Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Which I Finish A Memoir I had seen Joan Anderson’s A Year By The Sea in Borders. I picked it up. Put it down. I think the title didn’t appeal to me because it reminded me too much of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s much lauded book A Gift from the Sea which had found not only uninspiring but disappointing. Yet, the book kept poking at me and finally, this year, I went ahead and bought it on a whim. I am thrilled I did so. In her gentle memoir, Anderson describes her disenchantment with a life that I think many women can understand if not appreciate. Although she was raised in an era that encouraged women to marry young and have children and I was raised in a far more feminist home, I found myself nodding in empathy. Anderson describes herself as an unfinished woman reinforcing the lovely idea that although she has raised two sons, been published, and managed to stay married through an era where divorce not only became possible but even popular, she still had much living to do. Some of her self-awareness borderlines on the frivolous (menopause being a pause from men . . . blah blah blah) but most of her epiphanies, while perhaps not groundbreaking, are so intimately exposed that I felt not only a tenderness but a self recognition. (Yes, even when she describes herself as sexually repressed!) The entire time I was reading this book I knew I wanted and needed to gift it to someone so I won’t say more except that I will be sending it off soon hoping it will find open hands and a welcoming heart.

Friday, July 13, 2007

In Which I Read Two More Old Testament Books

I finished reading Judith and Esther back to back. Although they are both nice stories that is all I can honestly say about them. As soon as I started Judith I began seeing parallels between its story and that of Esther. However, more strongly, I recognized similarities between it and Deborah in the book of Judges. Beautiful Jewish woman is called upon to save her people. She uses her physical attractiveness to get close to a strong gentile man. She kills man and saves her people. Yay!

Once upon a time, the historical inaccuracies, the mythological overtones, would have not only been of no importance to me but I would have easily overlooked or rationalized them away. Now I am no longer able to do this. So I read Judith and Esther as literature and still find myself bored. I was more interested to be reminded that Esther was, in the original Hebrew Bible, included after Ecclesiastes as one of the Five Megillot, something I had once known but had since forgotten.

There is the temptation to skip the rest of the Old Testament and read the New Testament but I am disinclined. For one thing, I want to read the books of the Maccabees and the other texts not included in the Protestant Bible. For another, I am committed to this exploration of Catholicism and do not want to surrender to my frustration. Instead, I hope to work through it. Is it unreasonable for me to hope that I will reach a point where I am touched on a spiritual level? I do not know. I only know that just because the historical books in the Old Testament are not touching my heart does not mean that the poetry won’t. And if not the poetry then perhaps the prophetic books. And if not the Old Testament then maybe the New Testament.

In the meantime, I read on. The truth is, I keep hoping to read something that will stir some latent faith inside. In many ways life was easier when everything was black and white, when I still hoped that I would reach some answers. Now that I know that there is no need for there to be any answers, I have more peace. And more often than not, I am happier with who I am now than I was with who I was when I believed faithfully.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

In Which I Write About Harry Potter

On Saturday, my son Marc came home with a first edition hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for me. A gift suggested by my darling daughter, Rei, to replace my ruined hardcover copy that I had throw away the week before.

My children are the bestest!

I never would have read any of the Harry Potter books if it had not been for Rob. In 1999 I had noticed that my reading list was dominated by male authors. I decided to dedicate all of my reading to only women writers in the year 2000. Knowing this, Rob one day was shopping in Target and was going through the book section, trying to find the biggest, thickest book by a woman he could find. He gave me a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Amazingly enough, Rob was not aware that this book was the fourth in a series.

Apparently, Rob had been living under a rock for the previous few years or something. How else could he not have heard of the phenomenon that Harry Potter had become. Which was why I was apathetic about reading the books myself because I had experienced more than once the huge disappointment of reading a book that didn’t live up to its hype (Memoirs of a Geisha and The Girl With A Pearl Earring both come immediately to mind!).

As it turned out, this mistake resulted in my becoming a fan of the whole Harry Potter craze. I begrudgingly bought the first three books in hardcover and devoured them. I reread the first book before going to see the first movie. I reread the fourth book before reading the fifth. I reread the second and third books before seeing those movies. I reread the fifth book before reading the sixth. I reread all of the books in paperback when the paperback editions were released.

