A Wasted Day. Not.

kindle

I downloaded a sample from Amazon during my week off. Patricia Hampl’s The Art of a Wasted Day.

I skimmed a chapter and then another.

I couldn’t build a head of steam. And with one finger poke, it was gone…leaving a blank space on my Kindle app.

Not a chance I’ll be guilted into turning pages that don’t have wind at their backs. Midlife isn’t the Muscle Car. It’s Ruth Baumann’s Diagnosis: “Days like clocks tick. As do I. Quietly.”

And, yet, there She was. A slow, low murmuring. Her voice calling me back.

I’m back to Amazon, one-click, $12.99 in the till, and it’s done. Back to the Kindle.

It’s more like a basket of shards, her word, not mine.

Verbose (for one who likes to get there as the crow flies). Wandering. Catenated religious references. Historical events. Biblical passages. Notable geographical sites. BahWho cares?

Eyes glazing over, skipping words, jumping sentences, leaping paragraphs.

And then a few words catch the eye. And then a flock. Of Finches. Of Barn Swallows. Of Juncos. All landing softly. They too murmuring…slow down Friend. Be still. There’s something for you here.

And there is. And there was. And she wouldn’t let me go.

Would you recommend it?

No.

Did you love it?

Absolutely.


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.” — Markus ZusakThe Book Thief 
  • Photo: Getty

Who put out the fire?

I’m 1/3 of the way through Tara Westover’s book “Educated: A Memoir” and it’s a Wow.

For book reviews, check out:

“For eighteen years I never thought of that day, not in any probing way. The few times my reminiscing carried me back to that torrid afternoon, what I remembered first…Now, at age twenty-nine, I sit down to write, to reconstruct the incident from the echoes and shouts of a tired memory. I scratch it out. When I get to the end, I pause. There’s an inconsistency, a ghost in this story. I read it. I read it again. And there it is. Who put out the fire?”

~ Tara Westover, “Educated: A Memoir”

Highly recommended.


 

Guilty

Turning, one evening, from my phone to a book, I set myself the task of reading a single chapter in one sitting. Simple. But I couldn’t. There was nothing wrong with my eyes. No stroke or disease clouded my way. Yet – if I’m being honest – the failure was also not a surprise.

Paragraphs swirled; sentences snapped like twigs; and sentiments bled out. The usual, these days. I drag my vision across the page and process little. Half an hour later, I throw down the book and watch some Netflix…

So, it’s been unnerving to realize: I have forgotten how to read – really read – and I’ve been refusing to talk about it out of pride…

Online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures. Online reading is about clicks, and comments, and points. When I take that mindset and try to apply it to a beaten-up paperback, my mind bucks.

Author Nicholas Carr writes that, “digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts.” We become, “more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli.” So, I throw down the old book, craving mental Tabasco sauce. And yet not every emotion can be reduced to an emoji, and not every thought can be conveyed via tweet.

~ Michael Harris, “I have forgotten how to read.” For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong.

Read on: “I Have Forgotten How to Read.” (The Globe and Mail, Feb 9, 2018)

 

 

Miracle. All of it.

Once a week I take off all my jewelry, slip into a shapeless blue polyester volunteer coat, clip ID tags to my lapel, and drive 5.3 miles through Piedmont and down 52nd Street to our local children’s hospital. I park, take the elevator to the third floor, and buzz myself into the NICU. Standing at a wall of metal sinks, I scrub up to my elbows for a full minute, enjoying the smell of the soap and the sound the brush makes against my fingernails. I dry off, gown up, and walk the nurseries, listening for babies in distress…

The lights are dim. The nurses whisper. The monitors chirp and ping. The babies rest. My long big-lung breaths stretch underneath three of theirs..Last week a baby boy with a swollen head and a shunt near his temple found my eyes and locked in. We stared at each other, blinking back and forth, each blink longer than the last, until he could hold his lids open no longer and the rows of his dark glossy eyelashes came together like a Venus flytrap. Bette, who had been watching from across the room, nodded at me and winked. He’d rest on my chest for the next hour, my heartbeat, my warmth and humanity an incalculable improvement on his indifferent crib. The skin hungers for touch, from cradle to grave. “Close silence—that’s all they need,” she whispered to me.

~ Kelly Corrigan, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (January 9, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photo – My Irrelephant Life.
  • Related Posts: Kelly Corrigan; Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Saturday Morning

Do your work, I tell myself. And after? Find a patch of lawn and sit down and hug your knees to your chest and let everything you’ve ever been told and everything you’ve ever seen mingle together in a show just for you, your own eye-popping pageant of existence, your own twelve-thousand-line epic poem. The tickle of the grass on your thighs, the sky moving over you, sunless or blue, echoes from a homily or a wedding toast or a letter your grandmother sent. Remember something good, a sunburn you liked the feeling of, a plate of homemade pasta. Do your work, Kelly. Then lean back. Rest from the striving to reduce.

