Posts Tagged ‘Reading’

Summer flowers:

Summer bouquet

And Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours:

Just a day or two after I finished reading this unseasonal book, my favorite person in the world brought home the citrus-colored bouquet “just because,” and I felt so very lucky to have two opposite seasons collide so beautifully in my world.

Oliver’s collection of prose, prose poems, and poems is worth reading, if only for the final and title essay, which is wide-ranging in subject and profound. In it the poet says:

Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology but attitude….

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves–we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.

Breathtaking, as is most of the rest of the collection. I will admit, however, that I skipped one entire essay. “Swoon” was ostensibly all about spiders, and when I got to the part that detailed a spider slowly devouring a cricket, I started flipping pages. I was trying to eat my lunch after all. This reveals, I suppose, the difference between the poet who has the patience and honesty to witness the reality of nature… and me. There are some things I’d rather not know.

But Mary Oliver is braver than most. And wise. Unblinking. Willing to see. Really see. Embracing. This is why we need her. And why her winter writing can stun and illuminate even in the summer hours.

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What are you reading this fall?

This morning, I went into a used bookstore, and as we all know, it’s quite nearly impossible to leave a bookstore empty-handed. I still haven’t finished my summer reading. Nevertheless, here it is: my stack of books to read this fall:

Books for Autumn 2007

Reading for me is half feast, half futility. Feast, because I relish the written word, and because, like food, it’s necessary. Futility, because I will never manage to read all the books that seem necessary.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love books and those who don’t. I was once asked, by one of those who don’t, why I kept books I had already read. Why? Because books are windows into other worlds. Because books are light illuminating corners of our lives. Because books drill down into our memories and beliefs and challenge us. Because books sometimes save us from our alternate weaker selves.

These days, information is fed to us in a steady deluge of images and voices. We’re forced to process information at a speed and saturation level over which we have little or no control. In this atmosphere of information by tube-feeding, books allow us the pacing of a leisurely European dinner and the sanctuary to actually taste, reflect, and relish the purity of words.

When Jane Hirshfield writes, “To be undivided must mean not knowing you are,” I read it twice, maybe even three times, and perhaps I’ll think of Asher Lev and a crucifix painting or Wendell Berry pacing the length of his fields on his Sabbath or an Angle of Repose, and the poet’s words stay with me and cultivate something in me because I am quiet and patient with them.

What are you reading this fall? I’d love to know.

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