Sunday, November 30, 2008

sometimes the best kind of weekend morning involves:

English breakfast tea.
Rain that forces one to stay inside.
Interesting reading material.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


but not often.
winter air is

i'm just as surprised as you are.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The latest book I read without really thinking.

Continuing on the strand of being more reflective in my reading, the first character that I thought about was Blue Van Meer from Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, who explains to the New York Times that Blue "filters every life experience she has through books." Interesting. The chapters are organized as a list of "Required Reading," each one named after a major literary text: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Howl, Metamorphoses...In light of my last post, it was really interesting to figure out what the connection was between each chapter's title and the events that unfolded. After reading the book, I was looking at the author's website for the book. In a clever move, she had a link to "Find Out What It All Means," which causes a Cliff's Notes image to pop up. When you click on any of the topics in the Table of Contents, it flips to a page that says "In life, there are no shortcuts." Yes, we must do our own thinking with this one. This reminded me of Umberto Eco, whose book SIx Walks in the Fictional Woods said "the text is a lazy machine asking the reader to do some of its work."

The irony of this post is that I was a lazy reader during this book and was mainly driven by the plot alone to finish it. This was what made me stop and realize that I lost a little bit of myself as a reader and thus I needed to refocus a little bit. (Again, see last post.)

So. Next time will be different. Deeper. Ha. But in my old habit of writing review posts, I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates literature and finds intellectuals slightly facetious and yet slightly interesting. It's a mystery with a crazy, unexpected ending. I did stay up past midnight on school nights while finishing.

A regrouping. It seems I need this at least a few times a year.

Something that I noticed about my reading life lately--basically by revisiting my recent blog posts since the summer--is that most of my writing about my reading has been a review style. I just reread my first blog post ever, from almost two years ago, and was reminded of older phases of my reading self--mainly that it was forced me to think about the world, my life, the hearts of people, my relationships, and complex issues.

At some point last spring, I began reading as an escape mechanism or as a distraction or a way to keep busy. I think that my brain subconsciously didn't want to think deeply as I watched friends move and had to reestablish my place in the city without them and without plan to leave. Reading was no longer a window, but a distraction.

Rereading the following quotes made me hunger for a deeper reading life:

"Why are we reading, if not in the hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?"
-Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

"What then is the good of--what is even the defense for--occupying our hearts with stories of what never happened and entering vicariously into feelings which we should try to avoid having in our own person? Or of fixing our inner eye earnestly on things that can never exist..? The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself...We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own...We demand windows." -C.S. Lewis

So. I am seeking to think a little bit more. I am seeking a life that is reflective once again. More to come soon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On Certain Sundays in November.

I'm not sure if it's the fact that winter seemed to unofficially start this week (and forced me to bust out my ankle length down coat, hat and mittens) or the fact that a few weeks of it getting dark at 4:30 is all it takes for me to start dreaming about space, light, warm weather and travel, standing in the 80 degree weather overlooking the river in Austin last weekend or if it was seeing images like this on design*sponge:

But whatever it is, I'm feeling a little antsy and wishing for some sun, some evening light and a deck to sit on (or a mountain to climb or a lake to swim in...)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Most Thought-Provoking Book of Late.

The title, as I've mentioned, is ironic. Don't be scared. Jesus for President is an incredibly interesting, brave look at not only American culture, but Christian culture today. Shane Claiborne (author of The Irresistible Revolution) and Chris Haw start at the beginning and take their readers through the Old Testament, then into the Roman Empire during the early days of the church and right up to the present moment in the United States: a journey of how life that is truly life has been distorted by the culture of consumerism and power that is good for few and oppressive for many.

It is impossible to respond to this book in one post. I started reading it this summer and just recently finished it, not because it was boring or I wasn't able, but because it was so much to take in and reflect on in one sitting. I read the first part three times before I could move on. For as long as I've been reading this book, I've tried to imagine what I would say about it, but realized that there aren't quite words.

Reading Shane Claiborne is an extremely thought provoking exercise for not only the political, but the spiritual imagination. His views are extreme in many different ways yet challenging. Some seem realistic and then there's the part of me who looks at the history of people and wonders if the extreme change he is calling for is possible. The culture I am a part of and my selfishness butts up against so much of it. But. All I can say is that the Litany of Resistance at the end of the book is one of the most beautiful collection of words I've read in a long time. So all I can do is recommend this book and then ask that we can get coffee and talk about it. (I'm serious. Alison? Meaghan?) For now, here are a few things to think about:

"Most of the ugliness in the human narrative comes from a distorted quest to possess beauty."

"God entrusted [his people] to bless the world, not 'rid the world of evil.' "

"The statistics had a face. Poverty became personal. And that messes with you."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Best Fall Book Ever?

I read this book at the greatest bookstore in New York today. There aren't words. There may have been tears. It is that lovely.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Leaves from a Fourth Floor Window Saturday Morning.

I need to rush.
I'm in fear
all the yellow leaves will lose their grasp
before I can write.
Their brightness
against the gray sky and brown stone and cement
makes my heart ache.
A few take shelter on window ledges
or master the art of traveling as the crow flies
for blocks at a time.
They want to stay
for a little longer, I think
with my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"I believe the world is beautiful and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone" (Roque Dalton): Why Poetry is Going to Save Me from Winter.

When I taught seventh grade, we studied poetry in the spring: it was the essence of rebirth to me. Longer days, lots of sun, blossoms on the trees and the finest that the English language had to offer. Writing and thinking and reading seemed to just flow out of my being.

Last spring, I taught 8th grade and we didn't have a poetry unit. Last spring, my best friend in the city moved away, following another dear friend and soon to be followed by yet another. It was dark, even with daylight savings time...sometimes I think it lasted right through the summer. But.

The fall has worked it's magic as it always seems to do and I feel inspired to write, read, think and teach. The best news, though, is that the 8th grade has decided to incorporate a poetry unit into December and January. Yesterday I got to plan and imagine and read poems aloud with the amazing women I teach with, and I got all caught up in the beauty and power of poetry once again.

Just the thought of reading poems aloud to my students and writing poems with them and teaching them how poetry can enable us to express, explore and understand the world around us and our place in it seemed to make the days not quite so dark. And though I'm knee deep in writing a picture book for our Social Action Unit, I'm excited about continuing to write--and reclaiming "writer" as an essential part of my identity.

In my researching for this unit, I came across Life Lines, a project sponsored by People send in lines of poetry that have become life lines to them. It is beautiful and inspiring.

So. My hope is that although this unit is over before the worst of winter arrives (February and March), I hope that it stores up enough passion to last through to spring.