1. David McCullough's biography of John Adams. Yes, we know it's seven-years old. But so what? When we finally picked it up, we found we couldn't put it down ... all 700+ pages of it. The most absorbing historical biography we've read in many a year. Made our heart swell with appreciation that our constitutional democracy ever came together in the first place.
2. A handful of brilliant movies (look for 'em at Fat Cats Music & Video):
In Bruges ... worst film title but the best film we saw in 2008 ... monumentally profane and laugh-out-loud funny ... intricate and deep and Colin Farrell's best movie role ... evah
Under the Same Moon and The Visitor ... two very different examinations of the illegal immigrant experience, the first a kind of fantasy of reunion and redemption focusing on a very young Mexican boy who finds his mother, the second a parable about the closing of the American heart post-9/11 and its potential for reopening through shared humanity
Old movies that transported me to places I've been but forgot existed: Babette's Feast, self-denial and self-sacrifice in the most unlikely landscape; Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders’ lyrical ode to humanity from the point of view of angels; Secrets & Lies, Mike Leigh's searing yet hopeful descent into the underbelly of "family," perhaps the perfect accompaniment for the Year of Obama
3. The nature photography of Dale Forrest, particularly the remarkable photograph he took of five wild tom turkeys in the Great Smokies spreading their tails simultaneously for his camera. He calls that shot, appropriately, "Bachelor Party." This and other of his photographs can be seen in the flesh at Framing by Lori in the shopping center off Shadowline Drive near the Harris Teeter.
4. The Watauga County Farmer's Market, shut down for winter now (sigh) but due to open again the first Saturday in May, leaving us with just the tangible pleasures of seed catalogues through these cold months, particularly the Vermont Bean Company’s wish book and Seeds of Change and all the others that flood our mailbox this time of year and dazzle us with summer dreams.
5. Which brings us to Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a book that both delights and infuriates us ... the delight arising from Kingsolver's wonderful, funny prose recounting a year of living dangerously entirely (or nearly so) off the land in southwest Virginia; the fury arising out of her exposure of what we Americans have done to our food supply by divorcing ourselves from our connectedness to the land and allowing soul-less corporations to get a stranglehold on our food supply.