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The Voices in My Head

I am a big fan of Ansel Adams. Of all his images, this has always been one of my favorites. This time next week I will be somewhere up in those mountains. I can hardly believe it. As I have looked at photographs in preparation I have found myself in tears, imagining what it will be like to finally see them for the first time.

Last week I talked to you about gear I am taking to care for my body in the Grand Teton Ultra. This week, I acquaint you with those friends I am taking along to care for my soul. Unconventional to be sure. Of all the ultra sites I visited, nobody told me which prayers, poems, and music would travel with them mile after mile.

But I know myself.

I chose this event because it is BEAUTIFUL. And I will need words, as much as I need water and food. God will give me words of my own. This I know. But there will be times when I need to borrow the words of another. For a space. So I am filling my phone with prayers and poems and my ipod shuffle with music.

Here is a sampling of the voices who will be in my head as I run…

 

Poems:

Praying by Mary Oliver

O Land Alive With Miracles by Thomas Merton

Point Vierge by Thomas Merton

The Summer Morning by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese by Wendell Berry

 

Prayers:

O Lord, how lovely it is to be your guest:
Breeze full of scent; mountains reaching to the skies;
Waters like a boundless mirror,
Reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds.
All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing depths of tenderness,
Birds and beasts bear the imprint of your love,
Blessed are you, mother earth, in your fleeting loveliness,
Which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever
In the land where, amid beauty that grows not old,
Rings out the cry: Alleluia!

You brought me into this life as into an enchanted paradise. We have seen the sky, like a deep blue cup ringing with birds in the azure heights. We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest and the sweet-sounding music of the waters. We have tasted fragrant fruit of fine flavour and sweet-scented honey. How pleasant is our stay with you on earth: it is a joy to be your guest.

~excerpted from the Akathist in Praise of Creation. I am taking the whole of it with me on the trip. I want to read it in the gorgeous places where we will find ourselves. I will only bring excerpts on the trail.

*Portions of Psalm 104 and Psalm 148.

 

Playlist:

Andrew Peterson  Audrey Assad  Beethoven  Bela Fleck  The Brilliance  Cara Dillon  Carl Orff (Carmina Burana)  The Civil Wars  David Teems  Delirious  The Doobie Brothers  Eddie Vader  Eric Clapton  Gateway Worship  Gungor  Herbie Hancock  Iron and Wine  James Taylor  Javier Navarrete  Joe Cocker  Kaki King  Lion King Broadway Cast  Loreena McKennitt  Michael Buble’  Mutefish  NeedToBreathe  Nickel Creek  Norah Jones  Nuns of St Paisos Monastery  Old Crow Medicine Show  Patti Griffin  Ray Charles/Count Basie  Rachmaninoff  Russian State Symphony Capella  Soggy Bottom Boys  St. Petersburg Chamber Choir  Sufjan Stevens  Vivaldi  Yo Yo Ma

 

P.S. My travel reading list (for the trip, not the run. :)):

A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire (re-read)
Thirst by Mary Oliver

Booklist: Picture Books

Picture Books are a world unto themselves. It is here, most often, that children will wet their literary toes. In the best of them, illustrations and words dance in and out of one another with ease. The one illuminates the other. Sometimes they frolic, at other times they waltz. But always, the two are one.

I hope your childhood was resplendent with beautiful picture books. Books that tickled, and provoked, and nourished your imagination. Books that taught you to love words. The way they slither and slide, the way they play, the way they sing. I share here a few of our favorites. Please tell me about yours. I do have a little granddaughter who is already in love with books. She will need to know them.

