What I’ve been up to [May]

Reading




A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle–I’ve been working my way through this book for a few months now. L’Engle writes meditatively and beautifully about life and art and faith. It’s a bit all over the place, as her non fiction works tend to be, so it’s hard to describe–but I do know that this book gave me hope. She has a great deal of faith that the best way to live is to do our best, to live well in the small things we’re given, and to search out beauty and quiet and love. I need those reminders.

Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber–A fascinating nonfiction look at women’s work in the ancient Mediterranean world, specifically weaving, which made up a huge chunk of that work. Barber looked at various bits of evidence to draw a picture of how weaving worked and developed over time. It was a great reminder that so much that we take for granted now used to take mind-blowing amounts of work.

The Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie–One of the Sydney Chambers mystery books. I love these books, because they’re as much about Sydney’s life as a pastor, husband, father, and friend as they are about the mysteries he solves (each book contains six short stories/mysteries). We get to see each step of working through the mystery but also Sydney’s struggles to not be overwhelmed by everything else going on in his life. They’re relaxing, even soothing, because Sydney is really wonderful to read about and I love how much they’re about everyday life.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix–OH. MY. GOODNESS. What a wonderful addition to the Sabriel series!! We finally get to return to the stories of Lirael, Nicholas, and Sameth. It was beyond satisfying to see their stories tied up a bit more (and tangled a bit more), and the characters are all real-feeling and funny, and I got so invested! (I yelled at the characters a lot, but to be fair they’re pretty sensible characters and mostly don’t need it. I just get invested!) It was so easy to slip back into this world, but also great to see entirely new parts of it and meet new characters. Seriously, read the whole series (but in order!).

A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean–I couldn’t resist when I saw that this was a Jane Austen-style mystery–and it was as good as it sounds. Dean did a wonderful job of capturing that Austen style of speech and description, and in true Austen fashion the characters and relationships took up as much, if not more, page time and thought as did the mystery. Dido Kent, the main character, was fun and spunky but also felt period appropriate in her beliefs and actions (other than maybe solving mysteries in the first place?). So much fun!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson–This was another fascinating book. Robinson imagines a world a few hundred years in the future when humanity has spread through most of the solar system and is in various stages of terraforming and colonizing planets, moons, and asteroids. He imagines all this in ways I’ve never seen done before, though: people get around the solar system by hitching rides on terraformed asteroids, for instance, that are full of various combinations of earth biomes, animals, and plants. Humans have undergone various genetic and physical changes as they’ve adapted to space and adapted themselves to increase life spans. Earth has accumulated problems and poverty as the rest of humanity has escaped to the rest of the solar system. He has a very good grasp of science that makes the future he imagines seem plausible, and a beautiful, wonderful writing style. It was a brick of a book, though, with a slow, sloooow plot that took frequent detours. It worked, really, for the book as a whole, but I did lose interest in the middle and pause in my reading for a few weeks. I was glad I picked it back up and finished it, even if the ending was a bit of a let-down after all of the build-up of the mystery (the solution was unexpectedly normal). But still, it was beautiful and fascinating and different from any other sci fi I’ve read.

Watching

Not too much (yes!). I’ve been working my way through Arrow, and rewatching bits of Grey’s Anatomy and Leverage. But nothing’s been blowing me away this month.

Listening

To podcasts, of course! I’m trying not to add any new podcasts, since my playlist is a bit overwhelming right now. But I’ve been especially enjoying BBC’s Newshour, which covers worldwide news. I’ve been going through some interesting-sounding old On Being episodes too, and they have had some amazing guests. Parker Palmer has been on there so many times! 

Music-wise… Maddie & Tae and Priscilla Ahn are two of my favorite modern artists that I’ve been rediscovering. Favorite songs: Maddie & Tae’s “Girl in a Country Song” and “Fly”, (but also “Shut up and Fish”) and Priscilla Ahn’s “A Good Day (Morning Song)” and “Dream”.

Doing

The weather here has been really wonderful, with nice temperatures and a mix of rain and sun. I’ve enjoyed getting to live with the windows open and walking everywhere possible.


Look who I found on my walk to the library!

Walking almost everywhere means I get to laugh at our local Canada geese and their attitude–especially because they left me alone!



Basically, I will never tire of finding flowers in unexpected places.



