Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Have You Hugged Your Book Today?

Yesterday, fully immersed in summer reading and a hammock, I finished my first book of the summer. Upstream by Mary Oliver was so much of what I needed and didn't know I needed. I hugged this book when I finished it.
Right before the hug

I've had a yearning to escape from the city recently. So much so the BF and I have talked about buying some land and building a tiny home so we have an escape whenever want to hear crickets instead of sirens. Don't get me wrong, I am still a city person but my heart also belongs to the smell of mud after rain, cool grass, and gentle breezes.

The cats love Summer Meg

When Nate passed away and we went home to bury him on the farm where I grew up, there was a part of me that just wanted to stay there forever. I wanted to lay down on that grass where once upon a time I spent my summer vacations barefoot and cartwheeling. Land that held the barrels we stood and raced on. The expansive lawn where we roasted marshmallows over a camp fire, laid down blankets, and woke up to the heavy dew and morning sun on our cheeks.

blurry but important
When I was growing up on the farm, I was so desperate to get out and see the world. And now I look back and see the world that was always there. The world of innocence and freedom and frogs and wild leeks and a welcoming cool woods on a humid day. On the day we buried Nate there I wanted to lay down on that grass, on that land, and say, "Thank you." Thank you for carrying me then and for carrying me now. Thank you for being my foundation and for sharing your strength with my family. Thank you for holding this dear boy who had his own adventures on your gentle green. Thank you for keeping him safe and for being a place where we can always come back.

I have felt a part of my heart wanting to be out in the woods. Maybe it is a need for quiet and contemplation. So when I started reading Upstream it was as if the woods came to find me instead. Where have you been, Meg? Let's have another summer visit, shall we? 

I can't be there right not but in the pages of Mary Oliver's collection of essays, I found my calm, quiet, and space.
doing the best we can, the BF and I escaped the city
for a motorcycle trip to the wilderness

In yoga and meditation, teachers often say to "notice" what you are thinking and feeling. Don't attach any value or meaning, just observe. The purpose is to slow down, to appreciate that some things just happen. Mary Oliver uses Upstream to do just this. She makes observations of the world around her. She sees the turtle laying it's eggs in the sand, knowing they are subject to a host of prey. She does nothing to prevent this. She notices the eggs, notices the turtle, notices the prey. She, in fact, becomes a part of the circle of life when she digs up some of the nest, taking a few eggs for her breakfast. It wasn't a good or bad thing to do, it was just a thing to do.

So many big feels after this one. What ARE we
supposed to teach our kids? 


And then some


The book contains essays previously published but put together here for the first time. Some mostly about nature. Some mostly about authors who have inspired her. One about her hometown of Provincetown and the undeniable present that is change. She speaks of authors as her "friends." Friends she has never met because they lived only in their writing. You may have heard of them: Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, to name a few. Reading her words about them made me want to be their friend too. And hers.

cried on this page. yep, page 4.
Don't resent the change. Just notice it. 

I found myself taking pictures of many pages in this book and I sent them to friends, read them aloud to others. I need to return the book to the library but I think this one will make it's way on to my shelf permanently.
urban oasis. from my morning jog

preach, Mary Oliver

Upstream was the perfect beginning to my summer. It was a reminder. "You must never stop being whimsical," she writes. "And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility of your life."

Look back, with depth of heart, and look upstream, with courage.

message received

side note: I recently discovered this song on Spotify and I am thinking of making it my theme song for the summer. It belongs with this book.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Summer, At Long Last

I am 6 days shy of wrapping up my first year back in kindergarten. It was a wild ride and I have learned a lot, to say the least. My favorite pastime of reading came to a screeching halt - or more of a slow crawl. I found myself checking out books from the library, getting less than halfway through, and then I'd have to return them because I was out of renewals. Seriously, 4 renewals and 20 pages read? Not my idea of reading for pleasure.

This summer will be my first ever where I actually enjoy my entire summer break without working. It's been 12 years and I am looking forward to the travel, the sleeping in, but most of all, the reading. Here is my summer list, including some books that were once returned to the library and I will now attempt to read again.

