Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Beach Tail from the Mesa

I am struck by the similarities this photo taken on the beach has to the Mesa, my new home.

And here is another great review for A Beach Tail.  From  I love that this review mentions they way Floyd captures the beach sand feel through out the can feel the texture.

Book Review: A BEACH TAIL

A Beach Tail written by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Boyds Mills Press, 2010

Recommended for ages 3 to 5

Gregory and his dad are spending the day at the beach together.  Swish-swoosh, up lap the waves onto the sand.  Gregory draws a Sandy Lion, with a full mane, four chubby legs, a happy face.   His father gently reminds him of the beach rules; “Don’t go in the water and don’t leave Sandy.”  On the pages that follow, Greg draws in Sandy’s tail which leads him down the beach, past a purple jellyfish, a sandcastle, a horseshoe crab, and other amazing discoveries on the sand.  While getting further and further away from his father under the blue umbrella, Greg never goes in the water and the growing, twisting, curving tail ensures that he never leaves Sandy.

Cooper’s art is gorgeous.  Using pastels in beachy taupes, browns, soft purples and blues, he creates a textured effect that defines both the setting and the main character.  In this way, the environment and the boy are visually united.  Greg and his surroundings are rendered in a subtle soft-focus, which when combined with Cooper’s ability to create a breathtaking balance of shadow and light, lends the overall experience an almost tactile, sensual quality.

There is a double-page spread that features Greg leaning down to inspect a new creature.  His face tilts up to look toward the viewer.  Sunlight reflects off of the top of his head and is captured twinkling on grains of sand stuck to the side of his chin.  There is a slight blending between the borders of Greg and the sand around him, which reminded me of Peter McCarty’s luminous Hondo and Fabian books.

I loved how child-focus the story and art remained throughout A Beach Tail.  I know a mom who was initially concerned about a young child being portrayed as straying so far from his parent (and so close to the dangerous ocean.)  As a parent, that must be an unsettling, even terrifying, feeling.  For the child reader, however, this bit of brief independence and even slight mischievousness (Greg definitely knew he was pushing the limits of his father’s second rule) is where adventure happens.  It is only by breaking away from his dad that Greg can indulge his curiosity and discover remarkable creatures and objects on the beach.  And yet, he is still tied to the security of his father through Sandy’s tail.

This perfectly balanced depiction of independence and safety is exactly what so many preschoolers and kindergartner’s crave.  They want to be a big kid and have adventures.  But, it is still important to know that their grownup will be there at the end of the day to welcome them home and keep them safe.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mesa Musings


More lists that could turn into writing:

What they say
They say don’t drink the water here.
They say the water is fine
They say there is recycling here.
They say do not drive after dark.
You could hit a cow.
They say it is fine to drive after dark
(just don’t hit a cow).
They say there is no recycling here.
They say there are rattle snakes
In the mesa where I walk in the evenings.
They say the weather is unusual for this time of year.
They say they have had a lot of rain.
They say it is much greener than usual.
They say they close Buffalo Pass in winter and
The snow is as deep as I am tall.
They might plow one side in the winter but the other side?
If they plow it, by nightfall it will be as slick like a slide.
They say it is always like this, this time of year cool evenings, hot days, but so clear, not like Phoenix.
They say to shop in Flagstaff, it is better there
Target, Trader Joes, New Frontier(just like whole foods).
They say to shop in Gallop it is closer,
Gallop is a dangerous place, they say.
They say that in the windy season
You will not be able to see to drive,
Like a blizzard and the red dust will
Creep in through the cracks around doors
And windows and pile this high
         (a hand to my waist).
         They say you can’t plant sage or rabbit plant
         In your yard but it grows all over the mesa and
         Lowlands too.  You can’t ever get enough root to make it
         Grow in burst of yellow in your yard that is pure flat
         Red dry dirt.
         They say we are lucky to have a plot of grass
         And now I feel guilty if it looks too dry
         They say everyone is envious of my grass.
I will probably kill it and feel guiltier so we have to mow it with a  weed whacker.   
There is not enough grass in our yard for a mower but we are lucky.
They say it is dry here but I see beer cans and bottles and more cans and bottles everywhere broken and whole on the flat and on the mesa.
They say those are not crows you see everywhere but ravens.
And it rained yesterday, poured in the desert
And the mudslides closed the road to Flagstaff, unearthed    a wrecked car, washed it down the mountain, no one even
knew it was there.
And today there are yellow flowers blooming around the apple tree in my yard (yes! We have an apple tree)
They call them sunflowers….very, very small sunflowers in the dessert.
They say you can hear the wind swishing through the trees in Buffalo Pass.  The trees are huge there, evergreen.
They say it is only 30 minutes away even though it takes us an hour.
And you can see Ship Rock from there.
And wild purple asters.

Mesa glass
They sell the vanilla here behind the counter with the cigarettes
Because people use it to get high.  And in the news paper reports  A man found dead in his holding cell at Crownpoint Detention center after consuming two bottles of hand sanitizer and some prescription medication.
And the signs in the parking lot at the grocery store say “Help our neighborhood.  Do not give to the panhandlers.”
And you must walk the gauntlet of beggars to get into the store and then you must walk it again to get out.  You with your full shopping cart, piled with bags.  But you can point to the sign and say “No I am not supposed to give you money.”
I have this necklace.  I need $20 gas money.  It is always for gas for the pick up to drink.
And even the man who works at the meat counter at Basha’s market tells the stumbling man who reeks of alcohol , YOU are not hungry.  You need to go home.
In the grocery store there is spam, aisles of spam piled high, so many different kinds of spam and my husband thinks of Monty Python and I think we used to eat spam when I was a kid.
And cow food and horse feed and goat food and sheep feed.
A bag of parrot food?  But no birdseed for my feeder.
And they sell empty burlap bags here and I like that, think I might buy one as soon as I know what I want it for or maybe just get it because I will find a use and my grandmother used to use them though I can’t remember what for. 
They call us Belegana (or that is what is sounds like) so I stand out with my full shopping cart, a foreigner.
I roll the name around on my tongue, not sure how I like it.  The sound is nice but I am not sure of the meaning yet.
Yes it is dry here and hot in the middle of the day but cool in the mornings and the evenings.
The moon is full now and the sky so clear.  Huge and blue by day and when the sun sets the Mesa is orange fire and cones of
White  sun stretch out across blue sky and you  know where the stylized designs for the sun come from in Native American Art.
And rainbows too reach across the sky.
I walk in the mesa after a day and night of pounding rain and I stoop to pick up  glass.  Smooth bits of glass like beach glass, mostly green bits and the smaller ones are smoother and I realize that the desert sand like the beach sand can smooth the glass, glass that comes from sand.  Even here in the dessert washed by rain and smoothed by sand and there is a connection for me who loves the beach here where there is no beach but perhaps there was once an ocean. I am learning the land.
And there another piece and another.  And I know the glass comes from bottles broken up here in the Mesa where they come to drink in this land that is dry.
But I collect the glass the tiniest pieces that are smooth and I have something I can begin to collect and something that is mine, something that is me.  Mesa glass like beach glass.
My pockets are full and my pants sag with bits of glass and rock until I am  startled by rattling sound and think Rattlesnake! when I realize it is the glass, mesa glass rattling in my pocket.
Makes me laugh.