“That’s what it feels like when I write, like I have this beautiful world in my head, but when I try to remember it in order to write it down, I change it, and I can’t ever get it back.”
— from Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being”
Try this test: Can you read the following?
H0W 0UR M1ND5
17 WA5 H4RD
N0W, 0N 7H15
How’d you do? Isn’t it amazing how powerful the human brain is?
Here’s a link to the latest “One for the Books” column on Moms’ Own Stories.
Found on Facebook:
Happy first day of spring!
To search for God with logical proof
is like searching for the sun with a lamp.
— Sufi proverb
Here’s some pretty wallpaper for your computer.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
On her Facebook page, Dani Smith wrote an inspirational message:
Decide what to be and go be it.
OK. Here’s the thing. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be about 74 different things, and that was OK with everybody. But when I said I wanted to be a writer, the adults were all over me: “Oh, you can’t do that.” “Nobody’s really a writer.” “Writers don’t make any money.” “Girls aren’t writers. Girls are mommies.” “What do you know that you could possibly write about?” “Oh, honey, Marilyn’s good enough to be a writer, but I don’t know about you.” “A writer? What do you want to do that for? No, you should be a teacher.” I didn’t want to be a teacher. Damn adults. But being a writer, like being an actor, is one of the only jobs where you can pretend to be the person who does the 74 different things. You can jump out of planes without jumping out of planes. You can navigate the Seven Seas without getting wet. And you can get revenge on the adults.
MORE: Dani very nicely provided the link to the clever video of the Avett Brothers’ song, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” Thanks, Dani!
“The woods would be silent if only the best birds sang.”
— Amish proverb
From The Guardian: Beth Reekles offers top tips for teen writers
World Book Night is April 23, 2013. Apply by Jan. 25 to be a book giver!
You can select from these books to hand out:
Here’s to a great new year of reading!
From Flavorwire: 10 of literature’s greatest comeback books
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
—What Julian of Norwich claimed was said to her by God Himself
“Bless these dead, our former enemies, who have played out their part, hurled against us by the forces that hurled us against them. Bless us who live, whose parts are not yet done, and who know not how they shall be played. Forgive us if we killed in anger or hatred. Forgive them if they did the same. Judgment is Yours, not ours. We are only human.”
From Brain Pickings:
“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”
— Carl Sagan
Five Rules to Remember in Life
1. Forgive your enemy but remember the bastard’s name.
2. Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle.
3. Help someone when they are in trouble and they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.
4. Many people are alive today only because it’s illegal to shoot them.
5. Alcohol does not solve any problems. But then again, neither does milk.
These should assist you with most daily decision choices.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.
The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.
The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
“Sometimes it takes bravery. Sometimes it takes going against the tide. But kindness is never, ever the wrong choice.”
— “Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories” ed. by Megan Kelley Hall & Carrie Jones
From Will Schwalbe at The New York Times:
When my mother was dying of pancreatic cancer, I would often go with her to chemo, and we would usually talk about books. Discussing what we were reading was something we had done all our lives. But it wasn’t until one day during her second month of treatment that we realized that we had created a very peculiar book club: one with only two members.
That November day, when I arrived at the outpatient care center, Mom was already there waiting. (She was always a big believer that if you aren’t 10 minutes early, you’re late.) Mom was barely 5-foot-4 — with gray hair (not yet thinning from the chemo) that she never colored. She liked the gray and also felt it made her less threatening in her travels to the world’s most dangerous places as an advocate for refugees.
I sat in the chair next to her and asked how she was feeling. “A little uncomfortable,” she said. “But I’m not in pain.” After a while, I asked what she was reading. Her answer: a Wallace Stegner novel about the lifelong friendship of two couples, “Crossing to Safety.” It was a book that I’d always pretended to have read, but never actually had. That day, I promised her I’d read it.
From then on, until my mother died almost two years later, at age 75, we read dozens of books of all different kinds: classic novels and modern ones, mysteries, biographies, short-story collections, self-help books, histories. (Mom was thrifty; whatever book someone gave her, she would read.) We didn’t meet over meals, like so many book clubs, or a set number of times. But we were forced to keep coming back to that waiting room as Mom’s health got worse and worse. And we talked about books just as often as we talked about anything.
