Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

This idea that there’s something Posh about culture really upsets me. It really upsets me because the liberating nature of a beautiful piece of art, whether it’s music, whether it’s paint on canvas, whether it’s a poem, whether it’s a book, or whether it’s a play. It’s plays that I first plugged into as a kid. It’s so immensely important to your mental health, the simple ability to step outside your own brain. It’s meditative. It’s quasi-religious. It’s an ability to step outside the quotidian, The Daily Grind, to actually rise above the minutiae of your daily existence and soar into Uncharted Territory. It is a thing of absolute Beauty. And if you are laughing at me now, that is tragic because it means you don’t know what I’m talking about, which means you’ve never had that experience, which, means you’ve never been lucky enough to have a teacher or a parent or a friend or an accidental encounter with some music, you’ve never had that experience. Maybe some people get it at the football, actually at an amazing sporting event, which can be a mixture of religious and Theatrical, when you feel yourself soaring… I had a spiritual experience but I’ve had that experience in theaters and I’ve had that experience in my own home listening to a certain piece of music or reading a book. And why why why in this country are the words I have just said in any way emblematic of something that is linked to social class. Why I do not get it, I do not get it at all… Why is this country a place where we are told from a very early age, that the inner life, the imagination, the magic of art and culture, is something that is the sole Preserve of the wealthy, or the privileged. Where does that come from? …it breaks my heart.

— James O’Brien, from “This idea that there’s something posh about culture really upsets me” (LBC, Friday November 11, 2022)

How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted

Lots of journalists have Salman Rushdie stories. He likes to talk and he is generous with his time. When I interviewed him a few years ago, we had lunch together… What I remember most, though, isn’t what happened there, but the fact that when we were finished, Rushdie insisted he would rather walk with me to Pimlico underground than pile into a taxi.

I think I was surprised. One of my very first jobs as a young journalist involved attending an event where Rushdie, then still in hiding, was rumoured to be going to appear (memory tells me that he did, emerging from behind a curtain like a stage magician). But I was also amused. He didn’t – it was obvious – quite know the best way to the station and in his outsize puffer jacket he rather meekly followed me, looking about happily as he strolled. I’ve thought of those few stuccoed streets, and of him padding along them in the sunshine, seemingly without a care, every day since he was attacked. How the world turns. All the things, wonderful and ordinary, that we take for granted…

Reading is my oldest habit, which is just as well given that I’m one of the judges of this year’s Baillie Gifford prize for nonfiction. If ingesting so many books so quickly is exhilarating, it’s also, at moments, arduous; hopefully, my years of training are about to pay off.

I read as I water the garden and wait for the kettle to boil. I read on the bus and the tube and at every pedestrian crossing.

What thoughts occur as I pick up, and put down, each title? All I can tell you is that the difference between a good book and a great one is both inexplicably small and ineffably vast – and that a cartoon I saw the other day in which a man headed to his book group in full armour and carrying a sword made me shudder more than it made me smile.

Rachel Cooke, from “Walking with Salman Rushdie to a tube station now seems like a distant age” (The Guardian, August 20, 2022)


Notes:

  • Inspired by Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh: “A sigh isn’t just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning. While we can. While we can.”
  • Portrait: Salman Rushdie, Murdo MacLeod, The Guardian

Tuesday Morning Walk

The sky is a soft blue and I begin the walk…winding down to the center of my everything.

—  Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling: A Novel (Knopf, June 7, 2022)


Notes:

  • Photo: DK, July 23, 2022. 5:30 a.m. Stamford, CT.
  • DK Rating: Highly Recommended. Amazon Top Books of 2022.  Selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick. NY Times Editor’s Choice Top 10 Books of the Week. NY Times Book Review here.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I close my eyes. (They) both laugh when I do this. They think you gotta see to paint, but sight is just a distraction from what it really takes to translate image to art. I let it float out my fingers, escape out my breath, and I don’t need to see when my body is an entire vision.

