Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rain and Reading: Tuesday's Reflection

Rain and more rain. And cold. 

Once I realized my plan to meander in the country, visiting a number of nurseries, was not the best idea, I moved into my default activity: reading. 

I interspersed reading time with some cleaning, baking muffins, writing a letter, and even doing some work at my desk, but the hours were deliciously book-filled.

May I recommend:
1.     Exit West a novel by Mohsin Hamid.  Set in an unnamed war torn city the story focuses on a young couple who decide to flee. They hear whispers about a mysterious door (Think C.S. Lewis's Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.) that can lead to a new life. The first door is not the final door, however, and this book, which is an amazing combination of metaphor, fantasy, and reality, illuminated the courage and resilience needed to be an immigrant today. Excellent!

2.     Hourglass, Time Memory, Marriage, a memoir by Dani Shapiro. I am a huge fan of her earlier book, Still Writing, The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. How much room do I have for quotes from this earlier book, which, I think, I need to read again? 

           We are part of a great tapestry of those who have
           preceded us. And so we must ask ourselves: Are 
           we feeling with our minds? Thinking with out hearts?
           Making every empathic leap we can? Are we witnesses
           to the world around us? Are we climbing on the 
           shoulders of those who paved the way for us? Are
           we using every last bit of ourselves, living these lives
           of ours, spending it spending it all, every single day?

The new book is about how marriage is transformed over time, and all of us who are or who have been married understand that premise. The book, never sappy, becomes a love letter, but not without misspelled moments or words mistakenly left out. She explores a question we all wonder about our spouses now and then, "Do I know you?" and life goes on. 

3.     The Professor's House, Willa Cather's seventh novel and perhaps my favorite. I am reading all of her novels in the order in which they were written and could hardly wait to get to this one, which I loved when I read it the first time many years ago. Perhaps I love it because of the professor's attachment to his third floor study, even after his wife moves into a new house. As in all of her books, politically incorrect references are sometimes made, but reflective of her time. Read on, anyway. This is the line that sticks with me in this study of emotional dislocation and renewal:
                The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no 
                matter how close it has been to one's own.

The next Cather book is My Mortal Enemy.

4.     The Listening Life, Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh. This is my book of choice right now during my morning meditation time. My favorite chapters so far are "Listening to God" and "Listening to Others," but there is also an excellent section about the seasons in "Listening to Creation." My prayer is that this book will help me evolve into a better listener. McHugh reminds us:

                 When we listen to people, we are embracing
                 them as whole, not fractions, even if they offer
                 only a small part of themselves to us. That small
                 part is attached to big parts, big memories, big
                 stories, big feelings, big losses, and big dreams.

5.      On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I have never read one of King's bestselling novels and more than likely I won't read any in the future, but I value his passion for writing, reading, life. 

I ended the weekend satisfied and restored and with fewer books on my ever-growing stack. 

A Side Note
A few weeks ago on the radio program "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," they suggested the best second line for any book is "And then the murders began." For example, the first line in The Professor's House is "The moving was over and done." Now add, "And then the murders began." Try it with a favorite book or one you are currently reading.  A fun twist! 

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