Ready for Advent: Week #1

November 29, 2022

I’m ready for Advent now, but Friday morning as I defrocked the house of its fall look, I wasn’t so sure. Our grandson had retrieved all the Christmas bins from the storage area underneath the snug, and they waited for me in the lower level bedroom. EEEK!

When I read a novel, setting and characters are more important for my reading pleasure than plot, and that is true for me in my day-to-day life as well. Creating an interesting and creative setting that inspires reflection and growth, as well as an atmosphere for connection with others has always been a priority for me. That is especially true at this time of the year.

I confess that this year the process felt daunting to me. I wondered if this was the year I would say “been there, done that” and limit myself and decide to be a convert to Christmas Minimalism. (Is that a thing?)

Once I opened the bins, however, and became reacquainted with reminders of Christmases past, I was on my way, and the house is now alive with a Christmas glow.

The setting welcomes me into Advent reflection –this time of waiting and promise and finding the light in the darkness. The setting creates a space for the birth that needs to be revisited over and over again. The setting is a threshold for whatever unfolds. The setting asks me to open to what most needs to be discovered and honored, as well as the ways I need to challenge myself.

I am ready.

An Invitation

How do you prepare for this new season? I would love to know.

An Aside:

Not only did I prepare the house for Advent, but I also continued the ongoing process of decluttering. I packed up one bin of fall decorations and two bins of Christmas decorations ready for our annual spring/summer garage sale. I suspect when I pack up the Christmas decorations after Epiphany, I will add more to the “ready to let go” piles. How good that feels!

NOTE:

My post on Thursday, December 1 will include a list of my favorite novels of 2022. On Thursday, December 8 I will list my favorite nonfiction books of 2022.

Be Gentle With Yourself/Myself

November 22, 2022

Note: No post on Thanksgiving Day. I will return on Tuesday, November 29. Have a blessed holiday.

One day this past weekend I wrapped myself in my favorite shawl and moved into the snug to browse through a pile of new home decor magazines. I needed a time-out. Escaping into pictures of beautiful homes, possibly delicious recipes and contemplating holiday decorating is one of the ways I am gentle with myself. One of the ways I restore myself into a rhythm that is calm and open and essential.

These are confusing days; these days right before Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas. At least for me.

These are days of conflicting messages. The grocery store is loaded with all the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner, but at the same time stores are full of Christmas decorations. Driving through neighborhoods especially in the evening, I am surprised by the number of homes with Christmas lights sparkling against the snow, and I even catch glimpses of Christmas trees all aglow inside homes.

Some people have strict guidelines about not decorating until after Thanksgiving and others are busy doing that right now.

We have received our first Christmas cards, and a couple people have told me they are done with their shopping. And that is fine. Whatever works for you and however you meet the demands of your life is your decision, but I can feel myself tightening, wondering how I will get everything done.

Advent begins in a few days, and I am not ready!

There is always a lot to do this time of the year, and I wonder how I managed before our children were grown when I was working full time and my husband was a busy family doc or those years when we traveled from our home in Ohio to the rest of our family here in Minnesota. Now we don’t host Thanksgiving, and we don’t have as much shopping to do as we once did nor do we decorate in the same extravagant way.

Our grandson will come get the bins of Christmas decorations out of the storage space for us this week, and I will decorate beginning Friday. On Thanksgiving Day we will have our photograph taken with our grandkids and then I can order copies for our Christmas cards, but I am not yet in the mood to write an accompanying letter. Maybe I won’t do that this year.

I want to do some entertaining, and I always bake many loaves of cherry walnut bread. It would be fun to make some different cookies this year, too. My husband said he would help. (That’s when I will miss having a big kitchen.) We’ve done some shopping, and I bought wrapping paper, but need to get ribbon.

In the midst of the December list, I also need to do some planning for the new year. When in January should I start the winter series of the church writing group I facilitate and when can I set aside time for the planning of those sessions? What about the other groups I lead?

For the most part I relish it all, but at the same time I am aware that day to day life continues. I meet with clients, fix dinner, pay bills, do laundry and even write my twice a week blog posts. (I don’t anticipate much other writing will get done.) I am also aware of those I love who are in pain and trying to manage what is unwelcome and unexpected. How do I stay open to those needs?

We live near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. A place sacred to the Dakota people. An area important in their creation stories; an area of great energy and meaning.

These November-December days feel like a confluence to me–time flowing into each other, joining the past year, leading to a momentous birth and on into a new year and new beginnings. Beginnings that may grow from endings. Past, present, and future almost all at the same time, and at times that can feel chaotic. But eventually the rivers of time become one, and order of some kind is created.

