Four New Books for September

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I’ve been catching up on reading the past few weeks while getting over Covid. If you are a friend on Goodreads, you can see that I’m on target to complete my reading goal for the year, which brings this bookworm a whole lot of joy. I’m also reading way too many books at a time, but that is my style. A few years ago, I took a quiz on reading styles and my results were that I was a promiscuous reader. I’d rather say I’m an unrestricted reader. I can do whatever I want in my reading life, so I do!

Since I had several e-galleys that were waiting to be read and reviewed on NetGalley, Goodreads, and Amazon, I got comfortable with my Kindle, cups of tea, piles of blankets, and read through a virtual stack of books. And these are four that are worth telling you about, so here they are:

Daily Creative: A Practical Guide for Staying Prolific, Brilliant, and Healthy is a reader with an entry for every day of the year. Each entry begins with a short passage sure to inspire and encourage, and ends with a question for clarity, focus, reflection, and as a source of intention setting and challenge. Stephen Covey wrote about “sharpening the saw” as one of his highly effective habits, and starting each day with this book would be an easy way to practice this habit. Daily Creative would make a wonderful gift for entrepreneurs, artists of all kinds, and small business owners.

At the Breakfast Table by Defne Suman evokes the sparkling, bright Turkish sunshine, the fragrance of coffee, fruit, and fresh bread, and mesmerizes with the fascinating and complicated characters who make up this story.
Nur, Fikret, and Celine come to Shirin’s house to celebrate her 100th birthday. She is Nur and Fikret’s grandmother, and Celine’s great-grandmother, as well as a famous artist. There is also Burak, Nur’s on-again off-again lover and friend, and Shirin’s faithful servant, Sadik.

This begins an unboxing of personal and family secrets Shirin has kept close for years, told mostly through painting on her dining room wall.
A beautiful novel; one that will be lovely to read during cold winter months. Highly recommended!

Mark Nepo’s books are sensitive, poetic, deeply thought-provoking, gentle, and spiritually-accessible. Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength the Face Adversity was written for us who are weary and wary in the chaotic twenty-first century world we find ourselves in.

Meant to give us hope, direction, and a place to put our grief and sense of unease, this book provides us with tools for “heartwork” as Nepo calls it. “We need to deepen our roots and solidify our connection to Spirit and all life” he says, so that we can be strong and resilient enough to survive whatever comes our way.

He ends each chapter with a journaling exercise or question and a suggestion for a conversation to have with a friend or family member. I highly recommend this book to those who are spiritual seekers, those in need of comfort and solace, and those who enjoy reflective, self-help books.

The Rising Tide, the tenth Vera Stanhope mystery is just as satisfying as all the previous ones. The murder takes place on Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, off the coast of Northumberland. A group of friends, who have been gathering every five years for 50 years, meet in a house on the island and one of them is dead before morning.
The theme is very much connected to the tides, which cut off the causeway to the island when they come in and allow access to the island as they go out. The timing of the murder is connected to the tide, of course, as well as to a murder that occurred there 50 years ago.
Vera and her team do the thorough police questioning and investigation and close in on the killer who is not above killing again to save themself from being found out. Can Vera get to the murderer in time before they strike again?
The ending is very abrupt and a bit of a shock. Which means there must be an eleventh novel in the works. The Rising Tide is highly recommended for all mystery, British mystery, and Vera fans (of the books or tv series).

If you read any of these, be sure to let me know what you thought in comments!

*Thanks to NetGalley for the free e-galleys in exchange for honest reviews.

What I’m Reading in July

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It’s good to be back in this space. I’ve missed it. My soul missed it–this safe little corner where I share what I feel is good and lovely and worthwhile in my life, and particularly, the poetry and prose I’m reading.

So why the long hiatus? Well, sadly, we’ve had a death in our family. My kids’ father passed away in June, following a motorcycle accident and an extended stay in ICU. Even though we were no longer “together”, we were still co-parents and friends, and this feels very hard. The kids miss him terribly. His family and friends miss him. And I miss him. We each experience grief uniquely, while sharing in the sorrow together. Our friends’ love and support refreshes and strengthens us when we are weary.

And as unbelievable as it all feels right now, the sun continues to rise and set each day. We still need to eat, rest, work, and take care of our responsibilities. We still have our gardens, our daily joys and challenges, and yes, we have our books. In the past poetry has been a source of healing, speaking light to the darkness and peace to the parts of myself and my story I have yet to understand.

Two books of poetry I am drinking in this month:

Inward by Yung Pueblo. Each page is a poem in the form of a self-help message, note of encouragement, or a wise saying. Here’s an excerpt:

don't run away
from heavy emotions

honor the anger;
give pain the space
it needs to breathe

this is how we let go

Rhythms and Roads by Victoria Erickson is an introspective collection of thoughtful, sensitive verses that soothes, gently prods towards healing, and encourages each of us to be ourselves. Here is an example:

There will come a time
when you'll meet acceptance.
Your shoulders will soften,
the sky will stretch on,
and the night will hold a pulse
both electric and warm.
And the moon will feel familiar.

