Women Walking: Book Thoughts

I’m happy to report I have a much lower degree of hitch in my git-along than I did the last time I posted. I still have to be mindful of how I move while doing certain tasks, but I can take walks again. I have even been on my bicycle. You may ask, what does an avid ambler do while sidelined? She reads about walking, of course!

I will read almost anything about walking and almost anything about women empowering themselves. I found a great combination of the two themes in Wanderers, a History of Women Walking by Kerri Andrews.

Andrews focuses on women who have written about their walking experiences. Some figures were familiar to me — Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf. Others were new introductions. I was particularly interested to learn of Dorothy Wordsworth, who exhilarated in day-long walks of twenty miles or more, and was every bit as accomplished as her brother William. I want to know more about her. I’m also planning to look up the work of Linda Cracknell. In fact, Wanderers grew my to-read list quite a bit.

In addition to profiling ten other women, Andrews also shares some of her own adventures in the mountains of Scotland and elsewhere. She was able to retrace a few of the walks mentioned by women who came before her, exploring her feelings as she follows their footsteps.

She adds a lot of context, too, about women’s lives in different locations and time periods, speaking of the challenges that kept, and still too often keep, our existences restricted. William Wordsworth was usually free to pick up and go at a moment’s notice, while his sister was tied down with domestic chores. And then there have been societal expectations on women’s behavior, plus the extra threats women face when striking out alone. Walking is great medicine, but it’s one some of us have to work for more than others.

I want to finish with a special note of appreciation for the author’s words about the value of walking and re-walking the same routes again and again. Doing this myself has turned out to be one of the most profoundly spiritual practices of my life.

Book Thoughts: The World is Full of A**holes

One of my writing buddies has a new book out. The World is Full of A**holes is a picture book for adults, and one that’s just what I needed at this point in time. It was written by K.L. Harris and illustrated by Nik Henderson, with the art and words complementing each other wonderfully.

Picture books for adults is a trend I’ve noticed over the last few years. I like it. I mean, I’ve been known to lose myself in 800-page tomes without illustrations and find it a satisfying experience. But sometimes, especially for deeply felt issues, going back to the format of a simply-delivered message is an effective salve. A poetic reminder that the world is full of assholes but that there are ways to deal with them and to keep from being them is the equivalent of a nudge to remember to drink enough water and to make sure I’m getting a little exercise on the regular. Basic messages and steps that make a huge difference in life.

The playful wording makes the book fun to read. When Harris lists the places and ways we might encounter assholes in our daily lives — “Assholes can be doctors, teachers, or people scooping ice cream” — the illustrations rely mostly on grim color combinations. But things lighten up considerably when the author pivots to the topic of guardians, “People who’ll speak up when you’re not treated right.” The world is full of those, too.

Eliza Schuyler Hamilton’s Bookshelf

I did a version of this for work (library) and had so much fun with it, I thought I’d post it here.

Like many others, I finally got my shot to see Hamilton with the movie release. Wow! It was the only time in weeks I became truly immersed in something and forgot the outside world for a while.

On to the list of 11 books on Eliza’s shelf:

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Book Rec Because I Look Fun or Like a Cowgirl

I don’t go out a whole lot. But three friends in one of my writers’ groups all have birthdays in the first half of November. So we decided to have a non-writing brunch yesterday at a locally owned restaurant.

Here’s a fun thing (for book lovers anyway) that will happen if you eat at Cafe Berlin in Columbia, Missouri. Instead of bringing your bill in one of those vinyl folder things, the waiter will tuck it into a used book. I must look like a fun person or a cowgirl, because this was the title presented to me.

Of course, the danger to the restaurant staff in presenting books to avid readers is that we spend time reading before paying our bills. The six women at my table had a few hoots from this before we left.

It’s a quick read, full of wise, pithy bits of advice.
“Avoid becoming emotional over a jackass.”
“Convincing yourself that a bad idea is a good idea is a bad idea.”
You get the idea.

On a final note, how great is the name Gladiola Montana?

p.s. The food was also excellent.

On Today’s Bike Ride: Book Release Edition

Early this evening, Frieda and I went to a book release and discovered someone had left a Bird scooter blocking one side of the bike rack in front of the bookshop. Rude. Frieda was able to fit in on the other side, though.

