Sunday, November 21, 2010


The junk drawer...
     Mine's in the kitchen, and it's the repository for all things miscellaneous, varied, random, homeless. Opening the drawer reveals a motley mosaic of entangled forms. Some inhabitants are obviously useful, functional, the quickly located goal of frequent or regular searches, things one wants to keep ready to hand. Others, equally useful, but rarely needed, end up relegated to the back of the drawer and require a fair amount to rummaging to find their way to the surface. A third group, saved for no apparent practical reason, having but limited purpose, yet it seems a wasteful shame to actually throw them away. They're the kind of thing that sells by the dozen, when you only ever need two or three at a time, and the next time comes again only after several years.

The junk drawer? 
Full of various and sundry things, 
Diverse and heterogeneous, 
An assorted conglomerate,
A haphazard assortment,
Scrambled and mingled, 
Jumbled and unmatched.
A drawer of miscellany.

  • Scissors with yellow handles
  • Blue-handled adjustable pliers
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Philips-head screwdriver
  • Slender orange plastic-handled razor cutter, with safety catch
  • Rubber bands: big blue ones, removed from fresh vegetables before cooking (15), small red ones (21), and a HUGE tan one
  • A small tub of Crazy Glue, more than half used
  • Six sheets of red twist ties, still clinging together, unseparated
  • Scotch brand invisible 3/4 inch tape in a dispenser
  • Blue masking tape, 1-1/2 inch wide roll
  • Red electrical tape, 1/2 inch wide roll
  • Master padlock with one key
  • Four random keys, definitely NOT front door or car keys
  • Marks-a-lot brand permanent marker, bold tip, black
  • Five push pins in rainbow colors
  • A dozen nails in a variety of sizes and colors
  • Three long slender bolts, and a score of small bolts and screws
  • Three white drawer pulls, removed from kitchen drawers, replaced over five years ago
  • One walkie-talkie, partner lost years ago
  • Twenty-five foot retractable metal measuring tape
  • Three meter retractable metal measuring tape
  • Two small flashlights, neither working, with dead AA batteries
  • Energizer AA batteries (3), Duracell C batteries (2)
  • Scripto brand butane BBQ lighter, with long wand handle
  • Bic butane lighter
  • S-hooks (3), cup hooks (4), cotter pins with rings (2)
  • One small box wooden strike-anywhere matches, scattered
  • Matchbooks (2)
  • Suction-cup hook (2)
  • Magnets (2)
  • O-ring, small (1), large (1)
  • Shelf brackets, metal (3 in plastic bag), plastic (2)
  • Wall mirror brackets, plastic (3)
  • One tube of lip balm
What's your drawer look like? Where's it located? What treasures does it contain? or hide? Come on, fess up. You have one, too. It keeps the rest of the place clean, if you have a place to shove the miscellany!

Heroine Out of the Blue...

Christmas, 1961.
     Santa Claus never wrapped the presents he left at our house. Instead, they were arrayed invitingly on the hearth, those meant for me on one side, my sister's on the other. Christmas '61, I discovered to my delight a beautiful hardbound book, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. The cover was splashed with brushstrokes in shades of blue, suggesting the rising, swirling waters of the Pacific, and the face of a beautiful Indian girl with eyes as deep as the sea. A gold seal announced its celebrity as that year's the Newbery Award Winner.

     I had spend many happy hours at our small town's well-stocked library, reverently touching and holding books, before choosing the weekly allotment. And I had spent even more hours curled up with those treasures in my favorite chair consuming them. Choosing crisp new paperbacks from Scholastic's monthly book orders, an American schoolhouse tradition for decades, was a privilege I delighted in. I had also been the lucky recipient of a sizable hand-me-down collection of Nancy Drew Mysteries, books savored repeatedly.

     But this was different. This was the very, very, very first brand new hardback book that I had ever owned! I picked up Santa's gift and was awed by it. It felt substantial in my hands. Watercolor art adorned the dust jacket that protected the treasure from damage. Taking a deep breath, I reverently opened the cover to read the words on the jacket's flaps, words that proclaimed Island of the Blue Dolphins a masterpiece. As I flipped though the pages, up rose the delightfully sweet new-book aroma unique to hardbounds.
     I do not remember anything else about that Christmas morning, absolutely nothing. I know all the presents under the tree were unwrapped, and I'm sure my mother made coffee and my father whipped up one of his traditional holiday breakfasts, but I can recall none of that. What I do recall is having to wait, and wait, and wait until things had calmed down enough for me to curl up in my favorite chair to begin reading this new story.