~ Kelly Corrigan, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (January 9, 2018)


Photo: poppins-me

Tell Me More

Me, I’m all over the place. I look like my dad, and like both the girls in different ways. My hair is naturally curly but not in the sexy beachy way. If I were a dog, I’d be the kind that’s easier to shave down than to groom. I have been told I have large teeth. I’m soft, and getting softer, and my ass is less pumpkin than helipad. To pretend I care enough to fix these things, I exercise every Saturday morning with Edward. I slow down when my forehead starts to shine—I’m not a huge fan of showers. I wear the same clothes all week and often get past noon before putting on a bra or looking in the mirror. I prefer projects to jobs. I’ve built “furniture,” been a “photographer,” and started a “company.” I am riddled with ideas, a dozen a day. My ambition waxes when I drink alcohol—one skinny margarita can have me filing to run for state senate—and wanes in the morning after the kids leave and I am alone with the work. The one absolutely good thing I do is volunteer for our local children’s hospital. Every Tuesday, from three p.m. to five p.m., I hold babies in the NICU.

~ Kelly Corrigan, Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say (January 9, 2018)


Verdict: Highly Recommended.

I’m glad. Oh, I’m so glad.

Table of Contents from: Be Glad You’re Neurotic” by Louis E. Bisch. (1946, original copyright 1936)

“From my admittedly low effort research, Be Glad You’re Neurotic is an example of early pop psychology publications. Bisch wants everyone to embrace their inner crazy, the idea that this is what makes you a better human (ie. superior). Bottom line: You can cure yourself by just embracing your inner freak.” By Mary Kelly, December, 7, 2017


Source: Awful library books (via this isn’t happiness)

Most of him is lost to us of course.

Mike Lankford, opening lines in his biography titled “Becoming Leonardo: : An Exploded View of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci:

“Most of him is lost to us, of course. The timbre of the voice, the thoughts visible in his eyes, the physical gestures when happy or sad, the way he walked, his smell, his hands, the habitual grimace his friends knew all too well but no one bothered to record—all that is lost. When he was young there was no reason to write any of it down, and when he was old he became too hard to describe, too strange. What to do with Leonardo?”


Walter, Isaacson, author of Leonardo da Vinci, in an interview in By the Book in The New York Times Book Review, Nov 2, 2017:

Q: Which book was most helpful to you in working on your biography of Leonardo da Vinci?

A: Leonardo’s own notebooks. More than 7,000 pages still, miraculously, survive. Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after five hundred years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won’t be. Leonardo crammed every page with drawings and looking-glass notes that seem random but provide intimations of his mental leaps. Scribbled alongside each other, with rhyme if not reason, are math calculations, sketches of his devilish young boyfriend, birds, flying machines, theater props, eddies of water, blood valves, grotesque heads, angels, sawed-apart skulls, tips for painters, and studies for paintings. I love his to-do lists, which have entries like “Describe the tongue of the woodpecker.”


Painting: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Rob @ The Hammock Papers
  • More to this story – Amazing Facts by Doug Batchelor with the Beginning of Wisdom. “Abdul Kassem Ismael (A.D. 938 to 995) became Grand Vizier of Persia. Legend has it that the avid reader was so enthralled with literature and learning that he never left home without his personal library. The 400-camel caravan carried 117,000 books and must have been more than a mile long! Nevertheless, Ismael’s camel-drivers were also librarians, each responsible for the books on his camel, and could locate any book almost immediately because the animals were trained to walk in alphabetical order.”
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

At fifty-four, I’m now roughly the same age Dante was when he was putting the finishing touches on The Divine Comedy. I’m the same age as von Aschenbach in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. (I realized only recently that the character in this novella who was pining for a youth and his own lost youth was squarely in middle age; not having read the opening very carefully, I had always assumed that the “old” man who allowed the hotel barber to dye his hair jet black and garishly paint his face was in his seventies at the very least.) Fifty-plus is a good age for big questions. Unless I’m that rare soul who makes it past one hundred, I probably have less time ahead of me than I’ve already lived. Now that my brother, sister, and I are all over fifty, my brother, using a golf analogy, refers to our lives as being played on the back nine—the first nine holes are behind us. Whatever score we’ve accumulated, we carry with us. Suddenly, finishing honorably and staying out of the sand traps and water hazards matters more than seeing our names on the leaderboard. On the other hand, I think any age is a good age for big questions. I asked some of my biggest and best when I was in high school and college—fittingly, as that’s what school is for. I asked other big questions at painful times in my life—no age is immune from misfortune or feels it less keenly. And I hope and expect to be asking big questions right up to the end.

~ Will Schwalbe, Books for a Living


Notes:

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