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter For the elegant language, the sublime watercolors, and mostly for the endearing characters who peopled the lives of my children and me for a season, I owe a great debt to Ms. Potter.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne The writing is clever. The characters  thoroughly loveable. The misadventures goodhearted and fun. And, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a bridge someday playing Poohsticks.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown I can still recite the whole of it from memory, I read it so many times. When I asked Kelsey about books from her childhood she would like Kenzie to have, it was the first one she mentioned. A sweet benediction. A deep breath of quiet.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert Thus far, this is Kenzie’s favorite. I don’t know if it’s the bright colors or the lilting cadence but she gets so excited when I pull the book out. An alphabet book with rhythm.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton My husband (Mike Mullican) loved this book as a boy. Obviously. Never mind the one little letter difference in his name. It is a story of loyalty and love. A step back in time to a world less complicated.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak This Caldecott winner was one of my childhood favorites. And I passed my love of it on to our children. (Kelsey covered our copy in Christmas stickers one year. I have never been able to part with it.)

All the Eric Carl Books, especially Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle’s beautiful tissue paper illustrations can still take my breath away. Stunningly gorgeous! I love looking at all the details in them. Whether paired with Bill Martin’s rhymes, or simple stories of industrious insects, these books captivated my children. Kenzie is already a fan of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey Books remembered, again, from my own childhood. Simple, sweet stories along with glorious Caldecott winning illustrations made these books that we read over and over. Nothing beats an early morning reading of Blueberries for Sal just before heading off to the blueberry patch.

All the D’Aulaire books  The Caldecott winning husband and wife team of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire created sumptuous, whimsical picture books. Mostly biographies of American luminaries like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Pocohontas. But their book of Greek Myths is one of the best I’ve ever read. And you can’t beat their illustrations.

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant Much of this story is my story. Baptizin’ in the old swimmin’ hole, fried okra, outhouses, breaking beans on the front porch. If it is not your world, pop by for a visit. Rylant tells a compelling story and the illustrations are lovely.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Inside the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser An unwieldy, runaway balloon has a number of misadventures out and about New York while its owner peruses works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a very creative “life imitates art” approach, the scenes encountered by the balloon mimic the art works observed by the little girl. Such fun!! And there are no words. You must supply the story yourself. A great pre-reading book.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado Lucado has written a number of lovely children’s books, but this one is my favorite. The truth that the Incarnation is good news for everyone, especially those who feel left out, is winsomely told here. And the paintings are magnificent.

Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse A mother’s love has no limits. Nothing her child does could ever change that. That is the message this book tells with its lovely illustrations drawn from the native Inuit culture of Alaska.

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw I’ll admit the concept of an elderly mother climbing a ladder into her son’s room at night is a little far-fetched. And yet, the truth of this book has always over-ridden its impracticalities. Another of the books Kelsey asked for specifically. I guess the truth got through to her as well. 🙂

Yonie Wondernose and Henner’s Lydia by Marguerite De Angeli De Angeli lived in an Amish community for a while. With these books, she takes us there as well. And we see inside the life of a little boy and a little girl. Their mischief. Their longings. And the beauty of their simple, but rich lives.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Stephen Kellogg “How was your class trip?” Kinda boring. Until the cows started crying.” “Why were the cows crying?” And so begins a rollicking backward adventure that any child (or any adult for that matter) will find HYSTERICAL!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Maybe I like it so much because it reminds me of the way I do housework. One thing leads to another…. My kids loved this whole series of books about inevitability and circuitous thinking. Great fun.

OK. Your turn. GO!!!

 

 

Idle and Blessed

A Sabbath meditation. Of the prayer of attention. Glory in the humble.

The Summer Morning

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

Reading Allowed

A little Sabbath gift to you. From one of my favorite contemporary poets, Taylor Mali. Go ahead and blush in the beginning if you need to, but keep listening. Beautiful words about magic and joy, of receiving them and passing them on…

Wild Geese…

By the time this posts, I will be on the trail. If all is well. For a good bit of the day I will chase slanting rays of sunlight through the trees. I will share the company of chipmunks, owls, snakes, squirrels, deer, and several hundred birds. Though I might not see all of them. I will breathe air scented by blossoms and old leaves and raw wood. And there is a fairly good chance that there will be rain. And I will be glad. And listen as it trickles down through the canopy, over branches and leaves. And feel the cool of it against hot, salty skin.