     The main character in Island of the Blue Dolphins is Karana, a young Indian girl marooned alone on an island with her little brother, when all the other members of her tribe are moved to a new home. A variety of challenges face the two children as they try to survive on their own. Karana fights off wild animals, learns to hunt and fish for food, builds a shelter and makes clothing, but despite her amazing efforts to protect him, the little boy eventually dies. Karana continues to live and even thrive on the island for a long time by herself, until she is finally rescued. Karana's story of survival and heroism is a true adventure story that took place on San Nicholas Island off the coast of Southern California during the days of the Spanish Missions.
     I LOVED that book. I fell in LOVE Karana. Certainly a classic heroic literary figure, she became my own personal heroine. Filled with love, she risked her life for her brother. She faced perilous challenges with courage and difficult problems with creative optimism. Faced with the loneliness of extreme isolation, she determinedly made a comfortable home for herself. What might have been an island paradise, was at first, a deadly trap. Through her Herculean efforts, she made it into a paradise.
     I wanted to be strong and brave and smart and independent just like Karana. I wondered, if I was faced with those kinds of threatening challenges, would I have her courage and strength?

Summer, 1964
     Television commercials announced the upcoming release of the movie, Island of the Blue Dolphins, with Celia Kaye playing the role of Karana. I am filled with excited anticipation, eager to see my heroine on the giant screen. In my eagerness, I reread the book for the third time, marking in my mind's eye exactly the countenance and mannerisms of each person, especially Karana and her brother. Again, I envisioned the island setting, with its sandy beaches and rocky cliffs, reminding myself of each and every detail of the plot as it unfolded. I wanted to see on the big screen what, until now, I had vividly been able to see only in miniature inside my head.
     Opening weekend found me with my friends in line at the glass ticket window in front of the Center Theater, in San Fernando, well before the movie was to begin. The ticket cost me fifty cents, a snack of popcorn and soda another fifty cents. We found perfect seats, halfway back and dead center, and sank into the red cushions. The popcorn was nearly gone by the time the deep red velvet curtain ascended to expose the giant movie screen. The auditorium full of kids grew silent as the lights dimmed to black and the music began.

     I discovered that day in that theater an important rule: The movie is NEVER as good as the book!

     I was soooooooooo disappointed to discover that the movie on the screen wasn't at all like the movie I had expected to see! The movie's Karana didn't look like MY Karana! The island didn't look like MY island! Did the director and I even read the same book? Huge parts of the story were missing entirely, and others were out of order or totally wrong! They ruined it! Ruined the movie! Innocently, I had believed the images that formed in my mind when I read O'Dell's words, were the same images that appeared in other readers' minds. I had expected those who made the movie to be faithful to the author's words and, therefore, to my imagery. The fact that others perceived "reality" differently than I did came as quite a shock!
     For a long while, even the book was ruined for me. Not for another twenty-five years did I reread what had been my favorite tale. Not until my son Dean was nine and in the fourth grade did I rediscover Island of the Blue Dolphins. We drove south from our home in Northern California, towards Ventura, the town of his birth, to visit friends. Dubbed our "California History Adventure Trip," along the way we visited museums and historical sites, including several California Missions. As I drove, Dean read aloud the story of Karana and the Island of the Blue Dolphins. In my mind's eye flowed, resurrected and untarnished, my original version of the movie, and my heroine, Karana, was reborn.

     While doing a bit of Google/Wikipedia research, to make sure I had all my dates and details correct, I was reminded that the original Karana had lived completely alone on San Nicholas Island, which is the Channel Island farthest from the coast, west of Ventura, for 18 long years. When she was "found" by a sea captain in 1853, she was taken to Santa Barbara and "christened" Juana Maria. The last living member of her tribe, the Nicoleno, she died seven weeks later, unable to survive her exposure to "civilization" the way she had survived, even thrived, for nearly two decades alone on her island home.