I wonder how many times I have advised someone to “Be gentle with yourself. Remember to breathe.”

When we seem to be in a time of confluence, when the past is moving quickly into the future and the present is overflowing, treating oneself with gentleness is not just a good idea, but a necessary one.

An Invitation

What are the ways you practice being gentle with yourself? I would love to know.

Being A Vessel

November 15, 2022

At a recent session with my spiritual director, she noticed how I cupped my hands as I spoke. That posture suggested a word to her. Vessel. The word resonated with me, and I wondered about the implications of that word in my life.

Soon after that session I read a prayer, “Blessing the Fragments,” by Jan Richardson in her book, The Cure for Sorrow, A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief. This is the first verse.

Cup your hands together,
and you will see the shape
this blessing wants to take.
Basket, bowl, vessel:
it cannot help but open
to welcome what comes.

Welcome what comes? I’m not so sure about that. Why, for example, would I welcome the sadness I feel about a friend’s dire cancer diagnosis. Then I read the last verse.

Look into the hollows
of your hands
and ask
what wants to be 
gathered there,
what abundance waits
among the scraps,
what feast
will offer itself 
from the pieces 
that remain.


“Oh, Nancy, ” I say to myself, “You do not yet know the gifts of this time. And you can’t know if you live with your hands clenched in a rigid fist.”

With my hands cupped I …

Receive and Release

Open and Offer

Honor and Hold

Isn’t this what we envision for ourselves when we walk with someone who experiences pain or confusion, doubt or fear?

At those times I want to receive what is shared, spoken or unspoken. Not only do I want to release my own fears, but also my need to control or correct or fix or solve.

I want to open my heart and listen with the ears of my heart. I open to the inner voice, the Divine that whispers to me.

I open to surprise, to possibility, to what feels new and perhaps not quite acceptable. I open to change, to transformation, to hope and salvation. I open to imperfection and a lack of answers. I open to the spaciousness of this time, whatever that means.

I offer what I can, what I am able. I offer myself, my heart and my intuition, too, along with my understanding, even when I don’t understand.

I offer my presence.

I honor for we are beloved. We are holy. I honor our fragility that lives within our wholeness. I honor vulnerability and the willingness to be seen, to be known.

I hold the space for all that is swirling or sometimes for all that feels static. I hold the fear and allow love to be borrowed, if love feels distant. I hold the in-between times. I hold myself accountable, even as I am gentle with myself.

I hold the present moment with my presence.

I hold open the door.

I remember my prayer bowl, a vessel that sings. When I strike the rim the tone is clear and strong and reverberates for a long time, fading gradually into the space around me. The energy and the memory remain.

May I be that vessel–a vessel that receives and releases, opens and offers, honors and holds. A vessel that sings even as she cries.

An Invitation

Cup your hands. What do you see? What kind of vessel are you carrying? I would love to know.

The Landscape’s Answer to My Spirit’s Need

November 8, 2022

What do you see here? How would you describe this scene?

I imagine some would call this bleak, cold, barren, dismal and wonder why I would even take this picture.

This landscape is exactly what I needed recently.

Last week I was cranky, easily irritated. Unsettled and touchy. When I feel that way, I know I need more time in morning meditation. I need to write in my journal, read sacred words and ponder them, sit in silence, and pray. But this past week, although it looked spacious enough on paper, somehow zoomed past without room for what I most needed. A correction: The time was there, but I failed to use it in the ways I knew would help.

A dear friend has received a dire diagnosis, and I am grieving for her and for her family. And I am grieving for myself, too. I wake up in the morning in the midst of thoughts for her, and a prayer for her is the last thing on my lips before I shut my eyes at night. I experience both grief for what is being lost right now, and I anticipate the grief that will come.

I am so sad.

At the same time I want to be present to my friend and whatever she needs right now. A helper. A doer. A responder. A receiver. A calm and quiet presence. Whatever is needed in the moment.

A Call to Roam

The past week was beautiful, warmer than normal temperatures. Sunny, and many leaves were holding on in a continuation of fall’s majestic show. But Friday was cooler and grey; a day signaling introspection and contemplation.

How grateful I was that my husband and I had set aside that day to roam. At his request we drove down along the Mississippi River on the Wisconsin side of the river–one of our favorite routes. The towns along the way. Maiden Rock, Stockholm, Pepin, are busy on summer weekend days, and I imagine not long ago the leaf-peepers were oohing and aahing at the color and the sparkling water.

