I’m calling this the summer of self care. Deeply delicious and oh-so-necessary self care.
Aside from the moving meditation that comprises most of my kitchen adventures, one of my favorite self care practices is crawling into bed with pages that turn. My bookshelves often reflect the landscape of my life.
This summer I found myself seeking books that brought me serenity, a deeper awareness of the political landscape in which we find ourselves, and my endless curiosity about how we navigate the anatomy of grief. Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed recently. Follow the links below the images for more in depth reviews or a closer look at the author.
The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore
Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, a moral philosopher, and an environmental thought-leader. She wrote this book at a time when she was overcome with grief and took solace in nature. Her words: “That autumn, events overtook me, death after death, and my life became an experiment in sadness. One friend drowned. Another died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. My father-in-law faded away like steam from stones. Then, on September 22, a fuel truck rounded a curve on the coast highway and …”
I finished this book and then, I started it all over again. Her words feel like balm to a broken spirit. If you appreciate the wonder of nature and the beauty of language, you’ll love Wild Comfort, The Solace of Nature.
Living in Gratitude by Angeles Arrien
I had the privilege of interviewing Angeles Arrien shortly before she passed away. She introduced me to the the sacred ways of indigenous people. In our interview we discussed body wisdom, voice, ancient wisdom in a contemporary world, and beauty as a portal to creativity. You can listen to that interview right here.
In this book she invites us to make gratitude our focal point for an entire year. This is the book that inspired my 365 days of gratitude project back in 2011. I’m revisiting that practice again. Here’s a taste, one of the many practices she suggests for integrating the material:
“Choose in advance a particular day this month to notice the many ways people express affection and love. On that day, carrying a small notebook with you, set out to observe any expression of love that may occur around you. Notice a kind word, a gentle pat, a protective gesture, a bright beaming smile, a shared good-hearted laugh. Write these down as they happen, or as soon as you can. Choose the ones that most deeply moved you, then notice when you express your love in these similar or different ways.”
This was an extremely eye-opening experience for me. Instead of taking my notebook around town, I started recording the many ways in which my husband expresses affection and love that are not necessarily the ways in which I would take note. Even more thought-provoking was the inner reflection that followed. My own ways of expressing love and affection are closely tied to my family of origin where food was an expression of love. You can imagine my challenge in this regard. Here I am enculturated with the “need to feed” and my beloved white-on-white rarely partakes of the meals I prepare. Yes, this practice especially called on me to find new and interesting ways to show love and affection in my marriage. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on this practice. Perhaps you’ll try it this week!
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
This is a heartbreaking, heart opening memoir written by Marion Coutts. “… a compelling poetic meditation on family, love, and language.”
Here’s a taste:
“Music. Perhaps his accompaniment, his exit will be against this manual work. The dragging of hair bows across strings, friction against tightness, reeds vibrating, air blown through holes, through tubes. Valves shut off and opening again, lips relaxing and contracting, finely calibrating objects hit. Metal on metal; wood on metal; leather on wood; padding on metal; pitch, tome timbre; cylinders and coils, all shapes resonating. Sequences rising and falling, fingers, everywhere fingers. The warm brush of lungs. Creaking of buttocks on on chairs, slight release of air, stomachs against belts; clasps and buckles, skirts rustling, paper finely shifting. Dry skin on palms worn down and rubbing together. Bells, diaphragms, stools, rib cages, all bones in concert, felt and leather above and beyond.”
Remember the book I told you about last summer? The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander? This book feels very similar. Both of these women manage to bring you into their experience of death in a deeply poetic way. I am reminded of a quote by Gordon Lish: “Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive.”
That’s what I took from each of these memoirs, an assurance perhaps, that we are indeed broken apart in times of grief but somehow we survive it. We must.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
When Toni Morrison says, “This is required reading,” I listen. I purchased this book a while back and it sat on my nightstand for months in my ever-growing pile. I’m glad I waited. This was exactly what I needed to read this summer as racial tensions escalate in the wake of so much violence. Coates was inspired, after rereading James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” to write his own version for the current era. He’s writing to his adolescent son.
Here’s a slice:
“You were born that August. I thought of the great spectrum of The Mecca—black people from Belize, black people with Jewish mothers, black people with fathers from Bangalore, black people from Toronto and and Kingston, black people who spoke Russian, who spoke Spanish, who played Mongo Santamaria, who understood mathematics and sat up in bone labs, unearthing the mysteries of the enslaved. There was more out there than I ever hopes for, and I wanted you to have it. I wanted you to know that the world in its entirety could never be found in the schools, nor on the streets, alone, nor in the trophy case. I wanted you to claim the whole world as it is.”
Need I say more?
And speaking of self care, don’t forget, my next SoulCollage® Sunday takes place on September 11th via telecall, email and private Facebook group to practice and play for five full days. I hope to see you on the roster. (It’s only $27!) Best nourishment practice ever.