And I will be healed by the miles of dust and hills. And washed. And I will know my place…

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for these words…

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver

Booklist: On Writing

Sometimes writing is like magic. Ideas, words, come from some place outside of me and flow through my hands onto a page. I look at them in astonishment. As though someone else had written them. But most of the time, writing is work. Hard work. And talent and instinct only carry one so far.

There is a craft to writing. And if I want to tell stories that impact others, I must learn this craft. I have had the great good fortune to know some gifted writers personally. Their advice has been invaluable to me. But, I have also benefited from the teaching of authors who have generously put their thoughts about writing on paper for all of us. Here are some of my favorites.

On Writing by Stephen King I have this book in hard copy and on audio. I am listening to it right now for the 3rd or 4th time. In the first part of the book, King tells his story. In the second, he builds a “tool chest” for writers. Both parts are indispensable. Whenever I get whiny about not being able to find time or space to write, I remember King, after a long day of teaching, sitting in the utility room with his typewriter on his lap.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Irreverent and funny, Anne Lamott is a pleasure to read. From the “shitty first draft” to publication, she is with you all the way. And every now and then she drops a passage like this:

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.

Me too.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver Do not be deceived. Poets are not the only writers who will benefit from the wisdom of this Pulitzer winning author. She has much to say about nourishing our creative sensibilities and will inspire and provoke you with her words. So many quotable phrases, but this is one of the best:

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.

The War of Art and Do The Work by Stephen Pressfield Each of these books provides an unapologetic kick in the pants and urges us to stop being willing victims of resistance, and get out there and create. The principles are applicable to artists of all types, as well as entrepreneurs, CEO’s, missionaries, anyone who has a call to do something in this world.

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me…Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White “Omit needless words.” It is one of the principles of composition in this much revered standard of grammar and good taste. It is also the practice of its authors. Succinct and elegant. Indispensable.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron Subtitled “Creativity as a Spiritual Practice”, Cameron’s book guides us on a path of recovering our creative voice. Through “morning pages” and a number of other creative practices to help us know our true hearts, she helps unleash that which is buried within.

Steering the Craft and The Wave in the Mind by Ursula LeGuinn The first is a practical guide to various elements of writing like point of view or sound (“the slither and crunch of onomatopoeia” for instance :)). The second is a collection of essays and speeches on “the writer, the reader, and the imagination”.

To me a novel can be as beautiful as any symphony, as beautiful as the sea. As complete, true, real, large, complicated, confusing, deep, troubling, soul enlarging as the sea with its waves that break and tumble, its tides that rise and ebb.

Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor A marvelous look inside the mind of one of the most perceptive and eloquent writers ever to tell the peculiar stories of the south. It is philosophy as much as anything. Like her stories. Good, wise, true.

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.

Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Candid and intimate advice from one of my very favorite poets. On art, and beauty, and finding the poetry inside oneself.

Interlude….

This I have always known–that if I did not live my life immersed in the one activity which suits me, and which, to tell the truth, keeps me utterly happy and intrigued, I would come someday to bitter and mortal regret.
~Mary Oliver

For my friend Anne, like the Pulitzer prize winning Oliver, that activity is writing. It always has been. She has a keen ability to take pieces of her heart, wrap them in words, and give them to us. And when we read them, we do not see Anne. We see ourselves. And truth that has been hidden in us finds a way out through her words.

In her most recent book, Permission to Speak Freely, she gave many of us the courage to do likewise. To say the hard things. To share our stories. Her courage became our courage. And as a result, we too have given others “the gift of going second”. A safe place to say the things that matter.

Anne is currently in an in-between space in her life, both personally and professionally. An interlude. She is using this threshold moment to gather together some of her most significant art from the past fifteen years into an e-book she is calling Interlude. There will be essays, poems, photographs, and stories. It is a book you will want to own. And share with those you love.

And here you have a unique opportunity. You can be a patron of the arts. Of redeeming, healing, life-giving art. You can help make sure Anne eats for the next few months while she is putting this project together. And, for a gift of as little as $13, you will secure your own copy of the book when it is finished.

Mike and I chose to contribute because we believe in Anne. We believe in who she is and in the marvelous art she creates. Spend a bit of time with her and you will too.