Now every tree was bare. The skeletal branches revealed the essence of each tree, and the sky and the waters almost blending together as one whispered a message of connection, of wholeness.

How grateful I was to be able to rest my eyes. Instead of missing what was no longer there, I paused in what is. This is beauty, too. This is love, too.

I still felt sad, but I also felt a kind of peace. The spaciousness I glimpsed between the branches reminded me that we are each part of the ongoing cycle the seasons offer us.

We crossed the river back into Minnesota and found a quiet place for lunch, next to a railroad track and right on the river. How fun it will be to return there in another season when the days are warmer and the scene is livelier and more colorful, but this was just what I needed in that moment.

An Invitation:

What landscape nurtures your soul’s need? I would love to know.

October into November

Some people hide their heads in the sand, but, I guess, squirrels choose to hide their heads in the pumpkin. I love my pumpkins, and seeing them become squirrel food is frustrating, but I had to laugh. And some days you need to laugh.

We are bombarded these days with so much that worries us, especially as we head towards election day. How important it is to open ourselves to what amuses us and makes us smile, even if I wish my pumpkins had not become a feeding trough.

Sunday I drove through the neighborhood, stopping to fill Little Free Libraries with a stack of books —food for other readers, and I felt fed by what I saw.

What a gorgeous fall it has been, and I am grateful for each of these days; each one calling me to open my eyes, to find beauty, to notice what brings us comfort and joy. And to smile.

An Invitation

What feeds you these days. What has made you smile? I would love to know.

Dilemmas in Downsizing #2

October 25, 2022

The love of variety is one of my challenges when I think about downsizing/decluttering.

I love decorating for the seasons, and the house never looks the same, one season after another. Not only is that because I have so much stuff, but because I enjoy rearranging and using what I have in new ways. I’m not very good with my hands–don’t sew, don’t do crafts, but I know I have a good eye and know how to put things together. And oh, how fun it is to discover something tucked away in a cupboard that is just the perfect touch on a tabletop or shelf.

My mother once commented on a neighbor, a dear friend of hers, who in all the years they knew each other never changed the centerpiece on their kitchen table. A wooden bowl of artificial fruit, if I recall. She couldn’t imagine living that way. At least I know where my comfort and desire for change comes from, but as I declutter, little by little, I wonder if there will be a time when I won’t feel the urge to change the dining room centerpiece or the living room coffee table? As I continue this process of simplifying what is tucked in cupboards and closets, will I simplify my interest in and need for variety?

Here are some positive signs:

One day last week when I sat with a client in the snug, I noticed cobwebs floating under a bookshelf. Ugh! It was time to do a more thorough cleaning, and as I did that, I gathered a few small pieces of silver sitting on top of piles of books. Just sweet little accessories collected over the years with no real purpose, but adding a touch of shine to the shelf. Each one needed to be polished, which I started doing, and then I asked myself, “How would it feel to add these to our garage sale pile? Will I miss them if I no longer own them?”

Much to my surprise, I was ready to release them. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but one thing leads to another. By the way, I did keep two pieces I particularly love–a small English chocolate or tea pot from a hotel and a creamer.

As I continued cleaning, I pulled a few books off the shelves and added them to the Little Free Library basket, and I also made another decision. Decades ago when I worked in an independent bookstore, I bought books signed by every author who visited the store, usually for a book signing event. Many of those books I have never read, and as I stood in front of the living room bookcase, I realized I probably never will read them. Obviously, I will confer with my husband about this, but I envision clearing much more space soon.

Bruce and I have been antique collectors all our married life. Going to antique shows and shops has been our hobby, a form of entertainment, and although that activity has decreased in recent years, it has not disappeared. This past weekend, however, we decided not to go to an annual fall show; one we have always enjoyed and where we have often found treasures. Making that decision wasn’t difficult. Not a sacrifice. We quite simply didn’t feel a pull to go. I recognize that doesn’t mean our interest in antiquing has retired, but it is more moderate. That feels like a good thing.

Decluttering is a process. Unless you have a team of people who swoop in, take over, and do it all, once and for all, decluttering can not be done in one big now or never moment. Decluttering is a one drawer at a time process. One closet at a time. Even one shelf at a time. And as a process, it is possible to integrate it into my daily life–to organize what is scattered and to choose what still gives joy and what just feels like stuff, and to clear space as I clean.

Stay tuned, for I have a feeling there will be more Dilemmas in Downsizing to share.

An Invitation

What are you learning in this process? I would love to know.

