Coffee Share 201226: Old Books for a New Year

This is a Weekly Coffee Share Essay.
I’m part of a small group of bloggers who stay in touch and chat about blogging, writing, or just about anything else that might be of interest.
Link to This week’s full list
Link to my Story Blog:  Table of Contents.

Good day.  The wave of Christmas has come, happened and passed.  For us, it was nearly end-to-end joy.

Our youngest son, who is working and finishing up his undergraduate work down south in San Diego (California) is home for a few more days.  The lone daughter, our middle-est, still lives with us so she can work to pay off her undergrad student loans while processing her applications to medical school.  It’s a process I find crushingly slow, expensive and tedious, so I’m glad becoming a doctor is her dream and not mine.  Finally, our oldest and his new bride thankfully live close enough that weekly dinners happen easily.  They both came for Christmas eve, spent the night and spent the whole day with us.  So, the parents got their fondest wish of having our children back under our roof to share presents, meals, conversations, brutal joking around and best of all, some focused time to better get to know our new daughter-in-law.

Our church is finding creative ways to offer opportunities to worship, fellowship and generally exercise our faith.  This year, this oh – so surreal year, our musician oldest son continued as part of the worship band, and our leaders put together 3 Christmas services in a huge heated tent in our parking lot so we could socially distance (a practice that is getting very old BTW) sing out loud with others with live music and still be “outside” where the chance of spreading the corona virus should be greatly reduced.  We’re thankful for these efforts, because despite the virus being plenty active in our surrounding community, we have yet to note a single person in our moderately large congregation contracting the disease.

The highlight for us (my wife, my two younger children and myself) was a unique electric guitar sole that was played by our oldest and brought a dramatic flare to one of the classic Christmas carols.  Our church is not a rock-n-roll type congregation but this piece was right on the edge and we joined in with the rare cheers from the crowd who cheered for his rendition of “Come oh come Emanuele”.  It was all done with the right spirit and good taste, and was a fun way to finally be back (safely) with the folks of our church. I wish I had a link to share to give you a taste of what it sounded like.  If one surfaces, I’ll be sure to share it.

– – = = ( o ) = = – – 

This morning, as we settle down beside the Christmas tree and the few remaining piles of un-stowed gifts and stray ribbons, the house was quiet and earlier I curled up to dig into a special gift.

GRS Bio Bk

When I was in Jr. High School (late 1960’s) my mom bought me a book that proved to one of those books that changes you.  It was “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart (GRS).  For me it was a game changer.  It was a literate, readable, ecological adventure/epic that introduced me to this author and his work.  GRS & Earth Abides kept me up late, made school morning miserable but worth every moment, filled my head with vivid images and interesting ways of unfolding a story — and best of all, memorable.  I can hardly think of a book I’ve read that sticks so firmly in my mind..  My poor friends put up with my constant conversation about his books and I lured several into reading them with me.

I started a practice of loaning a book on the agreement that they would sign their name on an inside blank page creating a built-in loaned-to list so I knew who I could talk to about the story. By the early 1970s we effectively had our own, book club well before they were a thing.  We read lots of stuff together, but GRS’s work became the foundation of our efforts.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in Electronics Engineering trade school in San Francisco where I was frequently found prowling around the many used books stores, enjoying the many finds but always on the lookout for anything by GRS.  I wrote up some of this search in my DOT story collection because one quintessential old book story owner actually knew GRS and offered to introduce us.  This turned into a personal visit, that I would pay dearly to get a chance now to redo.  In short, I was star-struck for the first and only time in my life that I recall being so afflicted.  While the memory of that visit is priceless to me, I felt I’d all but wasted it because I struggled to engage a meaningful conversation with the one literary hero I had, and felt afterwards that I had let an amazing opportunity pass me by. My list of “I should have …” is too long to recount here, but history is now history and I can’t change any of it.

But my wife, got me this single biography of the man and this morning I began the read.  The biographer (so far) did a great job of capturing  both things I knew and things I did not know about GRS, and I’m loving this book so far.  I fully expect it will draw me back to my collection of GRS books for a pleasant re-read of some of the stories have have very deep roots in my soul with scenes that replay in my mind even today after 50 years of living and growing and reading lots of other books.

When I decided to address this in my coffee share today, I promised myself to not turn this essay into a book review.  I know that’s not what you signed up for when you clicked on my coffee share link, but if you are looking for a great read, I highly recommend:

  1. Earth Abides: easily one of the most memorable fictional stories I’ve ever read.
  2. Storm: GRS’s 1st big hit that caused the US Weather Service to begin the practice of naming in-coming storms.
  3. Ordeal by Hunger: the definitive, heavily researched  historical fiction of the dramatic event when the late-traveling Donner Party got caught where the current day Donner Pass & Lake are located in the California Sierra Mountains where  many died or nearly starved to death while trying to survive with little food in 70 foot drifts of impassible snow before being rescued. GRS put faces on those who went through this tragic and dramatic event.

Reading through his biography, I’m finding all kinds of things that leave me thinking how great Mr. Stewart and I would have been as friends and once again I regret how I let our meeting fall so short of hopes and potential.

But, 2021 is only days away and we have a new year with some challenges left over from 2020 to deal with.  I plan on pressing forward with both some new writing and lots of great books to ready.  Do let me know if you decide to sample any of GRS’s books.  I’d love to rerun some of the chats my friends and I had at the time.  I can promise you will enjoy and learn from these lessor known titles.

I do hope you’ll continue to be part of my 2021. If you’re part of the weekend coffee share group, I’ll be by your venue shortly. Blessings.


GW bio card 4


31 thoughts on “Coffee Share 201226: Old Books for a New Year

  1. Sounds like an awesome day! 🙂 Does your church do online, not facebook? Our church is only on Facebook, and now since Fb kicked me off, I can’t participate. We’ve been exploring a different church service every week via youtube. We actually found a nice church in Ohio (about 40 miles) that we’ve talked about visiting in person once the covid is gone. Until then, we’ve enjoyed the sermons and music online. We do ask for prayers for this week. At present, I’m going to need a list in my pocket to keep funerals and protocols for each straight. It’s been a rough week, death-wise.

    Like

    1. Hi Bear – and yes, we do. They do both a Facebook and non streaming. Here’s the link for our main page and the streaming service timing as we also have in-person services and our son is on-staff part time so he helps with all the services. The streaming happens twice each Sunday and you’ll see him as part of the worship team, most likely with one of his electric guitars, but sometimes he leads or plays the drums depending on what they need him to do. Look for the bald guy with glasses who looks like he loves being there. Timing: 10:15 am or 5pm Pacific.
      Here’s the link. https://www.hessel.org/
      then navigate: –> Watch –> Stream
      at either of the times, adjusted for your time zone perhaps 8:15am or 3pm Central. It’s not like being there live, but is enough for us for now.
      Blessings.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. I guessed you were in Central but if you’re in Eastern then our 10:15 would be your 1:15pm (or +3hrs) because we’re in Pacfic (North of San Francisco)

        Like

      2. Wonderful Bear. They did a nice job today. That orchestra is not always with us but the core musicians are. Connor was so jazzed about his piece because we don’t normally do stuff this rock-ish.
        It was nice knowing you were out there.
        Blessings to you & your husband.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like you had a great visit with your family for Christmas. Sine you are so much a fan of GRS, I’m sure the bio is a perfect read for you. I hope you have a wonderful week and a good New year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like you had a lovely holiday! I love your idea of having the names written in the front so you know who you can talk to about the book. What an idea!
    I am glad you are enjoying your book!
    Happy Holidays to you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for the book ideas! I am very interested in reading them, I’ll see if I can find them.
    I’m happy to hear about your happy Christmas! It sounds like you have chosen happiness for yourself, that is fabulous! It’s wonderful that you are able to see your family, and have them so close. I can’t wait until we are able to safely hug everyone we love. Thank you for the uplifting post, and have a very Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As I am searching for these books I realised that I have read a book by Mr.Stewart. I read “California Trail” while living in California. I tried to read as much history from the western states as I could, to feel a stronger connection to the land and the people. The California trail was a great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent Maria. You really should add ‘Earth Abides’ to your book vocabulary. It is the book he is best known for and it really did change my view and understanding of how the world works. It remains one of my most recalled books.

      Like

  6. I wasn’t aware Mr.Goerge and his work.Now that I know, I would like to pay a visit to my kindle store soon and check its availability.
    P.S – You had a cozy and warm Christmas celebration. Perfect way to spend the holiday season😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Moumita.
      📚 As a very young adult. I haunted any used bookstore I could find for George R. Stewart’s books. I found several first editions and used to tell people that other than his personal library and the collection @UC Berkeley where he taught, that I owned the most complete collection of his work.
      📚 But that was back before the internet when anyone could likely both find his books easily and prove my claim to be completely bogus.
      📚 My sense is that he is best known in California but Earth Abides is his most recognized title.
      📚 I think it was published in 1949 . . . and remains popular even today. I hope you give it a try and your family forgives me for causing you to neglect them until you finished it.
      I just checked and all 4 of the books are indeed available for Kindle.
      📚 thanks for stopping by.

      Like

      1. Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas! 🎄 It’s so cool your kids were able to be home with you including your daughter-in-law! Such a wonderful family, you are blessed and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead! ❤️🎄

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad your holiday was lovely! And don’t beat yourself up for that author visit. You did the best you could given your age and experience. You can’t judge past behavior with current day skills. That’s not fair to yourself. You did the best you could… Give your younger self a pat on the back.
    Wishing you a wonderful and healthy new year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, you’re mostly correct and very kind Dinah but I was there and I recall my attitude about the meeting and recall that I had developed an expectation than it would go well only on the power of my personality, only to be caught so unprepared for meeting such a humble and accomplished man who was anxious to get to know a fan of his work. I knew I was capable of doing better with such a rare opportunity.
      But he and his wife were so gracious and accommodating. It remains one of my best memories. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Gary, It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas! You must be so proud of your kids. Social distancing is getting old. I am doing a lot of it. Take care! – Pam

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pam. We are terribly proud of our small herd and feel we are those fortunate parents whose kids were never a heart break. In this we got much better than we expected. Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  9. So glad Jerilyn got to be with you! I really would like to hear Connors guitar solo. I sure hope someone has a video or a link to share! :). Merry Christmas!

    Like

    1. Hi Merrilee. I can’t find either but they are re-streaming the recorded orchestra version @ 5pm PT tonight on hessel.org. pretty strong stuff for herself but so wonderful to watch. They did a great job of the whole song & service. We are going to watch it again.

      We so loved having Connor & Jer here with us for Christmas day just to share an easy day of hanging out. Our oldest kids are so very much in love. It is a delight being with them.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s