The power of gentleness

Flowers holding up posts

I took this photo at a remote Inn near Abiquiu because I loved the rich golden hues of the peeled cottonwood posts in the saturated New Mexican sunshine.

But then the flowers drew my attention. Appearing fragile, they stretch out, holding the posts apart.

I am reminded that life, in its very gentleness, can be intensely powerful.

What happens every day is what’s surprising.
The treasure’s never where I look to find it, but where I simply look–the sky, the wind, a sunrise,
a silver arc, the moment’s chance.

~Ursula le Guin~

Book review: Elliot Ackerman, WAITING FOR EDEN

Book cover: WAITING FOR EDEN

It is a short book, 173 smallish pages. And it is “serious” literary fiction. Why on earth would I pick up such a book, promising to be a hard read? Don’t know. But I did. And luckily I started it early in the evening, because I couldn’t put it down.

WAITING FOR EDEN, a finalist for the National Book Award, tells the story of Eden, a badly burned veteran who is not expected to live. It is also the story of his best friend, now a ghost, who waits to escort Eden to the Other Side, and the woman that they both loved.

How do you communicate when you can’t talk and can’t see? Eden finds a way, and it profoundly changes the lives of those around him, including his wife and the medic in the ICU ward. I found the tale to be raw and emotional, not sad but rather an uplifting tribute to the human spirit and the will to survive, whatever the cost.

From the nurse who cared for him on the night shift: “In his body she felt many things at once. Frozen soil. The bark of a tree. Baked sand. A handful of gravel. Glass, both shattered and whole. His textures were a mosaic of many, trapped in the inches of skin…In the space between them there was only her whispering:’If you want to go, go. But if you want to stay, sleep.'”

I felt replete when I finished reading this novel. I hope you will be, too.

Book review: Seeking Enlightenment, Hat by Hat by Nevada Barr

Seeking enlightenment by Nevada Barr

Book Review: Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat by Nevada Barr

Because I like both mysteries and nature writing, I’ve always been drawn to the books by Nevada Barr. Her work features strong women who go against the odds, and win. Her heroine, Anna Pidgeon, a park ranger, has been trapped in a desert sinkhole, underwater in the Dry Tortugas, and on an island in the middle of Lake Superior hunted by winter wolves.  Her novels are not for the faint of heart.

So, when I encountered her book of essays entitled Seeking Enlightenment, I expected an unblinking journey through thoughtful questions demanding exact answers. I wasn’t disappointed. Although sometimes I found the author raised more questions in the process.

Here you can find her thoughts on Vanity: “The rewards for being pretty are enormous. Pretty people earn more, have more friends, get called on more often in class and, yes even get better grades.” And what happens to the rest of us? Ah, there lies the reward of her essay.

Or what three things never fail a girl? For Barr these are old Levi jackets, flip-flops, and girlfriends. And she proceeds to tell you why.

In an essay on fear, the author starts out by saying, “Fear is my least-favorite emotion, worse even than despair. At least, when in despair I can watch old black-and-white movies and each chocolate. Fear renders me unable to taste, swallow, focus or sleep. Fear jangles through the cells of my body like a cold electrical current short-circuiting the natural flow of life.”  Read on, as she explains what caused her fear, and how she has learned to live with it.

The essay topics occasionally center on spirituality, but often veer wide into topics such as do animals have souls, pain, and taking a sh*t. I think you’ll like it!

Highly recommended.