Get a taste of Anne’s writing by visiting her BLOG. You can read all the details about Interlude HERE. In the meantime, have a look at this…

So That You Will Hear Me

I give her Neruda with her milk. I read him aloud for both of us. Sometimes she stops sucking and listens. And I wonder what she hears. She is three months old. I know she does not understand all the words. But there is something. Something in the way they shape my voice. Stories under the words. My stories. The way he calls them forth with his incantations. Already she knows.

And I realize that much of what she will hear me say over our lives will not be words. It will be the story inside. The way it quickens my breath. Or clouds my eyes. That barely perceptible change in cadence. And she will hear something I did not mean to say. Some part of me that I would have hidden, laid bare. And perhaps it is better.

So That You Will Hear Me

So that you will hear me
my words
sometimes grow thin
as the tracks of the gulls on the beaches.

Necklace, drunken bell
for your hands smooth as grapes.

And I watch my words from a long way off.
They are more yours than mine.
They climb on my old suffering like ivy.

It climbs the same way on damp walls.
You are to blame for this cruel sport.
They are fleeing from my dark lair.
You fill everything, you fill everything.

Before you they peopled the solitude that you occupy,
and they are more used to my sadness than you are.

Now I want them to say what I want to say to you
to make you hear as I want you to hear me.

The wind of anguish still hauls on them as usual.
Sometimes hurricanes of dreams still knock them over.
You listen to other voices in my painful voice.

Lament of old mouths, blood of old supplications.
Love me, companion. Don’t forsake me. Follow me.
Follow me, companion, on this wave of anguish.

But my words become stained with your love.
You occupy everything, you occupy everything.

I am making them into an endless necklace
for your white hands, smooth as grapes.

~Pablo Neruda

Booklist: The Boy Books

Reluctant readers.
Sometimes.
Boys.

Unless….

…unless you introduce them to books like these. Read them aloud. On the porch. In a treehouse. In a tent. With a flashlight. Snuggled together in bed. Make gifts of them to your boys; beautiful hardcover editions that they will treasure. Here are some family favs. I can hardly wait to hear yours.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George Young Sam Gribley runs away from home and lives for a year in the Catskill Mountains. He makes his home in a hollowed out tree, trains a falcon to hunt for him, sews a suit of deerskin clothes, and wrests a living from the land. What little boy does not want to live this life? We also loved the sequels, On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain. Incidentally, George wrote a great many engaging books from a naturalist perspective, including the Newberry winner, Julie of the Wolves. We have read most of them. Marvelous all.

Rascal by Sterling North I watched Joshua’s eyes grow wide as we read about young Sterling’s collection of wild animals, at the center of which was a baby raccoon. For a few days, he was Sterling. Rascal was his very own. And when there were tough decisions to be made, those were his too. Incidentally, we bought Jake a stuffed raccoon because he loved this book so much.

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman Poems about insects. Fascinating and fun. And all told in two voices. So you and your son can read in tandem. Voices weaving over and under, into and out of one another. It is an intimate and delightful experience to breathe a poem together. Try it!!

The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques This was the first group of books Jake asked for as a gift. He devoured them. When I began reading them aloud again with Joshua, Jake sat in. Because he loved them so. Set in a middle ages landscape, peopled by animals, this is a delight for boys becoming men.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green Knights and armor, dragons, swords and daring deeds. So much that little boys love. And honor. You will have the opportunity to negotiate that with them. To imagine themselves in the place of these men. What would they do?  *I favor the Green edition because it is clean and uncluttered. We have read Mallory as well; beautiful but cumbersome.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Mole, Toad, Badger…boats, carriages, and motorcars. And questions about how we choose to live life. About fear and fury.