Dilemmas In Downsizing

October 18, 2022

“I don’t want my children to deal with this when I’m gone.”

I wonder how many times I’ve heard someone declare this as a reason for downsizing and decluttering.

On one level that is a noble idea, with which it is hard to disagree. Bravo, you! And yet at the same time, there is something inside me that isn’t 100% aboard that idea.

If you read my post on Thursday, October 13, 2022, https://livingonlifeslabyrinth.com/2022/10/13/book-report-downsizing-my-books/ you know that I am not ignoring the challenge of my own stuff. That post focused on books, but I could have written about my “Dish Problem.” I inherited the problem, along with actual dishes, from my mother, and my sister has the same problem. We love setting a beautiful table with dishes appropriate to the season or the occasion. Perhaps the problem would have been more under control, if my husband didn’t also love dishes and if we hadn’t been antique collectors all our married life.

Even though I still have enough dishes to serve the neighborhood, I want you to know that I no longer have as many sets as I once did. I have pared back significantly, and am proud to say, all our dishes, other than a set of Christmas dishes, are easily assessable in cupboards and not packed away in bins. I know I will continue to evaluate what I really want to keep and use for now, and it’s certainly possible there will be more than two place settings of the white dishes we use everyday when I die or move into a care center.

Our children will have to deal with our stuff.

Is that so bad?

First of all, let me say I believe in the principle of “like with like, ” which means staying organized, and I also believe in knowing what one has, which also means staying organized and not storing “maybe I’ll use this one day” items in difficult to reach storage items. I also don’t believe in keeping things like 25 year old tax returns, and clothes that haven’t fit for 5 years and if they ever were to fit again will be out of style anyway, and stacks of jigsaw puzzles that were fun to put together once, but twice? Not so much.

All that being said, I think there is some value for our children in dealing with the stuff that remains.

A story about my mother.

My mother loved jewelry, and she was blessed with my father who loved giving her beautiful jewelry. Before she died she designated her major pieces, but that still left boxes and drawers full of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings.

One of the first days after she died, we opened up the dining room table as far as it could go and filled it with piles of her jewelry–the pearl pile, the turquoise pile, the silver pile, the costume jewelry pile. You get the idea. Then we all gathered and starting with the oldest, which was me, went around the table one by one selecting one item from one of the piles. We went round and round and round draping ourselves in the treasures until what was left was not wanted by anyone. My father in the meantime sat nearby beaming. He was so happy we were delighting in these bits and pieces of Betty Ann’s baubles.

I still fill with tears as I think about that day, which was almost 20 years ago. That day was part of our grieving process, and because my mother had not figured out what to do with all those boxes and drawers of jewelry, she gave that day to us. We told stories and laughed and honored her gypsy nature.

When my father died, there was less to do because he had moved into a senior living facility a few years before, but, trust me, there was still enough stuff. Strange as it may sound, I am grateful for the days my sister and brother and husband and brother-in-law spent together sorting and tossing and packing and moving. Because of COVID, the grands and greats were not able to be with us, and they missed our storytelling and the moments when each of us needed some comfort.

I hope when the time comes my family won’t resent the fact that somehow I never got around to creating beautiful family albums and instead left boxes of loose photos. I hope they will pass around pictures and tell stories and comfort each other. I hope when they pack up the dishes I only use in the fall they will remember how good my applesauce tasted and the baked spaghetti hot dish and the pork loin with wild rice and how I loved setting a pretty table even when dinner was only pizza.

I am not suggesting you avoid what must be done or use this post as a justification for holding on tightly to what is only cluttering your present life, but going through the stuff of our loved ones’ lives also can be a tool in the process of grieving. Just a thought.

An Invitation

What are your thoughts about stuff and grieving? I would love to know.

Book Report: Downsizing My Books

October 13, 2022

A frequent conversation among elders is what to do with our stuff. We all have it.

We know it’s only stuff. But it’s our stuff, and we don’t want anyone telling us what to do with our stuff.

I can feel my body become rigid, my throat constrict, and my eyes narrow if anyone dares tell me I have too many books. What is too many? I am not willing to have that conversation.

But, of course, the truth is I do have lots of books.

What to do?