I am rereading the sixth book now in anticipation of the seventh books release. Unfortunately, due to the vertigo I am not going to see the fifth movie in the theater. I will have to wait for it to come out on dvd. However, both Rei and Marc went to see the fifth movie last night at midnight . . . and next Friday, Rob and I will be at Borders where I will pick up my fresh copy of the seventh book. I will begin reading it and will avoid the internet until I have completed it. No spoilers for me! I want to find out for myself how very wrong I was about what would happen in the seventh book without anyone ruining the surprise. After all, I was wrong with all four of the previous books so why should this book be any less delightfully unexpected than the others?

And thank you to my lovely loved ones . . . for fueling my addiction so wonderfully.

Aries Horoscope for week of July 12, 2007

Among the Yanyuwa Aboriginal people who live along the coast of Australia's Northern Territory, the word for "fat" is nalu-ngiliny. It doesn't merely refer to the greasy stuff that grows naturally under the skin of animal bodies. It's also a metaphysical term for vitality. Anything that's rich in nalu-ngiliny is healthy. A certain landscape may be considered fat, for instance, which means that it's fertile and sacred. When acacia flowers bloom each year, it's a sign that sea turtles and the marine mammals known as dugongs, favorite foods of the Yanyuwa, are "fat" and ready to be hunted. Your assignment in the coming week is to identify the things in your life that are nalu-ngiliny, and to give them the honor, gratitude, and nurturing they deserve.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In Which I Finish Another Book I have to preface this discussion with an explanation. I have often read literature that was written in a different time period, one vastly different from my own. I can enjoy Jane Austen without getting caught up in the sexism that was not an issue of its time. I can read Charles Dickens and William Shakespaere and not find myself angered by the anti-Semitic sentiment that is occasionally evident. I can even read Richard Wright's self-loathing while still appreciating his narrative talent. In order for this to happen, I have to become immersed in the text. I either have to have a spiritual, intellectual, or emotional connection with the narrative. Sometimes I can even attain all three but even one will allow me to look past anything offensive, place the text within its historical context, and still appreciate what I am reading. I never reached this level of reading as I struggled my way through St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. She was asked by a superior to write this book on prayer and she repeatedly proclaims her inability, her weakness, her possible failure . . . in other words, she constantly says something to denigrate herself. I realize that this is an exhibition of her humility and "expected" of a woman writing in the sixteenth century but it reminded me of much that I find pretentious and false. I tried to enjoy the text. I even forced myself to slow down as I read it, knowing my proclivity to hasten through a text that does not resonate for me. Nothing helped. And when I reached the final chapter, in which St. Teresa discusses how both Mary and Martha are needed to live a deeply spiritual life, I had hoped to at least walk away with one edifying chapter. Instead, I found myself angry when I read about the wickedness of the Jews. A single sentence which I immediately placed in its historical context of the Spanish Inquisition but because I did not feel any connection with the text my stepping back in even a moment of frustration/anger removed me yet again from any hope of appreciating this book. Interestingly enough, I picked up a copy of a free magazine in which Caroline Myss is interviewed about her book Entering the Castle. I have had no interest in reading the book and only read the article because I saw Avila's name mentioned. Apparently Myss has taken the text of The Interior Castle and tried to make it more accessible to contemporary readers. I am still not inclined to take the time to read her book. Perhaps if I were to come across a second hand copy someday or, better yet, an inexpensive book on cd version . . . otherwise, I am done with reading Avila's works. The problem now is that I had thought I would eagerly read Julian of Norwich next (or very soon) and now I am hesitant. I loved Julian in the past and would hate to reread her writing now only to find myself disappointed or, worse, disillusioned. Right now I can say with full confidence that Julian of Norwich is my favorite mystic. If ignorance is bliss, I wonder if not revisiting her lovely visions would be best for me . . .