My mother was a fast reader, and a slightly odd one. Ever since she was a girl, she had read the end of a book first because she couldn’t wait to learn how things turned out. I realized, when I started writing a book about our book club, that, in a way, she’d already read the end of it — when you have pancreatic cancer that’s been diagnosed after it has spread, you can be fairly certain of what fate has in store.
Sometimes, Mom wanted to talk very specifically about her own death — including what color ink we should use when answering people who wrote condolence notes (blue, not black, which is too depressing). Sometimes, she wanted to talk about anything but. Books gave us a way to talk about death that allowed her to choose how personal or abstract she wanted the conversations to be.
One of the books that meant the most to her was Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead.” The main character, a 75-year-old minister, knows he is dying, and the novel is in the form of a remembrance for his son. In the character of this pastor, Mom had a model of a person whose faith helps him accept death. The book also gave her a bit of an opening to try to persuade me, ever so gently, to give church another try. It had always given her such solace that she wanted the same for me.
In true book-club fashion, our conversations about books led to conversations about our lives and life in general.
My mother, Mary Anne Schwalbe, had been an educator who had worked in college admissions and in high schools before devoting herself in her mid-50s to the cause of refugees — as founding director of an organization that is today known as the Women’s Refugee Commission. Before she died, she wanted to do one more big thing: help raise money for a national library and cultural center at Kabul University, and for traveling libraries to reach remote villages throughout Afghanistan, a country she had repeatedly visited, and loved. (Today, the main library building is almost finished and there are nearly 200 libraries across all 34 provinces.)
So “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” by Khaled Hosseini, gave us a reason to talk about literacy in Afghanistan. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” opened a conversation about violence against women.
The book that got our club started, Stegner’s “Crossing to Safety,” prompted one of our most important discussions. When Mom said that she was pretty sure that the husband of a character who was dying of cancer would be O.K. after her death, she wasn’t just talking about that character’s husband — she was, I suspected, talking about my dad as well.
The book club also offered us a chance to travel far beyond the walls of the outpatient care center, even as Mom was stuck there for hours at a time. When we got absorbed by novels like “Man Gone Down,” by Michael Thomas, or “The Price of Salt,” by Patricia Highsmith, or even stories by P. G. Wodehouse, we discovered that while we were reading, we weren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and son sharing a journey together.
I privately dubbed our club “The End of Your Life Book Club,” not to remind myself that Mom was dying, but so I would remember that we all are — that you never know what book or conversation will be your last.
My sister and brother also took turns accompanying Mom to her various medical appointments and treatments. We all learned a huge amount from our mother. Some of the lessons I’ll be thinking about today are these: make your bed every day, even if you don’t feel like it; keep spare gifts in a “present drawer” so you’ll always have something on hand; write thank you notes within hours of receiving gifts; use shelf liner.
But this Mother’s Day, I’ll be thinking mostly of this: We all have a lot more to read than we can read and a lot more to do than we can do. But reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. I will never be able to read my mother’s favorite books without thinking of her — and when I pass them on or recommend them, I’ll know that some of what made her the person she was goes with them.
Which leads me to a suggestion: If you’re tempted to get a book for your mother today, why not buy or borrow a copy for yourself at the same time? That way, you can share the experience of reading it together. For me, there was no greater gift.
Schwalbe is a book editor, the founder of the recipe site Cookstr, and the author of the forthcoming memoir “The End of Your Life Book Club.” It comes out in October.
this insubstantial tissue of vanity,
floats like a cloud on the wind.”
— from “The Red Chamber” by Pauline A. Chen
From Tor.com: Images of books and readers — These are marvelous!
“It is love. It has five senses, seven sounds, nine skins, eleven illusions. It is soft. It is a flower that grows in the deepest oceans. It is a flickering candle, a sign in the snow, a beautiful country, desert ash. It is a call and a curse and a long-drawn-out incantation to be chanted in the evening. It is a photograph, a lament, a chronicle, a painting. It is in Pandora’s box, in a sunlit park, in the Crow Tree. It is elation, confusion, loneliness, loss, dream. It is love. It is that most beautiful of all birds.”
— The Storyteller of Marrakesh by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
In case you’ve missed it, here’s a link to the PBS Mr. Rogers remix. It’s just awesome!
From National Catholic Reporter: A look at three books on “finding feminine connections to God in history, psychology, poetry”
Happy birthday, America!