I know that the next move, if and when that happens, will be to a much smaller space; one in which there will be much less room for all our books. Does that mean I need to empty our bookshelves now and never purchase another book? Or do I just ignore the elephant –in this case hundreds of books–in the room(s)?ownsizing

Strategies and Process

My main strategy is to recognize and to practice the PROCESS of downsizing. Here’s what that means:

  1. Use the library more and buy fewer books. So far this year I have checked out almost 80 books from the library, and I have purchased a little more than half that amount.
  2. Every time I read a book I own I consider if it is one I might want to read again or refer to in my work as a spiritual director or small group facilitator. If I decide I don’t need or want to keep it, it is placed in a basket of books to take to a Little Free Library or set aside for our annual garage sale or pass on to someone else and say, “No need to return.” Occasionally, I want to re-read a book I no longer own. Well, there’s the library to save the day!
  3. The last two years my Lenten spiritual practice has been to eliminate at least one book from my spirituality/theology bookshelves each day. I intend to continue that practice this year, too.
  4. Each time I return a book to a shelf or find space for a new book, I spend time looking at the other books on those shelves and often I decide I don’t need to save one of the nearby books any longer.
  5. No books are allowed to gather in piles on the floor. Books do not become the base for a lamp or prop up a table leg.
  6. There are no boxes of books in storage areas. Seeing my books not only gives me pleasure, but that prevents the “out of sight, out of mind” issue that solves nothing.
  7. The books I have acquired, but not yet read are kept on two shelves. Nonfiction books are on a shelf in the garret and fiction in the snug. That means I am aware of them when I finish a book and wonder what to read next.

Practicing Awareness

Part of this downsizing process is to ask myself –not just once, but periodically–what is the meaning of this specific category of stuff? Why do I hold on to these books?

There is more than one answer. First of all, I am a passionate reader, and I prefer to read books in their paper form. You may prefer listening to books or reading on a Kindle. Good for you, and maybe, someday I will do that, too, but not now. Books are beautiful and are part of my decor and add to the warmth and personality of our home. I feel the presence of the writer and their words by having books physically present. Also, I am a writer and a teacher and browse my books for inspiration, for answers, for reinforcement and support and for ideas to broaden my perspective. I suppose I can do that on the internet, but it’s not the same. Finally, my books offer a glance into my history, a view into who I am. And my books remind me to continue the process of growth and evolution.

I know someday I will have to face (or my family will) the challenge of what to do with all these books, and I guess should apologize for that, but oh well… I continue to remind myself that downsizing is a process, and I am in the midst of that process. I am becoming aware that each book I let go of makes it easier to let go of another one.

One more thing: I’ve noticed it is much easier to prod someone else to do something about their stuff, than it is to tackle our own stuff. I’m guilty of that, and I am trying to reform and focus on my own stuff. Enough said!

An Invitation:

What stuff is plaguing you and what are you doing about it? I would love to know.

Pantry Envy: A Hometender’s Sin

October 11, 2022

This past weekend we visited family in Nebraska, including our niece and her husband. We had dinner in their lovely new home, and I have a confession. I had an extreme case of pantry envy. Kitchen envy, too.

Their pantry is the size of my kitchen. Need I say more?

And it was organized, spacious, and beautiful.

I was in love. Or should I say, IN ENVY.

Envy is not an unknown feeling for me. I am an enneagram FOUR and envy is the “sin” or “passion” of this personality type. In this case “sin” is not meant to be viewed as something bad or evil, but rather as the tendency to miss the mark in some way. When experiencing the sin or passion, we lose our center and are not our best selves.

Envy and the Enneagram

First a word about the enneagram.

The enneagram is an ancient system of self-understanding and self-discovery; a tool for personal transformation and development. Pronounced “ANY-a-gram,” the enneagram is a geometric figure that maps out nine fundamental personality types of human nature and their complex relationships.

My husband and I were introduced by a friend to the enneagram many years ago and studying it, returning to its subtleties and complexities over and over has been life-enhancing. The key step is to determine which of the nine personality types one is. After being introduced to the types, I knew almost immediately that I am a FOUR: an individualist or some times called the romantic or artist.

Envy is the sin or passion of the four.

Envy is based on the feeling that something is missing. Envy leads Fours to feel that others possess qualities that they lack. Fours long for what is absent but often fail to notice the many blessings in their lives.

The Wisdom of the Enneagram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types, by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson.

They see immediately who has more style, more class, more taste, more talent, more unusual ideas, more genius than they do. They see who is simpler, more natural, more normal, and ‘healthier’ than they are. There is nothing that a FOUR couldn’t be envious about.

The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert

Noticing Envy

Envy has been an issue in my life, for sure. And while I am not able to say it has disappeared nor have I conquered the green-eyed monster, but I am more apt to recognize it quickly and ask, “What is this about and why am I feeling this now?” Plus, I am more able to turn the feeling into gratitude for my own blessings and to honor the gifts in someone else’s life.

