Right across the street at the library I’ve discovered a new source of ready-to-read reading selections: the books on the Librarians’ Choice shelf. Librarians and readers have a built in basis for friendship, and what do readers do? They share book suggestions. The shelf is another way of doing this.
I’ve had enough of the news. No, that’s not accurate: I’ve had too much of the news. It crept up on me during the Supreme Court hearings. I started listening to news show after news show, watching what I call My Sources. The obsession even seeped in during my time in Florence in September when I was there alone to walk around with God and find peace, joy, and balance in my life.
Now, once again, thank God, I have returned to what this blog is all about--silence, solitude, and simplicity. In particular, it is silence that I must return to: silence in my head, and silence in public. Although I still have strong opinions and I am still angry about the political scene, I know it doesn’t serve me to keep ranting, because in doing so my opinions and anger run my life, and what kind of a life is that?
Years ago, through an exercise in The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life, by Laurie Beth Jones, I articulated my life mission: to inspire, affirm, and encourage peace, joy, and balance in teachers.* On my good days I still live this mission for all people, although believe me, even on those good days I forget or miss the mark. However, on the days when I obsess over the news, I fail miserably. Not only do I forget my purpose, but it fades away from who I am, and I become the person I don’t want to be. In its place, all I am able to be is be angry, and when I am angry there is no silence in me.
Sometimes we have to ask ourselves the most obvious of questions. This is one of those times for me. I am an optimistic, positive human being. Is there any reason I should allow such negativity to seep in and run my life? The answer is NO.
* I wrote about the process I went through in The Teacher Book: Finding Personal and Professional Balance, published by Heinemann. My audience at that time was teachers, but the mission is for all people.
Remember Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way published in 2002? Remember the ‘morning pages’?
Julia recently published It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. In glancing through (not reading) this latest publication I was inspired once again by her brilliant, and yet simple practice of ‘morning pages.’ I ‘did’ them years ago, I’m doing them again.
First thing in the morning pick up your journal and start writing. Don’t think, don’t plan, just write. Let that stream of consciousness pour out of your pen. Don’t edit; in fact, don’t reread. When you’ve written three pages, close the journal, and go on with your life.
I’m amazed at what has come to me since beginning this practice five days ago. Amazed at topics: I may be on my way to figuring out how Florence has shaped my life and why I keep returning. Amazed at insights: I meditate with less distraction when I write all about me first.
Here’s an update on my 2017 Reading Challenge. To date I’ve read 82 books. Traveling, however, has slowed down my pace. I just don’t have the time. My reading is pretty much relegate to Kindle reading in restaurants. Kindle tells me I have read 11% of The Medici: The Rise of Parvenu Dynasty 1360-1517, by Danny Chaplin, and have 14 hr. 28.mins left in the book (I’m skimming some). I’m also reading The Beautiful Necessity: Seven Essays on Theosophy and Architecture, by Claude Bragdon. Its 111 pages are filled with architectural drawing, but I can only digest a few pages at a time before I go out into the street and observe the real thing.
I confess that I spend some reading time wandering around the Feltrinelli bookstores at the train station and Piazza Republica--as well as enjoying their cafes. And today, for inspiration, I visited the Laurentian Library, designed by Michelangelo. And besides, back in May I reached my goal of 52 books.
I have completed my 2017 Goodread Challenge of 52 books, and it’s only June. Now what to do with my time. Maybe I’ll go for 100 for the year, a nice round number.
The last three books I’ve read will remain high on my list of best books ever.
In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri
A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine, Mark Braverman
A Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, Michael Finkel
* Conclave, by Robert Harris
**The Street Sweeper by Elliott Perlmann
By Chance, by Martin Carrick
*The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Navigation Log, by Martin Carrick
*Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle
**Colorless Tsuuru Tazaki, by Haruki Murakami
**Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
Pompeii, by Robert Harris
Friends, thank you for the gift of book titles to start me on my 2017 Reading Challenge. Here it is; gathered from Face Book friends and others.
Tiny, Beautiful Thing. Cheryl Strayed
The Art Forger,B.A. Shapiro
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
All American Boys, Jason Reynolds
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
Eleven Hours, Pamela Erena
Astrid and Veronika, Linda Olsson
The Soul of an Octopus, Sy Montgomery
My Name is Lucy Barton,Elizabeth Strout
When We Rise: My Life in the Movement, Cleve Jones
Barkskins, Annie Proulx
Green Darkness and Katharine, Anya Seton
Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
The Space Between Us, Thirty Umbrigar
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
The Street Sweeper, Elliott Perlmann
Tattoos on the Heart, Father Gregory Boyle
Underground Railroad, Colin Turbull
When Breath becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
The Shadow of the wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant
On Living, Kerry Egan
American Gods, Neil Gainman
Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
Zookeeper's Wife,Diane Ackerman
The Buried Giant,Kazuo Ishiguro
Do Not Say we have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds, Michael Lewis
Celestine Prophesy, James Redfield
My reading list is growing, mainly through Face Book friends. I suggested GRATITUDE, by Oliver Sacks. Here’s a quote that has resonated with me and helped me find the time for more reading.
“I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work, and my friends. I shall no longer look at the NewsHour every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.
“This is not indifference but detachment—I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people—even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.”
What do we choose to do with our time—chronos (sequential time) and kairos (spiritual—the opportune or supreme moment)? Sacks wrote this after being diagnosed with cancer. I am healthy, but the message speaks to me.
My birthday is coming up. From years of experience (plus sharing my birthday with my sister), I am well aware that birthday gifts are hard to come by at the end of December. This year, all I am asking for is the title of a book people think I would enjoy. I’m getting ready to join the 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. If I choose to read a book a week, I will definitely need suggestions.
Everyone has a birthday, so when yours come up, or even before, here is my birthday recommendation to you: Into the Magic Shop, by James R. Doty, MD, and Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks.
Do you remember the childhood story of the farmer who claimed his kids were making too much noise in the farmhouse. To solve this problem, he was told to bring all the barnyard animals into the house, which of course made it more noisy than ever. Then he was told to take each animal out of the house, one by one, and send them back to the barn. With that task completed, the farmer sat back in his rocking chair and enjoyed the peace and quiet of his many children.
I was reminded to this story when a friend told me about house sitting for a neighbor’s cat. She doesn’t mind helping out, and admits that the cat is easy. Nevertheless, when it’s time for the cat to go home, my friend experiences silence, solitude and simplicity with renewed intensity. I feel the same way after grandpet sitting or when company leaves. Then things settle back to normal and I’m ready for action again.
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