Tuesday, June 02, 2015

I Can't Stop

We have so many books at home. Books in every room, many bookshelves full of books. Every person has their own personal library. I love books. My kids know that if they ask me to buy them a book that is of reasonable quality, I have a hard time refusing. But, I keep telling myself  "Don't buy more books." It's so hard to stick to that though.

The last little while has been particularly bad. These are the books I have purchased in the last month or so:

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, purchased from Amazon. My intent with this one was to give it to Maren as a way to celebrate the end of middle school and to launch her into summer. Instead, I read it over Memorial Day vacation and then immediately pressed it into her hands with a strong recommendation to read. This might be the next Hunger Games series. When she said she was excited to tell her friends about it, and be the one to spread the news, I told her to had to give me credit for discovering it!

The Mother of our Lord, Volume 1: The Lady in the Temple by Margaret Barker. I ordered this one from an independent seller on Amazon. This has been on my to-read list since Fiona Givens referenced it over and over at last year's Midwest Pilgrims. I was a little intimidated by it, but after Maxine Hanks also strongly recommended it at this year's Pilgrims, I decided it was worth taking the time to start to read it. It's an academic book looking into the tradition of the feminine divine in the Old Testament.

More Wives than One: Tranformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910.  I bought it used from an independent seller on Amazon.  I decided it was time for me to really look into Mormon polygamy. I've been listening to pieces of the Year of Polygamy podcast for a while now, and wanted a good and not too overwhelming overview. When I saw that this made Rational Faith's top ten books on Mormon history, that pushed me over the edge.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I got this one over Memorial Day weekend at the beautiful little Apostle Island Booksellers in Bayfield Wisconsin on the south shore of Lake Superior. On recent vacations, I have loved stopping by local bookstores and buying books that are tied to the area or that are recommended to me by the booksellers there. (That is how I discovered Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler, in a little bookstore on Washington Island, on our trip to Door County last summer. Set in rural Wisconsin, I devoured it before we returned it home, then pressed it into the hands of Andy and my dear friend who has been living in rural Wisconsin for the last 9 years.) I picked up three books and asked the bookseller if she could personally recommend any of them to me. She pointed to Braiding Sweetgrass and told me that she had read it, loved it, and heard the author speak. That was enough for me. I purchased it on the spot. It is a winner of the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award, and is described as "a unique combination of science, Native American teachings, and memoir. [Kimmerer] shows us in the most subtle of ways how plants are our indigenous teachers, ultimately revealing a path toward healing the rift that grows between people and nature."

While there, I also picked up The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families and Classrooms. One of my greatest joys is seeing my kids enjoy the glories of the outdoors. I want to use this to encourage them and inspire them. I also thought it would be fun for Activity Days.

Our 16th anniversary was last week, and to celebrate we went to a wonderful dinner in Uptown on Saturday night. After dinner, we wandered over to Magers and Quinn, just to look around. I love looking at all their stacks in the front--the staff recommendations. They had Rececca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby there, which I read a year and a half ago. She is also a beautiful nature writer, and this is a combination of essay and memoir. In it, she recounts the story of deciding on the spur of a moment to take a trip down the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. What she learned by making that decision, with literally 60 minutes to spare, is that you should never say no to adventure unless you have a very good reason for it. I love that and it's something I want to try to embrace more and more as I try to distance myself from my overly pragmatic and utterly responsible and predictable self of my youth. Standing in Magers and Quinn, I reread that section, basking in her poetic writing and great insights, and decided to take it home with me.

And this list doesn't even count my Mother's Day present of All the Wild that Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West. (Love both of those writers so much!) Also, on a recent work trip, Andy also got me the very perfect and thoughtful present of Mary Oliver's collection of poetry A Thousand Mornings that I have been savoring and loving this spring.

Now, I need to resist the urge to buy more new books, and read all the things I have sitting on the bookshelf in my room at home!

I have found, though, that time and time again, books bring me back to myself. When I'm cranky or angry or depressed or wrung out, sitting with a book, talking about books, listening to authors, or just dreaming about the books I want to read will reengage my mind and enliven my spirit.
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Monday, May 04, 2015

Lovely Spring

Today is a perfect spring day. I am sitting on my porch looking out at the new leafy green and listening to the birds. I love this whimsical poem by Billy Collins.


By Billy Collins
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Read more . . .