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More important than parking is that my friend just published her first book, Equillian’s Key, the beginning of a fantasy adventure series. Check out this trailer.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Mary Oliver

Now seems like a good time to repost this. RIP Mary Oliver.

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“And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe…” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

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I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver’s writing. She makes connections, or rather shows connections, that are not obvious on the surface. Her descriptions of nature do more than make you want to re-read the passage. They make you want to go see the world for yourself and then re-read the passage. Her poems are bereft of sentimentality, but full of mindful observation. And I can guarantee there’s some sweat behind those words.

Here’s the thing about writing poetry — it takes work…

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Feel Good Nonfiction Reads

How’s your blood pressure? Edging up a little, like everyone else’s? Are you feeling overwhelmed by the daily news? We all could use some reading material that will buoy us right about now. I have put together a list for just this purpose. I’m sticking to nonfiction for now, out of a personal desire to remember the positives in the real world. Some of these books contain tragic elements, but also the overcoming of such. Here are a dozen titles I hope will comfort, inspire, amuse and make you feel better about the world.

x400The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. My son told me this was the most inspiring book he’s ever read. Possibly the world’s most resourceful teenager builds a windmill from scraps he’s foraged and brings electricity to his village in Malawi.

 

Grandma Gatewood's WalkGrandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery. The story of an average woman who decided to do something with herself after leaving an abusive marriage. She liked to walk. Long story short, we can thank her for the preservation of the Appalachian Trail.

 

theboysintheboatThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. I never would have picked up this book if it had not been chosen for our community-wide reading selection a few years ago. Now I recommend it to everyone. If you’re in the mood for a tale of overcoming adversity to achieve something great through the virtues of teamwork and cooperation, this book is for you.

vgl_heroVery Good Lives by J.K. Rowling. A small volume containing the Harry Potter author’s commencement speech on the benefits of failure.

 

 

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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. The subtitle for this is “How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less.” If we could bestow posthumous Nevertheless She Persisted prizes, Evelyn Ryan would surely qualify. A genius at advertising jingles, she kept her family in laundry detergent, appliances and adequate housing  by winning contest after contest.

9781250057839All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Funny and (mostly) affirming anecdotes from the life of a country veterinarian. There are a few sequels if this one leaves you wanting more.

 

 

outcastsppbk-smOutcasts United by Warren St. John Refugee youths from disparate backgrounds come together to form an American soccer team.

 

 

41lxckpvall-_ac_us218_Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. Why there’s still hope.

 

 

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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman. Even curmudgeons need something uplifting occasionally.

 

Lunarb9781449479930_frontcover-tmbaboon by Chris Grady. Cartoons depicting the life of a woke moon monkey dad.

 

 

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She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel. I laughed. I cried. I cheered, as the author’s mother fights her way out of the depression that kept her glued to the couch for years and overcomes every obstacle to make a better life for herself.

 

51hli3qtxcl-_sx358_bo1204203200_Dear Data by Giorgia Lupi. Where art, friendship and data all merge, you’ll find this book.

 

 

 

 

Meditative Librarian

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I saw a job listing for a meditative librarian. But on second read it was metadata librarian.

Nonetheless, now that the position of meditative librarian has been created, even if only in my own mind, I aim to fill it. I will be your meditative librarian. Let’s begin.

Find a comfortable position, in a meditation hammock perhaps.

Feel the weight of the book in your hands. Allow the pages to open naturally.

Breathe in the new book or old book smell.

Feel the weight of the words in your soul.

If reading leads to thoughts, no matter. Let those thoughts occur naturally with no resistance. When you notice them, simply turn your attention back to your reading.

Feelings may arise. Allow them to be.

Let yourself sink into the words on the page. Feel the connection to the world created therein. Hold the characters in your mind. May they be happy. May they be healthy. May they overcome the story’s conflicts.

You are as one with the other readers who have inhabited this same world. All are interconnected.

Allow yourself to continue to read, not trying to control or direct your emotional responses.

Breathe in, rising action. Breathe out, denouement.

When you are ready, end the reading meditation gradually. Close the covers slowly. Take a few cleansing breaths. Stretch and allow your gaze once again to take in your surroundings.

Remember that a regular reading practice contributes to health and well-being. Set aside a time every day if possible.