Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reading and Watching Mysteries

"What does this mean?" I asked my grandmother. 

About to leave for my first year of college, I was standing over her dining room table, sifting through the stack of condolence cards she had received after my first step-mother's death a few weeks earlier.

"I guess you've pulled out a stack of mysteries again," a college friend of hers had written.

"Oh," she sighed.  "After your mother and brother died, I used to lie on the couch every afternoon before you came home from school and read an Agatha Christie novel.  I couldn't bear real life, so I buried myself in mysteries in order to escape."

She shrugged her shoulders.  My first stepmother had not generated the sort of love that my mother had, a decade earlier.  My grandmother did not, in fact, require a pile of novels the second time around.


I was never much of a mystery reader myself.***  I can't stand suspense, and I certainly can't enjoy the artistry of a work of fiction ~ novel, play, film ~ if I am tortured by an uncertain ending.  I almost always read the end of every book that comes my way within a few minutes of getting started. ( I've already read the synopses of all of this season's Downton episodes, which appeared in Britain months ago.)

Real life is enough perhaps?


But some months ago, inundated by challenges at work and reaching a point at which I felt I had nothing to say for myself about anything at all, I started reading mysteries.

The newest Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus book, which happened to come out just as I needed it.

All ten Inspector Gamache novels.

The first couple of the Kate Shugak series. 

The three Grantchester books, which as of last Sunday night are appearing on television in Masterpiece Mystery form.


I'm not sure what this means.  Approximately one mystery a week  (and my work as pastor and college teacher requires a LOT of reading, plus I am always reading other books as well ).  I have been practically inhaling murder and mayhem, geographic longing (I think everyone who reads Gamache wants to go to Quebec tomorrow, and I'm feeling the same way about Cambridge now that Grantchester has been launched), and the lives of characters whose personalities are as intriguing as the crimes they solve.

Maybe I'll review a few of them.

Maybe I'll figure out the appeal.

(***It seems that 1.5 years ago, I was equally baffled by a wave of mysteries in my life.  Hmmmm.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Marts Lives Here Now

When she came to my daughter's attention, she appeared to be a scrawny, parasite-infested, injured kitten who had appeared out of nowhere in a friend's yard, having apparently crawled out from under the house next door.
Back story: Abandoned, and leaped from the attic window always open in the house in question?  Thrown from the same window?  They're called carpal hyperextension, these injuries that cause her to walk on her wrists rather than the pads of her feet.  The vets have been mystified, but I've read that they're often caused by a jump or a fall from a great height.  Shaken by a dog?  Hit by a car? Her back legs and hips wobble and her tail is permanently bent.  Crawled under the house to hide, and emerged only when she was almost completely lost to starvation?
Vet:  Cleared of terrible feline diseases, treated for all those crawly things, given her shots and some meds, age calculated at eight years, maybe more.  Not a kitten, but a starving adult.
At my daughter's: She began to grow, and coarse, rust-colored fur began to reappear in the patches from which it had fallen out, but she hid out in the basement, thanks to the predatory resident cat. It became apparent that she is totally deaf.  She acquired the name Martha Washington: an old lady found on Washington Street.
Here: Marti came for a visit and ended up staying.  She spent the first couple of weeks hiding under a blanket on the guest bed, coming out occasionally to gaze solemnly at me from her silent world.  She kept eating, gradually learned her way around the house, and defends herself against Glinda's unfriendly attentions.  Her fur continued to grow, and now it's soft and black.
Sometimes I feel such dismay for her.  She can't run or roll on her back. She can't leap into a window or onto a mantle; she can barely scramble onto the couch.  Her past (eight?) lives must have been sheer hell.
And then I am astonished. As damaged and abused as she has been, she is an affectionate, contented friend.  She nudges my hand with her nose, reaches for my arm with her foot, and squawks a meow.