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutcliff (Homer)  Gods, heroes, monsters…all the fodder of little boy dreams. Epic stories…The Iliad and The Odyssey…made approachable by the art of Rosemary Sutcliff. Seek out the gorgeous hardcovers with illustrations by Alan Lee.  Marvelous! Sutcliff wrote wonderful historical fiction of her own, most of which is boy friendly.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater Joshua’s favorite book ever. Quirky and thoroughly delightful. Do NOT judge it by the new film. Two very different things. Mr. Popper dreams of adventure. But he is a man with responsibilities. No worries. Adventure is coming to him. Humorous and heart warming. A precious book.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Joshua’s other favorite book ever. 🙂 “There is more to you than you know, Bilbo Baggins.” It is a message we all need to hear. We all need desperately to believe. That when push comes to shove and we are tested, there will be glory in us.

The Magician’s Nephew, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis We read and loved all the Chronicles of Narnia. But Joshua was very particular that these were the ones I should include. He would also have you know that seeing the movie does not equal reading the book. That liberties were taken, especially in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that were not to his liking. Magic, quiet heroism, and characters who bury themselves deeply in your heart.

Homer Price by Robert McClosky A world of simple pleasures, innocent boyhood fun. Rural, small town America of almost a hundred years ago now. Misadventures. Accidental heroics. And great good humor.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A little boy works, and saves, and schemes to buy two coon hound pups. He faithfully trains them and gives them his whole heart. And they give their hearts to him. Love. Costly love. This is a difficult book with hard things. Read it aloud with your boy. Give him a chance to talk from the heart to you. Walk into the door this book will open. It’s alright to stop reading to cry. Ask me how I know….

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett Unlikely heroes. Whimsy and absurdity. And dragons. A great first chapter book.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare 13 year old Matt helps his father build their homestead, then must stay and protect the claim….alone….while his father goes to fetch his mother and sisters. There will be unexpected complications and what is asked of him becomes more arduous than any of them could have imagined. He will build meaningful friendships with a native tribe, and they will exchange understanding and good will. He will also have to make hard decisions about keeping impossible promises.

Also consider Speare’s The Bronze Bow, a compelling story of anger, and grace, and Jesus.

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield A mystery. A comedy. And a memorable romp through Ancient Rome.

 

Your turn! Tell me about the books your boys love. Please!

Booklist: The LOST Books

So, here is the plan. For the next few Wednesdays…til such time as I run completely out of ideas….Wednesday will be booklist day here on the old blog. Posts about books are always among my most popular, and are sources of great reads for me personally. If you are a bibliophile, or a wanna-be bibliophile, or even if you don’t know how to spell bibliophile :), check back each week. You never know what you might find. And I NEED your input!

This weeks premise: You just bought a ticket on Oceanic flight 815. (For those of you who did not watch the television show LOST, your flight is going down. Sorry.) Let us assume that you know you will end up on a deserted island. (THEY asked you to believe things much more far-fetched than this.) You have room to pack ten books. Turns out you are the only reader on the plane. So these are the books you will read and re-read over and over for the next few years. What will they be?

This is not a list of your “favorite” books, necessarily. Some books are great for a single read, but do not bear repetition. Which books can you give yourself to again and again? I chose to include no more than one book by any particular author, but this is not necessary. Here’s my packing list (as always, in no particular order):

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius Truth be told, if this were the only book I had, I would have plenty to contemplate. The introduction by C.S. Lewis could occupy the first year. Then perhaps, I would be ready for Athanasius. So much that is essential to all you and I believe about God, and most particularly about His Son, are articulated here….compellingly, artistically, completely. Profound and rich.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton There have only been two or three books I have ever read that I immediately read again. This was one of those. So much to digest here. Truth conveyed in a compelling voice. One that gets inside and rattles around and won’t be quieted. One that will expand your mind and create new receptors of truth. So that you might see more completely. More deeply.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God I can’t imagine a life without poetry. My original list had several poets. It broke my heart to remove some of them. I kind of wanted to cry. (And, hypothetically, if I were to include another it would be Thirst by Mary Oliver. :)) But Rilke is the voice that has most clearly spoken my heart’s cry. In words that I could not find, but so desperately needed. I have screamed his words. I have whispered them. I have prayed them. It is this collection in which I found him first. And it is this dog-eared, tear-stained volume that I return to again and again.