So here’s how my pantry envy evolved.

What happened first was genuine delight for my niece. She and her husband had waited a long time for their dream house, and they had worked hard to make it happen. Bravo to them. In addition, how fun it was to see my niece’s hometending skills, her creativity, ingenuity, and her love of beauty, and I hope I expressed my appreciation for her gifts.

Then I sat with what I was experiencing within myself. Here’s what I uncovered:

I am living in what is sure to be my last house. I assume wherever I live next I will have a kitchen, but chances are it will be smaller and simpler, more basic than what I have now. This is because I am in my mid 70’s and closer to the end of my life than the beginning. I have had many kitchens –some bigger, some smaller–than my current kitchen and I have cooked and entertained no matter the size or the design, but I realize I no longer do that on the scale I once did. I feel some sadness about that. I know it is time to let go of some of that need. How grateful I am for all the times we have gathered family and friends around our table. How grateful I am for the ability to feed others and ourselves and to never lack for food in our home.

My envy opened me just a bit more to what I still store in my inner pantry, and that is a good thing.

By the way, my current pantry, which is a closet a couple steps down from the kitchen, is adequate. More than adequate for my current needs, and I need to remember that. It could use a bit tidying, however. I will put that on my list.

An Invitation

What moments of envy do you experience and how can they be a teacher? I would love to know.

Note:

If you are interested in the enneagram, I highly recommend the Riso and Hudson book I quoted. Also, you can take a test at https://www.bestenneagramtest.com/enneagram-test-how-can-i-find-out-my-enneagram-type?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhY-aBhCUARIsALNIC07jjnNA_X_HrH9lNQdBDKXoPBsrWeDvITTlnE0DmY_Djx4qJ4_NBCEaAiFWEALw_wcB OR https://mypersonality.net/quiz?afid=gdnmps&gclid=Cj0KCQjwhY-aBhCUARIsALNIC06glsDnVpEU2cYZ57KvpeykthSx5vfm7ZF01bWCnk_u6VGSKENcuH4aAolZEALw_wcB

Book Report: September Round-Up

October 6, 2022

Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway mysteries dominated my September reading time. I read the last four in the series of fourteen books, but the last line in the most recent book certainly indicates there will be a fifteenth book to come.

Along with the Ruth Galloway books, I read other mysteries this month.

  1. The second Richard Osman, The Man Who Died Twice (2021). His third in the series featuring old and retired characters solving mysteries was recently released and is, of course, on my list–The Bullet That Missed.
  2. Fox Creek by William Kent Krueger (2022). I enjoyed it and swallowed it almost whole in a couple chunks of reading time, but I didn’t think it was his best. But, that being said, his best is better than good.

The novel I want to highlight from this month’s reading, however, is The Midcoast by Adam White. (2022) I wish I knew who recommended this or where I learned about it. Sometimes I note in my TBR list the source of a recommendation, but I didn’t in this case. The title refers to a section in Maine where the story takes place. The narrator, Andrew, grew up in the area and returns there with his family. He is a teacher and a writer and becomes an observer of another family: Ed, a lobsterman, his wife Steph and two children, Alli who is a lacrosse star and son EJ, a police officer. How is it that this family seems to have unlimited funds and money is no object? Thus, the story unfolds.

I also recommend a nonfiction title, Windswept, Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women by Annabel Abby (2022). I’ve always been attracted to books about walking; for example, Wanderlust, A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit. I do like to walk, but I am not a long-distance walker or major hiker, so I laugh at myself when I read a book about walking. Am I like the woman I once knew who collected a pile of books about running, but never put on her running shoes and headed out the door? Oh well.

This book features women for whom walking, and often walking solo, was a major part of their lives–Georgia O’Keefe, Simone de Beauvoir, and others unfamiliar to me. The author then decides to walk some of those same paths, musing that the women walkers she admires, “walked to become,” and also how walking often leads to new thoughts. That is certainly true for me–even my short walks in the neighborhood.

The author also writes that silence is an element–like water and fire–and I keep thinking about that.

September was an incredibly busy month, and I was grateful, as always for my book companions, which allowed me to pause and take a deep breath. As much as I enjoyed the mysteries I tended to reach for in recent months, I now feel a desire to read fiction with a bit more substance. I’ll keep you posted.

An Invitation

What did you read in September? I would love to know.

NOTE:

For two other nonfiction books I read in September and highly recommend see my September 15th post.