My best friend in town finished her thesis this month, and so we went out to celebrate together (a few times, really). But there are just so many interesting restaurants to check out! I got a German chocolate donut covered in chocolate chips, whipped cream, chocolate mouse, and drizzled chocolate, for instance. Hers had vanilla Oreos and raspberries.

And, of course, I’ve been spending lots of time in my local library, researching sermons and writing and just having a quiet place to work and be.



Writing

I had a devotion published in the Upper Room about God as a mother, and then wrote a blog post for them about my own mother.

If you’re curious about the idea of God as a mother, check out my blog post exploring the idea a bit more. I also wrote about craving quiet and the joys of reading again.


 

As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Go and check out what other people did this May!

On Reading Again

Reading has been hard over the last few months. I love reading, and I missed it, but I just couldn’t find a book that either sounded interesting or kept me interested. 

The amount of TV I’ve been watching didn’t help. For me, watching TV and reading a book are two entirely different experience: a book invites you in, to imagination and experiences and emotions. TV is, for the most part, a much more passive experience: there is nothing to imagine, no connections to make. There is only what is, playing out on the screen in front of you. And I know that’s not entirely fair: TV invites us into fully imagined worlds and visceral experiences that aren’t possible in books. But I find books far more participatory and inspiring.

Over the past few weeks, I have finally begun to read again. On a day when I was being kind to myself, I went to a public library and checked out a few books that sounded interesting. I did the same a few days ago, leaving with an impossibly large stack of books. There’s no way I’ll read them all before they’re due. But I had a few books in mind, and I had a lovely conversation with two librarians who recommended several more. It all made me feel generous. I may as well! And then I went home and read until midnight because one book was just so incredibly wonderful. I could have put it down, but I didn’t have any plans for the night, and it was such a fun book: I did a lot of laughing, and a lot of moaning and whisper-screaming at the characters. I still haven’t returned it; I finished it, but I enjoyed it so much that I don’t quite want to let it go just yet. 

Trying new books has felt too risky. I’m giving up time and emotions to something that might be awful. It might have a message that I hate. It might be just mediocre. 

But right now that risk feels OK. 

Reflections on Reading, Lately

I used to be an absolutely voracious reader–in some ways I still am, when I give myself the chance, but I often don’t. Readings for school are overwhelming and draining, and sometimes take away all desire to read anything. Reading gives me ideas for my own writing, in a bad, all-consuming kind of way; reading changes my whole writing style if I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in the writing and style and world.

And that is my favorite way to read. I want to enter into another world, totally and completely. I want to enter into a world that inspires, that forces me to think and ponder and look for God in unexpected places. And in some ways that’s the root of why I haven’t read much lately: I have high expectations, and I’m afraid that those expectations won’t be met when I pick up a book I’ve never read before. I don’t want to waste my time on something that isn’t good.

I’m not entirely sure when the shift happened, when I realized that this was an utterly asinine reason to stop reading. But I’ve been reading, these past three weeks, and it’s been beautiful.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis This has always been one of my favorite Narnia novels–it’s just so clearly applicable to real life, day-in and day-out, unlike some of the more epic, battle-filled novels. I read this all in one day when I went home, where I have my nice copy of Narnia, which includes all the original illustrations. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve allowed myself to sink into a novel, utterly be absorbed by what’s happening and the world that’s being painted.

The Girl on the Road by Monica Byrne I picked this out of the library, based on the fact that it was a sci-fi book written by a woman and set in Africa. It’s intriguing: it’s set in the near-future, when the center of culture has moved to Africa and Asia and global warming is an acknowledged fact. The world-building is amazing. I still haven’t finished it; rather, I’ve been slowly savoring (by which I mean reading before I go to bed, forcing myself to put it down when I’ve read an hour longer than I meant to).

The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor Yes, it’s about preaching, but it’s also about the Christian life, and it’s beautifully written. Taylor writes vividly, full of Christian hope and joy but also achingly ????. I finished the first half, various essays on her own Christian life, all in one sitting, when I walked to the park last weekend. It was like drinking when I was dying of thirst; even when I felt full of insights and emotions and words, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve been using the second half, a collection of sermons, as part of my devotional practice this week.

Nameless book I read most of it while I was home and of course didn’t take note of the title, because I had no intention of writing this post at the time. It was a collection of short essays about established writers’ first experience of reading–not necessarily reading individual words so much as their first realization that reading is magical, reading is something that can show you whole new worlds. It was a great one to read as I was getting back into reading myself.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver It’s heartbreaking and beautifully written and I’ve been reading it every chance I get.