliffs, which are directly across from our cabin, were until recently home to a goat that would regularly make it's way down them to...well, no one is sure why. Perhaps to watch the people in the houses across the way. And a bear was also recently seen swimming in this part of the lake, going who knows where. These critter sightings happened before my arrival and the timing couldn't have been better, because when I heard that there were brown recluse spiders in the immediate area (like on the pontoon boat cover) I had to be talked out of getting back in the car and driving away from this fascinating and potentially dangerous family vacation.
The cliffs are alive

A Boy and a Bear in a Boat by Dave Shelton, David Fickling Books, $6.99, ages 10 and up
When asked "Where to?" by the bear, who's been holding the little boat steady as the boy climbs aboard, the boy, waving "his unbashed hand vaguely out across the water without looking up," replies "Just over to the other side, please." So begins one of the most peculiarly charming adventures I've ever read. This book is fantastic! This book is not for everyone. What!? A fantastic book and it's not for everyone!? How can that be when it's got a boy and a bear? Yes, it does, and they are in a boat...a very little boat called Harriet, and not a lot happens. But let me share some chapter titles and maybe I can convince you the book is for you! Unforeseeable Anomalies, The Comic, Teatime, Trust, Message in a Bottle, Smelly, Alone, The Very Last Sandwich, and The Thing from the Deep. That last chapter title should convince you that I'm not kidding about the adventure in this book. And humor! I grinned from ear to ear because this book is that funny. I've read the chapter called On-Board Entertainment (I can't reveal what it is, but we've all played it, probably on a car trip) more than once and laugh out loud each time. Is the book allegorical? Metaphorical? Full of symbols? It might be and you can decide when you read it. Shelton's writing is glorious and his illustrations are magically simple, and in this exceptional book, the journey really is more important than the destination.