So check out these two collections of poetry if you haven’t already. The words and messages within feel loving, comforting and kind, and our world needs more of these right now.

As always, I would love to know what you’re reading this July. Please share in the comments below.

Evening Poetry, July 14

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From Rhythms and Roads by Victoria Erickson

You'll know when it's time to heal.
And you will always travel inwardly,
among your deep grooves and rivers,
returning with full hands,
ready to release light
into your external aching world.

Evening Poetry, April 5

Guest List
by Annie Lighthart

Only once, one afternoon, almost asleep on the couch,
could I come up with the perfect guests for an
imaginary dinner party--a mix of the living and dead,
the deep and the shy artfully combined with the
swashbuckling talkers. It was such a list: everyone
would say yes, and we'd sit in pairs maybe, or close
little bunches, or maybe all together at the table
while the candles burned low. Later, with a few
out on the front step, what with our immediate kinship,
the wine and warm night, I could ask them anything,
anything--historical, personal--and thus find out about life
and time. Our goodbyes would be fond and long.

But just now: no one. I can't think of a soul I'd like over,
not one for whom I'd vacuum or shove laundry
in the shower, not one for whom I'd balance fine cheese
on ridiculously small morsels of bread.

Except you, person I just saw crossing the street,
you who stopped to move a slug off the sidewalk
with a little piece of paper you took from your coat.
You, I would clean for. You, I would like to meet.

You can find this poem in Pax.

Evening Poetry, April 1

Sutra 26 from The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder & Delight
by Lorin Roche

The One Who Is at Play Everywhere says,

There is a space in the heart where everything meets.
Come here if you want to find me.
Mind, senses, soul, eternity – all are here.
Are you here?

Enter the bowl of vastness that is the heart.
Listen to the song that is always resonating.
Give yourself to it with total abandon.
Quiet ecstasy is here,
And a steady, regal sense
Of resting in a perfect spot.
You who are the embodiment of blessing,
Once you know the way,
The nature of attention will call you to return.
Again and Again, answer that call,
And be saturated with knowing,
“I belong here, I am at home.”

Evening Poetry, March 31

Spring
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, March 30

I No Longer Pray For Peace
by Amy Weems

On the edge of war, one foot already in,

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

I pray that stone hearts will turn
to tenderheartedness,
and evil intentions will turn
to mercifulness,
and all the soldiers already deployed
will be snatched out of harm’s way,
and the whole world will be
astounded onto its knees.

I pray that all the “God talk”
will take bones,
and stand up and shed
its cloak of faithlessness,
and walk again in its powerful truth.

I pray that the whole world might
sit down together and share
its bread and its wine.

Some say there is no hope,
but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools
who never seem to give up on
the scandalousness of our faith:
that we are loved by God……
that we can truly love one another.

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

You can find this poem in From Advent's Alleluia to Easter's Morning Light: Poetry for Worship, Study, and Devotion.

Evening Poetry, March 29

Famous

by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,   
which knew it would inherit the earth   
before anybody said so.   

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds   
watching him from the birdhouse.   

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.   

The idea you carry close to your bosom   
is famous to your bosom.   

The boot is famous to the earth,   
more famous than the dress shoe,   
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   

I want to be famous to shuffling men   
who smile while crossing streets,   
sticky children in grocery lines,   
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   
but because it never forgot what it could do.

You can find this poem in Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, March 28

Letters to My Husband Far Away
by Gillian Wegener

The house is not empty without you.
It thrums and bumps, the walls relax and sigh.
The water heater dutifully comes on, rumbles
with heat, waiting for your shower to start.
How many times today have I heard
your truck in the driveway, the floor creak
with your step, felt your breath against
the back of my neck. At least that often,
I've turned to tell you something,
or hand you a piece of cheese or a plum,
but it's two more days until you return.
It's just me in this room, with this plum,
with this good fortune, with this far-flung love.

You can find this in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection.

Evening Poetry, March 27

Kindness

by Anya Silver

Last week, a nurse pulled a warm blanket
from a magical cave of heated cotton
and lay it on my lap, even wrapping
my feet. She admired my red sandals.
Once, a friend brought me a chicken
she’d roasted and packed with whole lemons.
I ate it with my fingers while it was still warm.
Kindnesses appear, then disappear so quickly
that I forget their brief streaks: they vanish,
while cruelty pearls its durable shell.
Goodness streams like hot water through my hair
and down my skin, and I’m able to live
again with the ache. Love wakens the world.
Kindness is my mother, sending me a yellow dress in the mail
for no reason other than to watch me twirl.

You can find this poem in Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection.