Sunday Morning Reading Round Up

Stayed home from church and with a sick husband sleeping on the couch, I did one of my favorite things: escaped back to bed with a big mug of coffee and a book.  In my younger days, there was nothing more wonderful than a morning spent in bed with coffee and books.  This morning, it was Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, Merryman’s biography of this iconic Pennsylvania painter.  I feel a connection with the Wyeths as I lived in Chester County and frequented the Brandywine River Museum.  This past December, my parents and I headed down and were treated to a tour of the Wyeth gallery with Victoria Wyeth, Andrew’s grand daughter.  She was charming, funny, and incredibly knowledgeable.  I’m enjoying the biography and after reading four of them so far this month, I can say that I prefer the “illustrated” style where pictures are included throughout the text rather than the more typical practice of dumping them together in one central location, like a scrapbook within the textbook.

Now a moment of honesty:  I really struggled with that last sentence as I wonder if a real book reviewer would use the word “enjoy” or worry about how the pictures are handled?  And, why do I care what a real book reviewer would do?  Well, yesterday I made a point of watching a panel on book reviewing that had been conducted during the Virginia Festival of the Book that centered on the business of book reviews.  The main theme was that book reviewing was never a lucrative profession and it was becoming less so with the move towards the Internet, neither of which were a surprise.  What did surprise me and made me nervous about that sentence was their negative reaction towards all the amateur book reviewers out there.  Katherine Weber, in particular, seemed to feel like amateurs were more about commerce than good reviewing.  I’m not completely sure I got her point but decided that I needed to read more “real” book reviews (as opposed to my fellow bibliophiles at LibraryThing) to see if I can determine for myself what makes a worthwhile, non-commercial review.  I’ll spend some time today with the New York Times Review of Books.  Meanwhile, I’m going to plug along with my pedestrian ways.  I have found that knowing that I’m going to be writing about the books makes me read a bit more seriously, something else the reviewers talked about.

Of course, there is the possibility that they simply feel a little threatened by all the book reviewers out there.  They did agree that there were some very well written amateur reviews but that it was often difficult to find them among the growing dross.  I was reminded of the commercial for a job site where the tennis court is overwhelmed by everyone and the professional player was lost amongst the crowd.  But the beauty of book reviews on the Internet is that you are not restricted to the few people that the newspaper or magazine decided was a good reviewer.  It takes longer to explore on your own, but the journey takes you some interesting places and, in the end, you get to choose the people you want to read.

I’ve been reading away…since my last post, I finished Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Zen Effects: The Life of Alan Watts.  I also had several road trips and listened to The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag, an absolutely marvelously presented audio book, written by Alan Bradley and read by Jayne Entwhistle.  I got online this morning to download the other one in the series, The Sweetness At The Bottom of the Pie, and am wondering if I have time to get in a walk before book group.

I’ve completed 18 books so far…right on track for the 75 book challenge!

Rethinking Things

I keep deleting the first sentence of this post because I’m not sure how to begin. This has been an odd sort of week for me. I’ve gotten a lot done in terms of work and research but I’ve done it in this kind of weird, puttering way. I’ll work on something for a few hours, then go out and garden or walk the dogs or play my recorders. And, yesterday was wonderful: I worked in the morning then met my husband at our property and gardened like crazy, then sat and drank wine and watched the creek, the three dogs sprawled around our chairs enjoying a lovely end to a beautiful day.

Taking the afternoon off means I’ll have to do some work today but it doesn’t bother me. Work and play and life in general are woven together in this interesting way for me. I’ll got practice with my recorder group this morning and then have the day at home to continue puttering. I am in the midst of reading three books, so one major goal is to finish at least one of them this weekend. I also want to get caught up on the research work as I’m heading back to my research site next week for some more interviews.

So, how am I rethinking things? Well, for one, I’m thinking a lot about my work. I need to make money, but not all that much, and I have a few billable hours on the calendar with potential for more. But, I also have more free time than I’ve had for a long time and it’s hard to adjust. Like I feel like I’m not working hard enough. There is a balance out there and I think I’m close to finding it. It’s just that I hear from friends that they are swamped with work and it makes me think that I’m not doing enough to get ahead.

I am also really rethinking my relationship with my church. I haven’t been going very much, mostly working behind the scenes instead, and I’m feeling a little disconnected from the community. I’m not ready to break the ties completely but I am finding that I prefer long Sunday mornings at home. The last time I went to church I was somewhat overwhelmed by people telling me all the things that were wrong with the website or other communications stuff. I encouraged them to email me, tried to suggest that I was at church for spiritual rather than secular purposes, and I ended up leaving without actually attending the service because I was just annoyed. I suppose Sunday morning is the perfect time to “do business” but it’s not very spiritual to me. Am I asking too much or is it just a recognition that, to use the minister’s metaphor from Palm Sunday, the boat that is my church has carried me pretty far but it may be time to dock it and move on? I’m not convinced that I need a community in order to be spiritual. Or maybe I just don’t need THIS community to be spiritual. I have to go tomorrow to play music or I would probably stay home.

A little later:  I decided to turn to the tarot cards.  I used to read them pretty regularly but now pull them out when I’ve got some personal dilemma I’m thinking through.  As I shuffled, I thought about my question: mostly it was about trusting myself in my work and my life.  If I just want to withdrawal for awhile, is that OK?  Sit and read a book?  And what about striving for work?  And, finally, what about church?  Do I still need it or want it?

Once I think about my questions, then I just lay out three major aracana cards and I use them as a way to think about my issue.  I pulled The High Priestess (2), The Sun (19) and The Hermit (9).   I always check their meanings at Learn Tarot as I like the way they focus on words and actions.

The High Priestess

  1. Nonaction
  2. Unconscious Awareness
  3. Potential
  4. Mystery

In the description, the writers suggested that the phrase for this might be, “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Be still…there’s something I don’t do very much.  Last night, after the reading and an afternoon of gardening and relaxing, I was still: my husband and I sat on the new butterfly bench I put together, tucked back amongst the wygelia and the azaleas and watched the sun go down.  Aah.

The nonaction piece was important to me, too.  I’ve been so lucky over the past few years to find work when I need it that I haven’t done much selling.  But as the grant money comes to an end, I’m feeling a bit concerned.  For now, though, I’m financially fine so I’m going to back off and just send this wish out to the universe: I would like to be able to teach and work online.

The Sun

  1. Enlightenment
  2. Greatness
  3. Vitality
  4. Assurance

This is a card about light and life, and it’s interesting that it falls between two cards about mystery and personal introspection.  I do feel more self-assured than I have in the past.  I am working on my health, losing weight, working in exercise, and I feel better than I have for awhile, too.  But this card also assures me that following my own needs is good, too.  If I’m feeling the need for solitude, it’s OK.   And, couple this with the nonaction of the High Priestess:  I’ve worked hard in my career, I have an article being published, and I think there are great possibilities out there in the world.

The Hermit

  1. Introspection
  2. Searching
  3. Guidance
  4. Solitude

So, I did laugh a little when the hermit appeared since that’s how I have been feeling lately.  When I’m not forced to be out in the world, I’m happy to putter at home, walking into the woods with the dogs, puttering in the garden, or sitting with a book and a cup of coffee.   But the hermit is also about looking for truth, the seeker, and here they quote scripture again: “Seek, and ye shall find.”  In the case of the hermit, it comes from within.  Maybe part of the problem is that I’ve stopped writing morning pages, and as much as they had become somewhat rote, they were my daily chance to look inward.  Mainly, this card reminds me that my need for solitude is legitimate.  But I need to use that solitude for reflection as I move into the last phase of my degree and then the next phase of my life.

One final note: I decided one way to develop my introspection would be to pull a tarot card each morning and then allow it to guide my thinking through the day.  When I was first learning tarot, I did this, and it led pretty naturally to my morning pages.  So, this morning (the day after the reading above), I shuffled and drew The Fool.  I laughed out loud.   I didn’t even have to look him up: the Fool is about beginnings, spontaneity, and believing in yourself.  A great card to start a great day!