I am fortunate to be a strong healthy elder (or as my brother would say–a tough mean old Norwegian like Grandma Neset…Brothers!) but there is this ongoing battle with my sensitive stomach. Can’t eat in the evening, can’t eat or drink this–or that. Annoying but only a serious downer if allowed to be.
So my stomach tried to steal this weekend from me. Keep me from doing what I planned. Tried to get me to waste a beautiful two days at home with my books and stories and recipes. Can’t steal my time, stomach…I have all those books, remember…and time is never wasted when spent reading a Very Good Book. Which I just did.
Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester. Winchester has picked key, and exceptionally diverse, events to give us a sweeping history of all that has happened under, above and on the shores of the Pacific Ocean since 1950.
I recently went to a talk by Winchester and he really is a walking, charming, articulate encyclopedia of big and small knowledge. I’ve read several of his books and would call them social/political/cultural/environmental/military/human geography-based histories—that double as travel narratives.
As with any good book there are both discoveries and connections. Although I learned much that is new about the Ocean itself and about its influence on the lands it borders, I particularly enjoyed the tales to which I feel most connected. The North Korean seizing of the USS Pueblo in 1968 for example. I was living with my airman husband and two sons on Seymour-Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Don came home from work early, said he would be leaving in a couple of hours, couldn’t tell me where he was going, packed and left. The same scenario was playing out in my friend Sue’s house. She and I spent the entire evening calling various base authorities and demanding to know where our husbands were going. We were never compliant military wives I’m sorry (proud) to say. When the 10pm news came on of course we knew. Can’t remember how long the deployment to South Korea lasted.
And then there was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines which permanently closed Clark AFB—leading ultimately to a military vacuum that China has been intent on filling ever since. Earlier on in my military wife years I lived most contentedly in Marisol Village, just off the base, a very few miles from the mountain. Wonder if my pretty airy house was destroyed.
Shouldn’t reading history connect and surprise in equal measure…and nice if it makes us think as well.
My stomach still hurts, maybe it’s the flu everyone at work has, but at least I can look forward to an evening of PBS. Last week’s Downton, this week’s Downton, Doc Martin and to top it off an Aljazeera special on Albuquerque the Violent. Which altogether will make my stomach worse, my eyes burn, my body atrophy…
Cheers…happy week ahead.