Leila Mottley, Nightcrawling: A Novel (Knopf, June 7, 2022)


Notes:

  • DK Rating: Highly Recommended
  • Amazon Top Books of 2022. 
  • Selected as an Oprah’s Book Club pick.
  • NY Times Editor’s Choice Top 10 Books of the Week. NY Times Book Review here.

And…Her.

7/ 3/ 54. I keep myself going with various kinds of dope: books, written and read, dreams, hopes, crossword puzzles, the sentimentality of friendships, and real friendships, and simply routine.

 Patricia Highsmith, “Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995.″ Anna von Planta (Editor). (Liveright, November 16, 2021)— Patricia Highsmith, Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995

 


Notes:

  • Photos: DK @ Daybreak. 6:45 am, Feb 8, 2022. 36° F, feels like 29° F, Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. More photos from this morning here.
  • Related Swan Posts: Swan1

Walking. With Franzen.

6:45 a.m. – ish this morning. I’m walking Cove Island Beach. I reach the breakwall, and pause. It’s hard not to look out into this and not feel Small. The gentle breeze off the ocean. The lapping of the waves on the shoreline. The cloud formations. The warmth in early October. The thin strip of sunlight on the horizon.

Mark Oliver EverettSometimes that beauty is too much for me to handle. Do you know that feeling? When something is just too beautiful? When someone says something or writes something or plays something that moves you to the point of tears, maybe even changes you. 

And this beauty, the landscape in front, and the words from Audible being pumped into my head from Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads, made me feel exactly that: Just too beautiful. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

Experience one beautiful thing a day. However small. However trivial. Read a poem. Play a favorite song. Laugh with a friend. Gaze at the sky just before the sun’s final tumble toward night. Watch a classic movie. Eat a slice of lemon drizzle cake. Whatever. Just give yourself one simple reminder that the world is full of wonders. Even if we are at a point in life where we can’t appreciate things, it sometimes helps to remember there are things in this world to enjoy, when we are ready.

—  Matt Haig, with “One Beautiful Thing” in “The Comfort Book” (Penguin Life, July 6, 2021)


Notes:

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Sometimes I get tired of the everythingness of everything, so I retreat to my bed and read. I read and let time fly like a bird that’s hit by a truck, and I’m in a place where peace is timeless. I overthink about doing everything that I need to do all at once, that I drown in the anxiety of heaviness. Reading is coming up to the surface to breathe, and I am learning to perceive before I judge. I am learning to refine my mind before taking action, and I am learning to think with my heart. Because literature, fantasy, and getting my mind caught in the clouds … these are the things that inspire me to live better in reality. And so I close my book, draw the curtains and let the light in everything I’m supposed to do and let the chapter of today be enough.”

— Juansen Dizon, “A Diary Entry about Reading” from The Boy Who Cries Wolf


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Photo Credit
  • Post inspired by: “There is no better use of my time than to write, second only to reading. As I write, sequential time alters. The usual clock face of seconds marching into minutes, and those minutes adding up to hours, fails to operate in that way for me. Time takes on elasticity and springiness. It seems to stretch so much that I lose track of those passing seconds. It seems to jump from its linear march so high and so far that one moment it is such and such a time, and the next an entire hour has elapsed.” —  Fred D’Aguiar, Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020 (Harper, August 3, 2021)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Saturday Afternoon

What can be better than to get a book out on Saturday afternoon and thrust all mundane considerations away until next week.

—  C.S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 1. Family Letters, 1905-1931


Quote Source: delta-breezes

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Walked by this box at Cove Island Park, what, 100x? 200x? 500x? Had never seen it before.  Today, I noticed.

[Read more…]

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

A camel library is giving children out of school in some of Ethiopia’s most remote villages a unique opportunity to continue reading and learning, despite COVID-19 school closures.

Save the Children first began the camel library in 2010. The program includes 21 camels, which are traditionally used by communities in the Somali region of Ethiopia to transport goods across the hot lowland areas. Camels can carry up to 200 storybooks at a time in wooden boxes strapped to their backs. The project currently reaches over 22,000 children in 33 villages.

Across Ethiopia, over 26 million children are out of school due to COVID-19. By continuing its camel library outreach program, Save the Children is making sure children can continue to read and learn while at home.