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In Which I Really Have Nothing To Say Rob and I were going out shopping to get some curtains for the living room and some ginger paste for a recipe which I am making tonight for dinner. The subject came up of how often I have been asked to edit or be a regular contributor to some online project only to have the site owners lose interest or forget me altogether. Rob took this to mean that I should just create an online literary magazine of my own. It is sweet how much confidence he has in me. In any event, I never commented on this week's quote, which I found in Thomas Merton's book Contemplative Prayer. What am I? I am myself a word spoken by God. Can God speak a word that does not have any meaning? The obvious answer to this rhetorical question is "no" but I am not sure how many of us truly believe this. I don't hear it as often as I did when I was growing up . . . people who were searching for themselves, trying to find a meaning to their lives. Still, philosophical discussions thrive and people continue to try to reason out a meaning for their being. Perhaps there are some things which should simply be taken not only at face value but on faith. Are you here for a reason? Does your life have meaning? Yes. Do you need to know why or even what? Trust that if you are meant to know your reason and meaning, you will. And if you do not today, just be . . . maybe tomorrow you will be given the answers. Maybe never. For now it is enough to be. On another note, I received this in my email and it ties in with something I wrote earlier so I am copying it here mostly for my own edification but if it is a blessing to you as well then all the better.
not on the rudenesses of others,
not on what they've done
or left undone,
but on what you
have & haven't done

-Dhammapada, 4, translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Monday, July 09, 2007

In Which I Feel Very Special

Yesterday, Rob didn't have anywhere to go although he did go to the store to buy some shelves to replace the one we have in our bedroom that refuses to lie flat against the wall. He came home with a dozen red roses for me.
Really . . . there's nothing more to say . . . except that the roses are in the great room where I will spend most of the rest of my day.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

In Which I Finish Yet Another Book I read and finished Aimée & Jaguar by Erica Fischer (trans. Edna McCown). Actually, I practically devoured it. How could I resist? German wife of Nazi soldiers, mother of four potential brown shirts, falls in love with woman who is actually a Jew working with the underground. So when I picked it up on Friday I found myself relentlessly compelled to keep reading. The narrative is very well presented offering enough historical information to keep the story within the horrifying context of its place and time. The love story unfolds through letters and poems the women wrote one another. Inevitably tragic, the conclusion is sad and painful. However, I confess to feeling frustrated with the book. The author, in her epilogue, admits to feeling the same frustration. There are gaps in the story, missing pieces of truth. You can feel them as you are reading. Coincidences don’t line up with experiences. For instance, early in the narrative a woman arrives to do the housekeeping. She remembers seeing a bust of Adolph Hitler’s head in the home. Contradicting this the wife (Elizabeth aka Lilly aka Aimée) says that there was nothing of the sort in her home and even denies that there was a photograph of the man hanging in their living room. When I read this I was immediately skeptical. After all, as fanatically loyal as most German’s were forced to be, to suggest a Nazi soldier would not have a portrait of Hitler in his home—whether a painting, photograph, or statue—is not only unlikely but even unbelievable. More believable is that the woman was trying to whitewash her memory and paint herself in a softer reality. This detracts so slightly from the overall story that I only mention it as an example of myself as a reader. In her epilogue, the author writes the following:
“Why didn’t you do something?” millions of young Germans and Austrians have asked their parents in righteous indignation, and have yet to receive an answer. But now that they are adults, these same people have no desire to ask themselves the same moral question. For to do that would require having to draw the necessary conclusions.
Never Again! The post-WWII holocaust anthem. Remember. The intention to suggest that if we allow ourselves to forget these horrors they can and will happen again. And because they have happened again and again and again it begins to feel as though these historical truths, when not denied, are merely becoming a cautionary tale. When will we learn? When we stop asking others the questions we should be asking ourselves! A poem from Felice to Lilly, Christmas 1943 That there was a time before you - I can't believe! To me, we've forever been this way, Together, side by side in life and in dreams, Surrounded both by darkness and the light of day. You belong to me! Since you arrived, And slowly at first, then full of trust, Placed your heart in my hands, I have strived For the strength to build a life for us. So I have hope for days yet to come, As this year nods and slips into air, Because before me, like some emblem, I carry the copper gleam of your hair.