I fell down a Sylvia Plath rabbit hole. This article from Lit Hub was in my Inbox and it lead me to a book about the marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. I am not super sure I really want to read a book about Ted Hughes to be honest, so I’m not sure how far I will get with this book. But I really liked Diane Middlebrook‘s biography of Anne Sexton so I’ll give it a shot.
I have to admit that I am not especially fond of Plath’s poetry. And I’ve never really read Hughes’s poetry. I’m sure this book will push me to read more of Hughes (in fact this morning I read sought out and read “Last Letter.”). As for Sylvia Plath, after reading the Lit Hub article I wonder if my view of Plath is clouded by Hughes’s careful post-humus curation of her work. The one biography I have read of her was Bitter Fame, which was kind of written more in favor of Hughes. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I seem to recall her being portrayed as a the “crazy woman.” Which really sucks, honestly. So I think I will give Plath another try with a fresh perspective. I’d like to read the second version of her unabridged diary next.
“I often think that Neoliberalism is what lovelessness looks like as policy. … it looks like water pipes leaking lead in Flint. It looks like foreclosed mortgages on homes that were built to collapse. … It looks like trashing the beauty of the planet as if it had no value at all. It is, much like Trump himself, greed and carelessness incarnate.”
– Naomi Klein, No Is Not Enough.
I finished reading “No Is Not Enough” by Naomi Klein. Very highly recommended. In fact, I would say it’s a must read, especially if you are bewildered by current events. She does a good job of giving historical context for our current situation and what exactly got us here. It is a major wake up call. It is not an easy read, but a necessary one.
I mentioned last week that I was decluttering my house as per the instructions in The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. Having moved on from clothes I decided to tackle my books. This wasn’t quite as hard as I imagined because I honestly don’t have a lot of books.
Books are the one thing that I pretty regularly get rid of. Still, I pulled all of my books off of the shelf and piled them in the middle of my floor. Then I picked up each one and asked, “Does this spark joy?” I was surprised with the answers that sprang into my head. I ended up getting rid of quite a few and now I am down to three shelves of books. This is kind of insane. 3 shelves. That’s it. And hopefully (if I don’t add to it) this number will dwindle as I read and get rid of some of the ones that I kept.
Most of the books that I own are reference and nonfiction books that I feel I will use again and again. Every once in awhile I will purchase fiction if it is something that I can’t find in the library.
It’s interesting to see what is left on the shelf after going through this selection process. The books that are on my shelf are books that give me joy – so maybe these are the things I should really focus on in my life? I kept books that contained short fiction, short stories, flash fiction, etc. Lots of books of poetry and how to write poetry. I kept all of my books about photography. I kept all of my books about Buddhism, but plan to get rid of them as I read through them. I got rid of a ton of knitting books. I kept the few that I return to over and over again for patterns.
Now it is time to move on to papers. To prepare for this I bought a shredder.
I plan to get rid of every scrap of paper in my house with the exception of those things that I need to attend to. Honestly, there is no reason in this day and age to keep things like bank and credit card statements (and i am wondering if there really every was a reason to keep this stuff). I spent all day Sunday shredding and filled up two garbage bags worth of papers. As I was tackling this task I found shoe boxes stuffed with records from years past. The one I happened to pull off the shelf was from 2006! Why the f#$k am I keeping this stuff?!?
It’s interesting what this process is doing to me. I already feel lighter. And I am noticing this tendency I have to use shopping as a way to fill the void. I find that I buy stuff and it makes me happy momentarily but then whatever I buy ends up being just another thing in my house. I want to change that. I want to be surrounding by things that truly make me happy.
“Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
This day 6 years ago I faced the scariest, most heart-breaking thing I have ever experienced in my life. I sat at the bedside of my step-father as he died. It was frightening to watch him leave us forever. It was frightening to be face to face with death in such a way. But on the other hand, it was also the most profound and life changing moment of my life, too. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
While the time between grief stretches out a bit longer these days, it still hurts when I think about it.
I don’t ever want it to ever stop hurting.
A few weeks ago I was in the middle of a children’s craft program. We were making mini collages on magnets and I was thumbing through a stack of old magazines to find stuff for my collage. I happened on the book review page for People Magazine from last year and a book cover caught my eye and I thought I would cut it out for my collage. Something also told me to read the review and I did. I immediately knew I needed to read this book. That very moment I searched our library’s catalog for it and downloaded the audio version of the book. It was serendipity.*
This is the story of Nao, a 16 year old living in Toyko, and Ruth, a middle-aged writer living in British Columbia. Their stories are separated by the Pacific Ocean and time.
Ruth finds Nao’s journal when it washes up on the beach near her home. She begins reading it and is quickly drawn into her life as she tells the story of her Great Grandmother (who is a Buddhist Nun), her father (a failed dot com bussinessman), and her great-uncle (a Kamikaze pilot who died in WWII). Nao also tells her story, which is sad but also, sometimes, full of hope as she finds her “superpowa” through zazen meditation. Ruth and Nao are drawn together, despite the limitations of time and space. They develop a relationship and grow to care for one another. Nao is writing the journal to someone, she doesn’t know who it is, but in her writing of it she finds solace. Ruth wonders what happened to Nao, she grows to care about her well being.
I can’t begin to express how much I loved this book. I love how it came into my life – being a zen Buddhist myself. Reading it has made me think a lot about my own practice. I loved the storytelling. I love the study of space and time and the relationships that develop despite this apparent divide. This book gave me lots of food for thought. I’m sure I will be thinking about it for a long time.
*Another bit of serendipity noted: as I was searching for the cover art on Amazon I saw that the book was released on March 11th 2013 (my birthday!)