Mahadiya, 13, is in grade seven in a remote part of the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia. Since COVID-19 forced her school to close in late March, she has been unable to go to class.

To help her keep up with her studies, Mahadiya is making use of Save the Children’s mobile camel library, which visits her village every week. When she grows up, Mahadiya says she hopes to become an engineer.

“Before the coronavirus, we used to go to school regularly,” said Mahadiya. “The school used to provide us with a meal each school day, but now that has stopped. I feel sad and disappointed that I cannot go to school.

“I am worried it may not open soon. Because of this, I am worried that we could forget some of the things we learned in school and we could fail our exams. 

“After schools were closed, many children were out of school and they were exposed to child labor and exploitation. Many children have become herders and some walk into the bush to look for firewood. When schools were closed, I was very sad.  However, the camel library continued to come to our village and supplied us with storybooks. I feel very happy and I am now able to borrow and take home the storybook that I would like to read.”

Mahadiya’s family has also suffered financially during COVID-19 due to school closures and movement restrictions. Their family income used to come from a small shop, but because of increases in the price of goods and a decrease in the number of customers, her family is struggling to make ends meet. Her family also used to own livestock, but the ongoing drought in the region meant that most of the animals needed to be sold.

“It has been nearly three months since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded in Ethiopia,” said Ekin Ogutogullari, Save the Children’s Country Director in Ethiopia. “The virus poses particular challenges for vulnerable populations living in high-density or resource-poor communities, migrants, and displaced children.

“In Ethiopia, we recently conducted a survey where children told our team about their perceptions and concerns about COVID-19. Children raised concerns around increases in child labor, early marriage, and abuse due to the outbreak and closure of schools.

“On top of this, Ethiopian children and their families are facing floods, desert locusts, cholera, measles, food insecurity, and rising poverty levels. The scale of this crisis is huge, but we are determined to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure no child is worse off at the end of this pandemic.”

~ From COVID-19: A Camel Library Takes Remote Learning to New Levels

 


Notes:

  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again. Caleb is grounded in Work For Home and can’t come out to play this week.

T.G.I.F.: Freedom

“I was reading Kierkegaard while waiting to pick up my children from school. I wished I could wave some mother out of her idling vehicle and show her the passage. Reading, however, is a kind of private freedom: out of time, out of place.”

~ Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life

 


Photo: Elena with Reading

Read: Dear Edward

Just before lunch service, Veronica takes a short break in the front corner of the cabin, next to the kitchen… Wind is what she misses most, up in the sky. The airplane air isn’t as bad as passengers say it is; she never likes when people spout opinions without bothering to gather the facts first. Airplanes take about 50 percent of the air collected in the outtake valves of the passenger compartment and mix it with fresh air from outside. The air is then passed through filters to be sterilized before it’s introduced to the passengers. So the air on the plane is clean, and not worthy of complaint, but still, Veronica can taste the effort in it. Every time she leaves an airport, she appreciates the unpredictability of each inhale. There might be a soft gust of wind, or the smell of popcorn, or the heaviness that precedes a rainstorm. She notices nuances in the air that everyone else is immune to, with the exception of submariners, probably, and astronauts. People for whom the earth is not enough; their freedom is off the ground. Veronica enjoys the unbridled nature of the outside world in small doses, but this is her home. She is the fullest version of herself at thirty thousand feet.

~ Ann Napolitano, Dear Edward: A Novel (The Dial Press, January 6, 2020)

Highly Recommended.


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly

It’s so delicate, the light.
And there’s so little of it. The dark
is huge.
Just delicate needles, the light,
in an endless night.
And it has such a long way to go
through such desolate space.

So let’s be gentle with it.
Cherish it.
So it will come again in the morning.
We hope.

~ Rolph Jacobsen, “A Few Delicate Needles” from The Roads Have Come to an End Now


Notes:

  • Poems: 3QuarksDaily. Photo: (via Mennyfox55)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly

I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sandstorms and ice blasts of words, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights, splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which were alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.

