Costa Rica – 2019

Hello, everybody!

Happy to say I just returned from Costa Rica, the land of sun, greenery, renewable energy, and sloths. We split out trip between the sunny coastline and the lush mountainous environments of Monteverde, and while we didn’t spot any of the world’s favorite slow-moving xenarthans, our stay in the rainforest did produce run-ins with coati, agouti, capuchin monkeys, toucans, macaws, opossum, lizards, armadillos, scorpions, snakes, and just about any other animal you can think of.

A particular highlight of this trip was the tour of the coffee plantation at the Ecological Sanctuary in Santa Elena, where a local family — wonderful hosts, who were kind enough to have us stay at their place — is currently developing some truly amazing coffee with a self-sustaining, fair trade, organic setup. Pura vida!

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Day of the Dead 2018: Oaxaca

How do we deal with death? Should we fear it? Avoid discussing it? These seem like foolish ideas, considering how inevitable death is: from the moment we’re born, from those first gulps of oxygen that open the door to life, we also begin dying. No matter what, death takes us in the end. So what if we looked at it a bit less… grimly?

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I’ve always had an immense admiration for Mexico’s Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead (as readers of Pale Highway probably figured out). In the last few years, Veronica and I have made a point to mark the occasion by remembering the loved ones we’ve lost. To truly understand a tradition, though, I think it’s important to go back to its roots. So back in late October, we took a trip down to Oaxaca, Mexico, to experience Día de Muertos firsthand.

Oaxaca is an amazing location, on its own, but everything lights up during Day of the Dead in a way that has to be seen to be believed. Altars commemorating lost family members are everywhere. Costumed parades cheer, dance, and play brass instruments across the neighborhoods, all night long. Grinning skeletons hang from balconies, windowsills, and doorways. Candles light up the cemeteries, and bands play through the evening, as everyone comes together to honor the ones they’ve lost, to grieve, to celebrate their lives, and to recognize death—not as something to fear, but as an integral part of what makes life meaningful. image (8)

This sort of realization—to love life, to smile through death, to dance with the skeletons instead of running from them—is something that anyone, in any culture, can learn from. Thank you, Oaxaca, for showing us what an amazing holiday this really is.

 

 

Slugs in Real Life

When real life starts to resemble the books you write, well…

leopard print slug pale highway nicholas conley

… Pale Highway fans will understand my amusement.

No, this little guy didn’t start talking to me, and definitely didn’t mention anything about a “Sky Amoeba,” but when I happened upon him in the backyard, I couldn’t help but take notice.

Hope you’re all doing well!

Cluttered Bookcase? The Benefits of Horizontal Stacking

Ah, the conundrum of book storage. While many have jumped onto the “all e-reader, all the time” bandwagon, casting aside the dead tree paperbacks of the past for those newfangled digital tablets, there is still a sizable number of people who prefer the look, feel, and experience of actual books (disclaimer: I’m one of them). If you like reading books, the chances are that you also like displaying those books in a place where, presumably, others can look through and admire your truly exceptional reading taste.

But what if the shelf is too small for the number of books you have on it? Or what if you just keep reading more and more books, resulting in your entire living room turning into the world’s most disorganized library?

Well, here’s my proposed solution: stack your books horizontally, instead of vertically.

bookshelf books horizontal stack organization king gaiman house of leaves johnny gun

Ever since I discovered this crafty little trick a few years ago, it has saved me countless hours of struggling to fit too many books on too few shelves. It sounds simple, but it really works. While the standard vertical stacks of books make a shelf disappear faster than a Star Trek transporter,  horizontal stacking makes it so that no space is wasted. Every inch of shelf space carries multiple books on top of it.

Seriously, it works.

Of course, no system is without flaws, and horizontal stacking has one big downside: if you want to get one of the books from the bottom of the stack out, it can be annoying. Horizontal stacking also makes organization a bit trickier, if you’re going for that whole alphabetical thing. But honestly, these minor irritations are nothing compared to the longterm challenge of having no shelf space, or frustrating every person you live with by taking up all available living space with dozens of books that you’ve already read.

Find out for yourself, fellow book lovers! Maybe we’ll conquer the demon of proper space organization, once and for all! Or maybe not, but hey, it’s worth a try.

True Tales Live: “Day One” (Video)

This past month, I was honored with the opportunity to appear on the second season premiere of the local NH television program, True Tales Live.  As with the True Tales radio program that preceded it, True Tales Live seeks to give storytellers the opportunity to share actual stories from their life.

For this episode of True Tales Live, I shared my story, “Day One,” where I delve back into my early days working in a nursing home, as a nursing aide on a longterm care unit, and how that experience changed my views, my perception, and my way of trying to be there for other people.

Though the series can be watched on local TV in the NH area, everyone else can check it out here on the official True Tales YouTube! My section begins around 46:50, in the video below:

 

Other storytellers in this episode include Arnie Alpert, Emilie Spaulding, Gail Licciardello, Joanne Piazzi, and Annette Slattery. Definitely worth watching, and to everyone behind the scenes, thank you for putting this program together.

Happy Holidays, 2017!

So the time of the holidays is upon us! Whatever traditions you follow, and/or holidays you happen to celebrate, I hope you all are enjoying the season in whatever way you, your family, and your friends enjoy!

phoenix tree nicholas conley christmas holidays dead tree brought back

As you can see, here in New Hampshire we’ve followed our usual ritual of creating a “Phoenix Tree,” by finding a dead tree in the woods, and “bringing it back to life.” Here is the end result:

Christmas Phoenix tree 2017 nicholas conley holiday dead tree lights white.jpg

So enjoy the season, share good times with everyone you love, and let’s march onward to the next year. Cheers, everyone!

dreidle hanukkah