The Nix by Nathan Hill

One thing different from my previous summers of reading is that this summer I have a long list of grown up books to read. Perhaps that is because I spent the last 8 months mostly in the company of 5 and 6 year olds? I started The Nix and returned it but loved every page of the 30 or so I read. I'm on a waiting list again, only 52 ahead of me instead of the 352 previously, and can't wait to jump back in. This story is about a man reconnecting with his mother. You will notice a theme in my summer books - family. I'm devouring family stories this year. It launched with Moonglow by Michael Chabon, which was one of the only books I finished this school year. I feel like it's such honest storytelling and also brave. I know I feel conflicted about putting my family in my stories and just where to draw the line between public and private information. Family stories toe that line on the regular.



Shared Tables: Family Stories and Recipes from Poona to LA by Kaumudi Marathe

I know her!!!!  When I lived in LA I taught Kaumudi's daughter, Keya. Kaumudi and I share a love of literature and I watched with envy (over social media) as she worked on this book. I yearn to be a writer and Kaumudi just straight up did the damn thing. Brava!! Kaumudi is a chef, a teacher, a runner, a fantastic mother, and a writer - of course. I can't wait to jump into this book and try my hand at the recipes in the back. If you love food and family stories, you will want to add this one to your summer reading list as well.


Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

I thought I discovered this book through Sarah Jessica Parker's Instagram and I'msorrynotsorry. SJP is an avid reader and she posts pictures of books she reads. She is the only celebrity I follow on Instagram. Heck, I don't even follow most family members and friends. But her instagram account is how I discovered Sweetbitter and The Nix. I looked back to see when she posted about this book and it turns out - she didn't. So it must've been some other source on social media because honestly, that's my best resource for finding good books. I mostly follow readers and authors and publishers on Twitter because that's what fills me up. So anyway, I have no idea what this book is about but I saw it on the interwebs, I requested it in February and this week my number was called. I will probably read this first because it won't renew with a wait list. I'll let you know all about it! (Well, who am I kidding. My blogging status has been basically nothing so that might not actually happen. But come find me in person and I'll let you know.)


my grandmother asked me to tell you she's sorry by Fredrik Backman

My mother suggested I read this family story. Backman is the same author who wrote A Man Called Ove. Side note: I tried to listen to A Man Called Ove during a recent sitting for a new tattoo. It was a nice distraction over the length of 6 hours but I honestly couldn't tell you what happened in that story. I heard it's good though. My grandmother is delightful. I started it already but will probably put it down when I pick up Upstream so I can make the two week deadline to finish that. This is a story of a young girl and her aging grandmother who doesn't really like to follow the rules the world has made up. I can definitely relate to that. :) I've been reading this in small bits and pieces over the last few weeks now that school is coming to a close. I can feel full reading pleasure in my near future.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie


Alexie's memoir comes out...now! It is on order at my library and I have already requested a hold. I've loved all the books of his that I've read thus far and can't wait to read the story of his life. I'm not going to read any reviews, just diving in to this one.

Theft by Finding Diaries (1977 - 2002) by David Sedaris


In Sedaris's latest, he reveals entries from his diaries that have inspired his writing. My fondest Sedaris moments in life include listening to his Santaland Diaries with our mother every Christmas and listening to When You are Engulfed in Flames on my first drive from Boston to LA. He cracks me up, which is something we all could use right now. Looking forward to some giggles with this pick.

Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


I pick one every year. Gabo is the best summer read because his stories emanate heat. I did this marvelous thing - decided years back to read one Marquez book every summer - followed by a pretty dumb thing - never record which books I've read. I may have read this book before. I guess it is time to write them down so I know which ones I have left. I should be pretty close to reading them.

That's it! Notably missing - teacher books and kid's books. I haven't even begun to look into what to read right now in children's literature so that list will be forthcoming.

Also, this poem is perfect. I plan on getting it framed.

And, how to read a book a week. I read a lot of these but I sort of like his idea - don't treat reading like a precious thing. Read it, it makes sense.

Getting the back deck ready for a summer of reading.