Friday, March 02, 2007

I read my way through February

It's the beginning of the month and this is when I look at my list of goals for the past month and set new ones for the current month. Well, this time I'm going to be carrying quite a few to-dos over to March. (And I have 2 trips this month so I'm not going to create many new ones.) What did I do with my "free" time in February I ask myself! When I decided today to catch up on my reading journal I realized that I spent a big chunk of my birthday month reading and that makes me pretty gosh darn happy. So I'm going to share the entries from my reading journal.

Sweet Tea And Jesus Shoes - Deborah Smith, Donna Ball, Nancy Knight, Sandra Chastain, Debra Dixon, and Virginia Ellis
(Okay, I actually finished this one in January, forgive me, I like being thorough.) This book ended up on my amazon wish list mainly because I found the title amusing. (I grew up on waaaaay too sweet iced tea and sometimes people refer to my birks as Jesus shoes.) It came into my house because I was doing an amazon order several months ago and I needed one more item for free shipping (sucker!). I love southern fiction and I enjoy a short story at the end of the day. The stories in this collection are very down home. In fact, most of them I could picture being being told to me by relatives or folks with whom I grew up. They felt very familiar. The writing is simple and gritty; it doesn't feel as polished as say Clyde Edgerton or Lee Smith. They're fun and sometimes funny. My favorite is Chastain's Bigdaddy's Outhouse, not simply because my maternal grandfather insists on being called Big Daddy, but because the story reminded me of the way my grandmother usually managed to get her way without asking. Today I'd probably call it manipulation, but when I was a kid I thought of it as Grandma being very smart! This story inspired me to put a moon tile that I'd had in my Music Library office on the door to my bathroom at home. My own little joke - it makes me laugh every day. If you're a Southerner or someone who wants to know what it's like to live in the rural South from a female perspective then these stories just might be for you. :)

Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne
When I was in college studying to be an elementary school teacher (I kid you not!) I went a bit kiddie lit crazy. I bought kids' books every time I was in a bookstore. My mom thought it was great because she always had gift ideas for me. One of those gifts was a very charming hardcover set of four A.A. Milne books, including this one. This is a "redesigned" set published in 1988 with Ernest H. Shepard's drawings which I adore! One morning I was feeling very tired and emotionally wonky so I laid down on Annie's rug in the study. I stretched out flat and tired to find my center. Schubert string quartets were playing on the stereo and I was crying a little. I turned my head and looked at my wall of books and noticed the set - how inviting it seemed - so I pulled it off the shelf and removed this book from the three-sided sweetly decorated box that holds the four volumes. I got off the floor, climbed into my study's reading chair, put my feet up on the stool that sits next to the chair waiting until I need it and read the first story. I felt much better. What a genius was A.A. Milne! I was in love with Pooh and all his friends immediately. I'm sure to make it through all four volumes in no time - although I'm going to try and pace myself so that I can savor each wonderful adventure.

I've also been using these stories as a balance to Part 1 of Diet for a New America. (More about this one in a later post, I finished it today.) After reading about slaughterhouses I needed something lovely with happy little animals. It's much easier to have peaceful sleep if I read about Christopher Robin's pals the last thing at night.

Also, I kept remembering how Lionel on As Time Goes By got a kick out of reading Winnie-the-Pooh! (I adore that britcom. Thanks PBS for showing it in the states!)

The Southern Woman: New and Selected Fiction - Elizabeth Spencer
I first became aware of Elizabeth Spencer a while ago when I was flipping channels and came across a production of a musical called The Light in the Piazza on PBS. I'm a musical theatre buff so I stopped pressing the up arrow and watched the rest of the show. It was good - not cheesy musical theatre (which I really like, by the way) - it's very serious actually. After the show there was an interview from 2001 I'm guessing because this collection was being discussed and that's when it was published. I was immediately impressed by Elizabeth Spencer. She is a well-spoken, well put together, very intelligent southern lady. I enjoyed listening to her stories about her life and about writing. So I, of course, found this book at Jackson Library and brought it home. It and Sweet Tea & Jesus Shoes have been my nighttime reading for quite some time. When I was tired and knew I'd only read for a few minutes It was ST&JS. On nights when I had some energy left I went for this collection. Ms. Spencer's writing is eloquent and her insights are simply amazing. I think she rocks! If I had to pick favorites I would say the Italy section appealed to me the most, especially The White Azalea and The Cousins. From the New Stories section I very much enjoyed The Master of Shongalo. This is a book that I'll purchase when I see it at a used bookstore.

Why I Wake Early - Mary Oliver
Wow!!! I've found my new favorite poet. Lots of my retreat friends adore Mary Oliver so the last time I was at Quail Ridge Books, a great indie bookstore, in Raleigh I purchased some of Ms. Oliver's work. Wow! Wow!! Wow!!! This is one cool poet chic! I first turned to What Was Once the Largest Shopping Center in Northern Ohio Was Built Where There Had Been a Pond I Used to Visit Every Summer Afternoon and I was blown away - this woman speaks my language. Evey poem is soooo good. I'm going to hear her read in Asheville in March and I'm so excited that I went to Jackson Library and checked out all the poetry of hers they have. I'll bet that you're not surprised by that! :)

Being Vegetarian - The American Dietetic Association
One of my goals for January was to start reading about vegetarianism. I knew that I wasn't going to eat meat anymore and I wanted to do it right. Christine Kane had recommended some books to me, Jackson didn't have them, and I didn't have book money in my budget until February. I still wanted to get started with this and I remembered that I had this book. I bought it years ago (does this give you any clue as to how long I gnaw on things in my life?) so I pulled it down and dug in. It's a thin volume and a good start to understanding the levels of vegetarianism. Because it's small I was able to carry it around in my bag of tricks and read a chapter here and there between things. I'd say it's a decent introduction - it's light reading. I've still got lots more veggie reading to do.

