Hash Browns and Christie

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This evening I fixed sausage and hashbrowns for dinner, with a token vegetable on the side. Sometimes I need its crispy, greasy saltiness. It’s something in which you can lose yourself, your cares drifting away while its flavor arrests your attention.

Today and yesterday, I needed to lose myself as much as possible. In part, I’ve done this by juggling three different Agatha Christie books, which is entirely possible when reserving e-books through a public library. Several of your awaited titles can become ready for check-out at the same time. When this happens, I don’t trust that I’ll be able to finish all the books I have checked out during the three-week loan period allotted to each title, so I switch between different ones in case life might get in the way of finishing them. So far this I haven’t had to return a book before it’s done and find my place at the end of the line waiting for it to become available again.

So how have I found the time to read more than 60 Agatha Christie books in the past eight months? It helps that I can read the electronic editions on my phone. I’ve increasingly abandoned TV in favor of reading, too. No TV in my house has been turned on in my house in over three weeks.

I’ve turned away from national TV news of any bias. When I was on medical leave last year, I watched James Comey’s live televised admission that the FBI had been investigating the Trump campaign for ties to Russian election interference. At that moment, I felt like a gong banged inside my mind to signal that national news had fallen into the theater of the absurd. Even if the reports were true, the national news media as a whole had jumped the proverbial shark, and I didn’t need the added stress of watching more of it.

I have a subscription to my local newspaper, and I read online news stories. When something “big” happens, I sometimes toggle between the CNN and Fox News homepages to see how differently they’ll spin the same stories. The best is when one has several headlines about the same story and the other has no headline concerning it at all, or just begrudgingly offers some coverage on a belated basis (e.g. Stormy Daniels).

I’ve found greater solace in reading Christie as relentlessly as I can. I’ve even read her books while riding an exercise bike.

With Christie, there’s an interesting thematic unity across her body of work, so switching between stories isn’t as confusing as it could be. Despite this unity, her stories are not boring. Today I’ve been reading a short story of hers called “The Man from the Sea”. It’s one of her Mr. Quin stories. The Harley Quin stories are intriguing because one is left to wonder at times if Mr. Quin is supernatural or merely human. I’m halfway through this particular story, and there’s a raw beauty that spares no feelings. It shares some of the realism of And Then There Were None, wherein the selfish, delusional part of humanity is laid bare against a world sometimes more beautiful than those who live there.

Yesterday I had my second epidural injection. The epidural I had in February was fairly carefree in comparison. This time I was not so lucky. I had a different doctor this time (luck of the draw, I guess), and he vented that he saw little to gain from the treatment. He warned me that I’d likely get a spinal headache because the interval where I needed the injection was so jammed with scar tissue, adjacent hardware, and stenosis that he couldn’t fit the needle in without risk of piercing the dura matter around my spinal cord.

I can’t say I disagreed with his point of view. It’s one of the shitty aspects of health insurance. At times one is expected to follow through with risky “conservative” measures before the next step of treatment is approved. Insurance preapproved an epidural injection that neither this patient wanted nor the doctor wanted to deliver, but nothing else could happen unless it was done.

Within an hour of returning home, I got up and felt as if a bookcase had fallen on my head. I called the clinic to report that the near-inevitable had happened. I was instructed to lie flat and drink as many caffeinated beverages as possible. Thank God I was spared that crushing feeling as long as I didn’t lift my head. Thank God that my spinal headache lasted just three hours.

I also thank my husband for figuring out how I could drink those caffeinated beverages while lying flat (btw, keep the drink beside your couch or bed and drink through a straw with your head turned to the side). I’m also grateful that my sister came over to hear my tale of woe and help with the things I couldn’t do. My daughter was there with questions and hugs as well. When my headache was over, she strolled through the garden with me as the summer sun gave glory to all the blooms not yet shrouded in shade. That garden walk is a memory I will cherish.

(Almost Summer) Photo Walk, June 16

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I’ve been remiss with my photo walks this year. It’s not like I haven’t been taking walks. I just haven’t had my camera with me. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, as much reading as I can possibly accomplish given the ordinary demands of work and motherhood. It’s like reading makes one’s perspective a bit more distant. I’m still enjoying the scenery of my days; I’m just not paying as close attention to what I see.

I’ve needed the mental engagement that a book can offer to those who linger between its pages. I’ve found that my ongoing flare-ups of nerve pain don’t mix well with television viewing. My mind is just not far enough away from that pain while I watch the show screen.

Around Halloween, I quietly decided that I’d start binge reading instead of binge watching. I’d exhausted all the episodes of Poirot and Marple on AcornTV, so I choose Agatha Christie’s bibliography as my first binge read. Since Halloween was just a pumpkin throw away at that time, I started with Hallowe’en Party. It’s one of the Poirot novels in which he teams up, willingly or not, with the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver. I adore the Poirot/Oliver novels, for in those pages Christie seems to be laughing both at herself and her most famous detective. There are healthy amounts of satire and sometimes bawdy wit to be found in her work.

So far I have read 53 of her 75 novels and several of her short story collections. An e-reader like Kindle is a great tool for anyone who’s interested in binge reading. It will keep your place just like Netflix remembers the last episode/scene of a TV show. Life can be full of unexpected waiting, and I’ve had a novel (or three) of hers on my phone at all times. I also have a tablet for reading at home. I’ve enjoyed almost all of these books for free through my local library’s connection to Overdrive. The link provided leads to Ohio’s Overdrive collection, but I think this service is available in all states. The entry ticket is a current local library card.

This morning I slightly merged my interests in photography and reading by making a trip to my local library, which has a fantastic garden next door. I thought that I may as well take a camera along to record the progress of that garden.

I regret that I missed this year’s blooming of the peonies. Oh well. The weather was soggy, and I was busy reading The Hollow and The Carribean Mystery.