True. Crime. Architecture. Period. Feel. Murder. Mayhem. Progress. Congruent. Yes.
Fiction. Fishing. Change. Discovery. Strength. Solitude. Mystery. Cabin. Textured. Yes.
Dystopian. Space. Survival. Long. Intense. World. Writing. Characters. Complex. Yes.
The Current Isolationism
In the half-light, I am most
at home, my shadow
When I feel hot, I push a button
to make it stop. I mean this stain on my mind
I can’t get out. How human
I seem. Like modern man,
I traffic in extinction. I have a gift.
Like an animal, I sustain.
A flock of birds
when touched, I scatter. I won’t approach
until the back is turned.
My heart betrays. I confess: I am afraid.
How selfish of me.
When there’s no one here, I halve
the distance between
our bodies infinitesimally.
In this long passageway, I pose
against the wallpaper, dig
my heels in, catch the light.
In my vision, the back door opens
on a garden that is always
in bloom. The dogs
are chained so they can’t attack like I know
they want to. In the next yard
over, honeybees swarm
and their sound is huge.
~ CAMILLE RANKINE, Incorrect Merciful Impulses
Immersive. Insightful. Writing. Atmosphere. Anecdotes. Feel. Place. Experiences. People. YES.
Some books propel you forward, urging you to get to the next exciting thing, a sort of mad dash to the finish. When you finally get there you are spent and nearly exhausted by the experience.
Other books, like this one, take their time. They invite you into the experience, where you walk leisurely down the avenue, trying to drink in all the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
There is nothing wrong with either one. I find myself enjoying each of them for the very different experiences they bring. But if I’m honest I would have to say I love these sorts of stories the best. I savor them. Enjoying the small details that add a depth and richness not found, or even wanted, in those mad dash books.
If you enjoy taking your time, savoring an experience, a place, soaking up a feeling, then this is the book for you. Roger Ebert won the Pulitzer, not for this work mind you, but he did, and after reading this I have to say that award was well deserved. His writing is emotional, empathetic, warm, and true.
“At the little newsstand on the other side of the market, I must buy today’s Herald-Tribune. I am always the first to ask for it, and the old woman inside the kiosk always has to unsnap the wire around the bundle, and she always has trouble finding her pliers, and this is important, too.”
“You have to understand that nobody is more impressed by celebrities than other celebrities; having spent a lifetime becoming famous, they value fame more than ordinary people, and are more impressed when they see it.”
Disjointed. Beautiful. Parts. Voices. Worlds. Vision. Lives. Good. Evil. no.
Storytelling. Pace. Story. Characters. Mystery. Propelled. Clues. Fluff. Fun. Yes.
Writing. Story. Journey. Life. Epiphany. Grief. Memoir. Flaws. Kindnesses. Yes.
Funny. Meandering. Self-aggrandizing. Tips. Method. Simplifying. Niche. Quick. No.
Strange. Time. Choices. Writing. Chances. Snow. Relive. Characters. History. Yes.
Writing. Lyrical. Fairytale. World. Environments. Conversations. Magic. Pace. Compelling. Yes.
“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.”
― Jarod Kintz
Being positive, having a positive attitude, looking at things with a glass half full changes everything about your day and your life. A person can look around and notice all the things in life that aren’t right, or need work. They can wait for things to break or go wrong. Or they can look and see the things that are working now. They can see the blue sky, that there’s light and love and beauty all around them. One way leads to stress and worry, the other to contentment and happiness. We all worry, we all fret about the things that can go wrong, the things that might be going wrong, but we can’t live there, in that place. We have to live with light, and be in love with life. If we can manage that, even in times of trouble, we become a force for the positive. We can learn to see past what might not be OK now to know it will be soon. We stay open to the world, instead of being afraid of it. Light wins, dark abates.
“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Playing, as in riding a bike, or swinging on a swing, or going down a slide, or jumping in a bouncy house, is good for the soul. Those things speak to the kid living inside us and encourages that kid to come out and play. Being playful, however you do it, brings so much joy and happiness into our lives. It can be telling a stupid joke or saying something dorky to make someone laugh. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s that you get there in the first place. Joking around, being dorky, being willing to play, brings out the kid in us, the kid that’s always there, waiting to smile and have a good time. The kid that knows how to make things lighter and brighter and new.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
Reading a good book opens the world to us. Words create bonds. They convey insights into life, living, emotions we might not understand, ways of living that are different from ours, or the same as ours. In every good book I read I find some new meaning and depth in life. A turn of a phrase can enlighten and fills out more of the story of living. Books open worlds otherwise unknown.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Friendship carries us through everything in life. The value of living is found solely in our relationships with others. In the experiences we have with the people in our lives. Our friends can be there throughout our lifetime or people we only know and spend time with during shorter periods. They can be family or other people we’ve chosen to spend time with along the way. Their presence gives meaning to all the most important experiences of our lives. They strengthen us when we need it, hold us when we need it, tell us the truth when we need it, and bring more love into our lives than we can even believe possible. The people we love and who love us back are the most important. Period, the end.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
Generosity of spirit and of self brings peace and tranquility to life. When you give of yourself you put out positive energy into the world, broadening it. Being generous of spirit means you give of yourself in small ways and big. You don’t have to give out loads of money, but you can get inclusive, you can share what you have to share, include others in your life, be gracious, be open, be willing to help when help might be needed, be a light when someone can’t see through the darkness in their lives. Being generous just means opening yourself and giving of yourself without thought for what you might gain from it. It’s selfless, and being selfless pulls us out of our own heads, our own lives, reminding us that we aren’t alone, and that we aren’t all there is. It’s so important to remember that. Be generous with your time, with your heart, with yourself.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Appreciation for things in life, be it the actions of a friend, the kindness of a stranger, the smile on the face of someone you love, or wet kisses from your dog, brings a sense of connection, joy, and awe about this life we’re living. Knowing to appreciate what you have, not so much the things, though appreciating those as well says you realize others might not have what you do and you should be grateful for what you have, but for the people in your life, for the food on your table, for getting to experience the experiences you do, helps you to cherish life, cherish living. Appreciating the actions of others says you acknowledge a kindness or a gesture of goodwill. Having a real appreciation for things means you don’t take them for granted. Not taking the people and things in your life for granted means you feel what they bring to your life. Feeling that brings meaning.
