Friday, September 5, 2008

Stretching the Limits

I'm a fiction writer and reader--mostly. I belong to a book discussion group and have read books of genres that I probably wouldn't have picked up on my own. Because of dipping my toes into other streams, I've read two excellent non-fiction books in the past few months.

One is "Blood and Thunder" by Hampton Sites. (I'd underline the title or put it italics but when I try, it comes out really strange.) It is the true history of the Southwest wrapped around the life of Kit Carson. After our friends read it, we made a trip to Taos where we visited places mentioned in the book. We saw Kit's house and his grave, along with the graves of his wives and children. We'd been to Taos Pueblo before but seeing it through the eyes of what we'd read made it more meaningful.

The other book I read is "109 East Palace" by Jennet Conant. This one is the true story of Robert Oppenheimer, head of the secret Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. The scientists and their families lived in secret (and appalling living conditions) all the war years as the atomic bomb was being "created." We plan to make another "field" trip to Santa Fe and Los Alamos some day.

In reading these books I was stretching out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it isn't easy for us to get out of that zone, is it? When we went to El Morro a couple of weeks ago and climbed to the top and walked around on those horrible rocks, I was definitely uncomfortable. It's done and I'm glad I did it. Maybe that's why people climb mountains and jump out of airplanes. I won't do those things (or ride roller coasters, bucking horses, or race at NASCAR) but I can still stretch my limits.

I've always loved learning. Since I no longer go to school or am in a profession where I learn something new every day, I need to keep my mind alert. Reading does that for me. Writing, too.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. This old dog is into new tricks!

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