~ Dylan Thomas, “Notes on the Art of Poetry” in The Poems of Dylan Thomas, Volume 1


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels.  Art: Michael Azgour with Jennifer Reading (2019)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Move it up. Top of your list. Now.

She was, quite simply, a nice lady who’d raised a family and now lived quietly with her cats and grew vegetables. This was both nothing and everything.

~ Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

 

 

Saturday Morning

Beauty brings us to a halt: it imposes, if only for a flash, the cessation of activity. (On the lawn in front of the library, seeing a runner in red shorts complete the last flailing strides of a sprint before pitching forward, his fingers caressing soft dirt: I let my book fall.) Indolence and aesthetic experience both involve feelings of unbidden influence, involuntariness or absence of will. But where the experience of beauty is often significant and always pleasurable, idleness is more equivocal in its effects and character. Essentially contentless, idleness obtains its phenomenological shape from the objects around us—the pliancy of a chair, the gloss of an advertisement—and the thoughts and desires within us.

O’Connor, to his credit, resists conflating idleness with aesthetic bliss, or animal repose, or other unambiguously positive varieties of passivity. Yet experience without content has little to recommend it. Without some consciously chosen value that organizes how we do nothing, we may find that our idle time makes us less free rather than more.

~ Charlie Tyson, from “Idleness” in The Point (September 5, 2019)


Source: Quote – Thank you The Hammock Papers. Photo: via see more.

Sunday Morning

“You’re going to ask if you can marry my daughter,” Nan’s father said.

“Yes,” James answered.

“Why?”

James thought: Because she is jolly and pretty and bright, like a firefly, blinking in and out of hedges and trees. Because I imagine her in the kitchen, washing dishes, looking out the window and humming to herself, her brow knit in concentration. I imagine myself coming up behind her, putting my arms around her, resting my chin on her shoulder. I imagine her face turning up to me, bright and pale and astonishing, and I imagine her lips just before I kiss her, full and parted, almost singing the words of a song. Because I think beyond kissing her, because I think about her naked and warm under clean sheets and damp from the bath. I imagine her bare ankle rubbing against my own. I imagine her hair disheveled; I imagine myself smoothing it out of her eyes. I imagine making toast with her and eating it at a round table. When I do, I am just as crazed with passion for her as I would be in bed. There is no difference between imagining her naked and imagining her with a kerchief over her hair. 

“Because I love her,” he said.

~ Cara Wall, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, August 13, 2019)


Notes:

But our reality, some blend of print and digital, material and immaterial

The more we use our screens, it seems, the more power we assign to books as objects, and to turning their literal pages as a timeless icon of languor. But our reality, some blend of print and digital, material and immaterial, is perhaps no less picturesque. On this beautiful summer morning, while finishing this piece, I was happily distracted by the Twitter feed of a poet named Jeremy Proehl, who, like the mad, poverty-stricken Romantic poet John Clare, inscribes his verse on birch bark. Clare, who also concocted his own ink out of “a mix of bruised nut galls, green copper, and stone blue soaked in a pint and a half of rain-water,” was after permanence, not planned transience: he would not recognize his art in the notion that Proehl’s own bark poems will “fade and break apart in the weather.”

The Internet has no weather, and these dissolving poems will be preserved in every state of decay. What part of my summer morning was “reading,” and what part of it was distraction? Once I put the period on this sentence, I’m headed outside with a copy of John Clare’s poetry, along with my phone, in case I need to look up some images of chaffinches, hedge roses, or whitethorn shrubs.

~ Dan Chiasson, from “Reader, I Googled It” in The New Yorker, August 26, 2019


Photo: Jeremy Proehl – “I write poems on birch bark and hang them in the woods. I call them prayer poems. As they fade and break apart in the weather, like prayer flags, I hope the thoughts of the poems travel on.

Smell the earth

Starting a novel is opening a door on a misty landscape;

you can still see very little but you can smell the earth

and feel the wind blowing.

~ Iris Murdoch, from her debut novel: Under the Net


Notes: Quote via punlovsinPhoto by Arend Ruizendaal with Reading.

 

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