Monday, May 23, 2011

When life hands you lemons, make a reading list.

Even the lemons went emo.

Usually, I slip out of the long, deliberate reads of winter and into something more comfortable for summer. Perhaps it was the repetition of travel in the last few weeks that wore the finish off my emotions, exposing the unmistakable pull to grab an armful of books, load up on pantry items and sit and read in isolation for as long as possible without worrying loved ones. I believe this is also known as introspection. It is happening out of season, like a second, unexpected flowering of something.

Last weekend, I snuck away to Tucson, via train, to surprise my sister for her birthday. Despite everyone but my sister knowing what was about to happen, in the life of a mother, apparently even 24 hours a year where you take someone who normally makes everyone else's lives run and ask them what they want for their dinner, take them to a place where someone will clean up their mess, and ask them what they want to do for an evening is a riotous act. As we packed for a birthday night at a Tucson hotel, a wonderful thing happened, it allowed me to respect that my writing is a reflection of how I see something, not how I hope it is seen. This past weekend, I stopped worrying about the difference, and that is a huge step forward, creatively.

Being less concerned about being nice and more concerned about being compassionately honest is a huge, inspiring relief. I put a list together of books to stoke the steam engine to send more of my internal thoughts and writings down the tracks to the "post" button. This list might make even the sturdiest of minds cringe. I'm entering a Blue Period, what can I say? I wonder how the gingerbread cookies post is going to turn out later this week.

I just finished:
  • Blood, Bones and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton
  • The Dirty Life; On Farming, Food And Love, Kristen Kimball
  • Just Kids, Patti Smith
And am moving on to oldies but goodies:
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau (If you have a better way to kick off introspection, let me know.)
  • Blood Meridian, Or The Evening Redness In The West, Cormac McCarthy
  • Seek, Denis Johnson
  • Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
  • The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
  • The Frontier in American History, Fred Jackson Turner
  • Cakes and Ale, Or, The Skeleton In The Cupboard,  M. Somerset Maugham
  • Home Town, Tracy Kidder

(All of these can be found over in the Amazon widget on the side, and no, that's not an Amazon Associates pitch. I don't want to spend the time linking to each one.)

Isn't everything that is a combination of fantastic and awful, memorable and somehow pivotal? Fantastic is not always good, sometimes anger is, and from disappointment comes learning, if you let it. We had such a joy-filled weekend, it hurt to know we will never be able to bask in it. On the other hand, it made us realize how important it is to hold onto joy when you find it. So, I'm going to brood, and be sad and introspective for a while, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Someone's moment, not ours.


  1. I wish that someone would sneak me away and ask me what I wanted to eat for a change. :) Actually, I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself - I'd be THAT overwhelmed.

    Great reading list. I am adding some of these to my to-do list.

  2. Sorry about the lemons. The list you've produced should help make your "blue period" as fertile as possible. And thanks for the reminder about the difference you've noted above. I'm a steadfast believer.

  3. Taking notes on your reading list -- I find I frequently use reading as a way to vicariously process emotions that my brain can't wrap itself around. Perhaps that's why some of my favorite books are totally devastating?

    I'm so glad to have found your blog (and have met the person behind it), and I'm looking forward to reading more!

  4. A short time ago, I was in a similar place and writing nice and happy thoughts for my blog was the hardest thing for me to do. But I learned something via the advice of a friend, sometimes you just need to step to the side and let everything pass you by. Eventually you will move back into the flow of things and be on your way again. Reading and gardening are the natural outlets for me when this happens. They always bring me back to where I want to be, and the sense of renewal is inspiring. I hope it is the same for you.

  5. oh, I so want to read Blood, Bones and Butter. And I love having reading lists! Even if I don't get to all the books...I still like the possibility. I'm currently in the middle of Bossypants, Take the Cannoli (by Sarah Vowell), and Let the Great World Spin. (3 at a time, I know!).

    Oh, and good luck with Blood Meridian. I haven't delved in. I love Cormac, but I've heard that one is a doozy!

  6. Nice talking to you at Samosa House today. Your photos are fabulous, as I could see they would be from watching the care with which you take them.

    Your post here brings one of mine to mind. Hope you enjoy it:

    -- Frances (

  7. Thank you for the reading list. I just finished Winter in Madrid (not uplifting, but extremely well-written) and am in need of a new book. Blood, Bones and Butter is definitely on my list.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Stay positive!