A Book of Hours: Thomas Merton compiled by Kathleen Deignan and John Giuliani I have read many volumes of Merton. He is kindred spirit. A fellow yearner after God. But one so far ahead of me on the path. I tentatively put my feet into his footprints…and hope that some day I will sprawl at the feet of God with such reckless abandon as did he. I select this particular volume because it is a potent distillation of his words. Any single paragraph gives me food for a day. I have copied prayers from here to my phone so that they are with me always.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle I mourned her death as though we had known one another. Because in my heart there was a dream….that someday she and I would linger over tea and talk. About life. About art. About God. So approachable she seemed.  So honest. So real. It was folly, I know. But read the book and see if you don’t feel the same. Such lovely nourishment herein. Deep breaths of beauty. To fan the flame of creativity within me. To help me ardently pursue the sometimes elusive beauty around me. Madeleine L’Engle is a worthy guide.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Thus far I have only read it twice. But I hope that, before the end of my life, I will have read it many times. Such deeply layered characters. No villain is beyond redemption. No hero is without weakness. And the stories that weave them all together, ahhhhh. So much to explore. Each time nuances emerge. So obvious one wonders how it was hidden before. As we bring to it our hurts, our longings, our loves, it gives to us something we were not ready for on the last reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Limiting myself to only one by Lewis was quite difficult. But in the end, I had only to consider how many times I had re-read each, and this was the obvious choice. Around half a dozen times thus far. And not nearly done. Some of the characters live SO close to my heart that I can not read without being drawn completely into the story. Pages blur and I am there. Answering the questions. Feeling the fear. The wonder. The…joy.

I will not lie to you. This book has caused me considerable pain. But pain of the best sort. The kind that wounds to heal. Destroys to bring life. Kills to resurrect. (If you should elect to give it a go, I encourage you to push past the first few chapters which might seem slow. Do not give up early. You can’t imagine what awaits you! Press on!!!!)

Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue It is my husband who has a confirmed Irish bloodline. Hello! MULLICAN!! But, when I read John O’Donohue, I feel I am reading a kindred soul. I have done three complete readings thus far, but have gone back and perused underlines and notes far more often than that. The way that he interlaces beauty, and nature, and spirit, and God together throbs deeply within me. His words are like a washing of sweet spring rain. Like the scent of lavender and roses. I read it as gift to myself. As a cleansing of the soul.

Candide by Voltaire Yes, he was ingenius. Yes, he was the poster-child of the Enlightenment. But, he was also one of the most brilliant satirists to ever live. I laugh myself silly all the way through the book. Sometimes I agree with what he is spouting, sometimes not. But always I am in awe of his artistry…his ability to tell an evocative and entertaining story in which is enmeshed all that he believes about the world. I would read it for fun. You don’t believe me? I double-dog dare you to try it.

Lilith by George MacDonald It would be fair to say that I read it the first time kicking and screaming. It had been recommended by my counselor. How’s that for vulnerability? Because I needed to learn how to die. And he knew Lilith could show me how. I knew lots of facts about my situation. But it was a story that would take me where I could not go by myself. I have read it since. And seen layers I did not see on my first visit. Like a complex and beautiful landscape through which I hurtled the first time in search of that death scene that would be life to me. I know there is more still to be found. I would bring Lilith. She has been been a true friend.

The Bible Not because it’s the Sunday School answer. Not because it’s the “right” answer. But because it’s the right answer. Comfort for those who mourn. Provocation for those who are self-satisfied. Correction for those who would do well, but are misguided. And I have been all. Stories without end. And poems. And prayers. The story of God. Of His Son. Of His people. Of the lost, the weary, the desperate, the courageous, the audacious, the confused, the rebellious, the restored, the healed, the ones who persist in hope. You. Me.

P.S. Yes, I realize most of my books have a faith connection. Coincidentally, so do I. Though I read books from many faith, or non-faith, perspectives, the ones I choose to live with, to roll around in, to let crawl all up inside me, tend to be those written by a questing heart, imperfect to be sure, but relentless in pursuing the things of God. No apologies.

Your turn. The LOST books. Go!!

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