I'm exhilarated at the possibilities of freedom these days. The boys are launched, or launching, and I have so much more quiet time than in the past. It's a fertile empty space, waiting to be filled up in a way not available for twenty years. The changes are small for now. Today I'm noticing that I watch a lot more news and PBS (and PBS news) and listen to the Minnesota Public Radio news channel far more than I could get away with before.
Today I heard a recording by an artist I love, who I haven't listened to in years. Long-dormant ideas about what I'd like my life to be like are emerging. New channels are opening.
We're post-election, and the sudden absence of Vital! Daily! News! about! the! Campaign!, and the beginning of the Obama transition, add to this feeling of expectancy and waiting. Calm stories about puppies and presidential visits fill the news. This Monday the Viking win was the lead story at the Star Trib. After all those angsty days, it's nice to take a breath. Yes, we still have a national economic meltdown. Yes, I'm still in my own personal economic meltdown. But it's nice to take a break once in a while. Our worries and hand-wringing don't change anything.
It is a cloudy November morning. The light filtered through the clouds is calm. My silent house is calm. Now it's off to work, re-entering the world, and so the moment passes.
* * *
It must be hard to write a calm book. I can't think of many. One writes, after all, to share one's passion. So let's go with "grounded," a deeper calm in the author's voice.
Goldberg, Natalie. Long Quiet Highway; Waking Up in America.
The story of Goldberg's spiritual and intellectual development as she studies Zen Buddhism and begins to write. A book I have loved and returned to many times over the years since it came out.
Tarrant, John. The Light Inside the Dark; Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life.
Tarrant is a Zen teacher and a Jungian therapist. Now you're talkin' my language. Grounded times two. A challenging read, this book will support the reader through dark times and point him toward deep joy in the dailiness of life. Not sappy or easy-cheesy.
Lightman, Alan. Einstein's Dreams.
Lightman starts with a brief imagined excursion into the mind of Einstein, tired after another exhausting night of dreams about time. He then unfolds chapter after chapter of intellectually and metaphysically challenging vignettes, playing with time in "Einstein's dreams." One reviewer wrote "It passes some of the tests of classic work: it provokes immediate rereading and a description of it cannot replace the experience of reading it. It's tantalizingly short but lives long in the memory."
Hass, Robert, and Stephen Mitchell. Into the Garden; A Wedding Anthology; Poetry and prose on Love and Marriage.
This collection draws from Native American, old Chinese, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Sufi, and Zen sources, as well as traditional European love poetry and contemporary poets and essayists. It entirely avoids the sappy, presenting words of deep love, exhilaration, and thoughts of a long future for better or worse. It is a reminder of the joy of love, while remaining deeply grounded in the realities of everyday life.
These books, with a little more action, also come to mind:
Strength to Your Sword Arm
If You Want to Write
I'm in love with Lorna Landvik, who writes sweet, funny books filled with the unexpected losses and hard-fought victories of very real lives. She really "gets it." Three of my favorites:
Patty Jane's House of Curl
Tall Pine Polka
Oh My Stars