“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
― E.E. Cummings
Being thankful for good and kindnesses and help and smiles in our lives further connects us to those moments. It brings a warmth and sincerity to our every day. A person can never say thank you enough. From the check out clerk to the post lady to helpful visits from family to just an everyday act of being passed something you asked for. Saying thank you spreads good will and encourages others to spread it as well. Saying thank you says you acknowledge the importance of what just happened. Saying thank you fills your heart with beauty and grace and a happiness that doesn’t come any other way. Being thankful, to your bones, for life’s little wonders, and some big ones, creates a force for so much good inside of you that it spills out to others. It gladdens our hearts as well as the hearts of those around us. You will never regret saying a deserved thank you. You will regret not saying it. We don’t act alone in the world, saying thank you acknowledges that. It’s a powerful force for good.
“When You Are Old”
WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”
― W.B. Yeats
Grace can’t be put on, it has to be cultivated inside of us. Simplicity of movement, of thought. Being present for people in your life. Not like a bull in a china shop but by being quietly there. Not everything has to be done with a big splash, some things require a quiet manner, they require a certain dignity. I struggle with this, but reach for it, try to cultivate it in myself. I have seen grace under pressure, I’ve seen simple dignified grace. It is a beautiful thing.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
Keeping quiet, not speaking unless you have something good or positive to say, perpetuates good. Speaking out of turn, gossiping about others, even stating your opinion when it’s not asked for or warranted, creates discord, chaos, and possibly hurt feelings. It’s always better to stay out of things. Jumping into situations only helps to keep them going, to keep the negative talk in the fore. There’s a difference between standing up for something or someone, and putting yourself into the drama. There’s a proper way to stand up for someone or something without being nasty or ugly or hurtful. If someone is hurtful, you don’t have to sink to that level. If someone is bullying, you don’t have to become a bully to fight against it. Don’t talk about others. Talk about ideas. Talk from a place of love and understanding. Use your powers for good. It will help to keep the chaos at bay. It will simplify your life. It will keep you from being the victim and will add to the strength you already have.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
― Hunter S. Thompson,
Adventure can be found right where you are. I watch the grandchildren and everything, including a leaf, or jumping off a step stool, holds adventure for them. There’s a lesson in it. We get so caught up in our daily lives with the business of living; paying bills, making money, doing chores, we don’t stop and look and experience things in a pure way. We’ve forgotten how. But, it’s still in us. Those feelings of awe and inspiration and wonder. So go on an adventure, even if you can’t leave your house right now. Make a game of it, tackle a task as if you’re on safari, narrate doing the dishes. All of this beautiful life we’re living is an adventure. It’s incredible. Say yes to life, even if you’re unsure. Grab it. Be bold. Be brave. Be adventurous.
“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.
From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.
We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.”
To be humble, to know you don’t know everything, allows you to be more relaxed with others. It leaves you open to new and different ideas. It broadens what you could experience, it creates a space to let others in. If we think we know it already, there’s no room for anyone else. If we are continually certain of everything, there’s no space for beautiful surprises and mistakes. Being humble in our opinions and in our lives creates a place that says we are all in it together. Absolute certainty, being right, is the bane of relationships. Connections get severed because of it. There’s always more than one way to look at something. There’s always room for another idea, another thought on the subject, another viewpoint. If there’s one thing in life I try to remind myself of its that I don’t know everything, I haven’t experienced what others have experienced, and my thoughts and ideas and opinions are no better than anyone else’s.
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
You can look at everything in life as something to battle, to conquer, and to fight, or you can look at everything from a place of love, understanding, and togetherness. Either perspective colors your world, informing how you live your everyday, and how you see things. The choice is always yours. If things have been done to you, you can turn around and project that nastiness out onto others, becoming the very thing you despise, or you can be the better human, rise above, and transform that ugliness to something wonderful. The world is full of bullies who use as an excuse the fact that they themselves have been bullied. Do better. Perpetuate good, light, and hope instead of fear, anger, and hurt.
You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.
After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.
That’s what I believe.