Pharaoh, Pharaoh - Claudia Emerson
I borrowed this collection of poems from Jackson Library after reading about Claudia Emerson winning the Pulitizer Prize for poetry. She was working on her MFA at UNCG while I was working on my BS (tee hee). Her newest collection was already checked out so I took this one instead. I like her poetry very much. I'm learning about writing styles from reading her - I find the way that she breaks up lines intriguing. The poem from this book that most touched me was Transgression - about a woman going back to her family's farm to care for her ailing father who doesn't like her very much. I'm looking forward to reading her newer work.

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd
This is my second reading of this book. I read it the first time in 2004 when I borrowed it from the library and promised myself that when I ran across a used copy I would snatch it up. I did just that in December at Ed McKay's. I put this book in my bag when I went with my mom to a doctor's appointment at Duke a few days after Christmas and again a few weeks ago when I went with my bro and Big Daddy to Moorehead Hospital for BD to have a test done. Because I can get caught up in it easily it's a good western medicine buffer for me. I adore this book. I think Sue Monk Kidd is way cool. I identify most with May, the youngest of the calendar sisters. May is very sensitive and affected by situations and her surroundings. Bad news sends her into a tailspin. There have been times when I have felt just like that. May has a stone wall in the sisters' backyard where she goes when she is distraught. She writes what's troubling her on a slip of paper and takes that paper with her to the wall where she inserts it between two of the stones. These worries are rarely about her, they usually involve people she cares about or the world in general. Usually after she goes to the wall or when she's having a really bad bout of sadness she retreats to the bathtub. I am a firm believer in the healing properties of an old ceramic bathtub. And when I build my eco-friendly house on Cedar Oak Farm near Dragonfly Pond I plan to also build my very own wailing wall to help make my world a more peaceful place.

A New Earth - Eckhart Tolle
I picked this one up at Ed McKay's soon after my first retreat with Christine Kane. This and the Dalia Lama's The Art of Happiness are hands down the two non-fiction books that have most touched me. (and Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Hanh and and and crap...) A New Earth is so amazing, so thought provoking, so right on! I felt as if Tolle wrote it for me, as if he was saying, hey mka, I'm talking to you girlie girl! (Okay, he might not say girlie girl.) Each topic spoke to me in some way, so much that I could only read a short sub-topic at a time and then go away and digest it. This is why it took me from June to February to finish it. I recommend this to anyone who wants to travel a path of self-awareness. As with The Art of Happiness (and and and) I'm sure that I'll read this book many times in this life.

The House at Pooh Corner - A.A. Milne
More Pooh - Yayhoo! My favorite story is Tigger is Unbounced in which Rabbit learns (when he's plan to lose Tigger in the forest bites him on his cute little cotton tail) that you have to let your friends be who they are - bounciness and all.

Twelve Moons - Mary Oliver
Did I mention before how much I'm adoring Mary Oliver? The Fawn was my favorite poem in this one. I don't think I'm going to take this book back to the library until I buy my own copy!!


Anonymous said...

mka, Mary Oliver is truly great. I don't have the one you mentioned but check out "Thirst". we will have a reunion at the readig, you me lindsey and who knows who else. sorry you were sick. I too spent 4 days on the couch. nasty bug. take care. bb

mka said...


My library doesn't have that one. I'll buy it!! We're gonna have a great time in Asheville at the end of the month.

I was lucky that there was no actual hurling, just the threat of it. I surely felt like crap though. The only time I don't love living alone is when I'm sick and don't have the energy to do anything but sleep and lie around. Do you feel that way too?

Say hello to the birds for me.

xo, mka

caren said...

Hey, mka! Feels very different to read your posts after meeting you this weekend -- more connected. Which is nice. I got my Mary Oliver tix this morning! The lines were *busy*, too, I had to keep dialing. Can you e-mail me? I had more thoughts about the yahoo group thing. Hmmm.... I'll give you my yahoo addy, carenkh (at) yahoo (dot) com. Thanks!

mka said...


hey honey!!! thanks for your comment. i am so happy to be connected to the wonderful you. i'm going to email you right now.

xo, mka

tammy vitale said...

Have you read The Tao of Pooh? If you love Pooh, you will love (and reread and mark up) this book. But not The Te of Piglet - whatever he had, he lost for that one.

Great meeting you at the retreat. Am adding your blog into my favorites list - LOVE your writing! You take such care with the details. I could learn from that!

mka said...

Oh Tammy I will have to check out that book! I loooove Pooh. I left a comment on your blog just a little while ago! Thanks for adding me to your favorites - I'm gonna add you to mine as well. Your comments about my writing make me so very happy (hop,hop,hop - I'm almost as bouncy as Tigger!)

xo, mka

mka said...

I just reread this entry and found a bunch of typos! Sorry that you guys had to read through those.

shame-faced bad proofreader,