Saturday, August 06, 2022

Reading Update

Book #37 of the year was The Memory Thief, by Emily Colin. I kept reading this book, about a man who dies in an avalanche but then is somehow still present, because I wanted to figure out what exactly the premise was. I guess the premise sort of made sense in a paranormal way, but it wasn't really my kind of book.

Book #38 was Jonathan Martin's new book, The Road Away From God: How Love Finds Us Even As We Walk Away. I am a Martin fan; I've read his shipwreck book at least five times. (You can see what I wrote about it the first time in this post.) This book is geared more for people who are thinking about walking away from their faith, for whatever reason. He takes as his metaphor here the story from the gospel of Luke when two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem after the crucifixion of Jesus. They meet a stranger on the road, who turns out to be the risen Lord. Even though they were walking away, Jesus still meets them. This book includes much more politics than the previous one, giving specific examples of why people have chosen to walk away from Christianity, particularly the evangelical flavor. Martin certainly knows his way around a metaphor, and this book is worth reading. Here's a taste:


"Life isn't plotted so all the movements are linear, telegraphed, obviously related. It's much more chaotic, clumsy, and ambiguous than that. We rarely know what's happening at the time, or really what we are doing or why, much less what anything actually means. But for most people I know who have been on the road, there has been a particular moment when they realized, with some kind of deep knowing, that there was no going back to the world as it was, the world as they knew it before. This was the moment that sent them out walking." 

Book #39 was Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline. This is the sequel to Ready Player One, which I read for my Adolescent Lit class back in 2012 and wrote about in this post. This one is more of the same, people living their lives virtually instead of IRL, neglecting the planet. There's more of the scavenger hunt content, based on movies and popular culture from the eighties. Like with the first book, I found myself wondering who Cline's audience is. Although I was a teenager in the eighties, I don't have nearly the encyclopedic knowledge of eighties lore than his characters do. The characters are a little flat, and there's lots and lots of wish-fulfillment in the playing and winning of video games, the endless amounts of money, and the adrenaline-fueled plot. 

Book #40 was Shauna Niequist's I Guess I Haven't Learned That Yet: Discovering New Ways of Living When the Old Ways Stop Working. This is my second time reading it since it came out in April. (The first time, I wrote about it in this post. This is a really good book. Here's Shauna: "I'm sad that this is a plot point I have to incorporate into the story of my life. That's the heart of it. I don't want this part. I want to stick my fingers in my ears like a child. I want to lock the door against it. You can't be a part of my story."

Book #41 was a reread, Persuasion, by Jane Austen. I don't even know how many times I've read it before. The last time was in 2019 and I wrote about it here. This time my reading was instigated by watching the new adaptation of the novel on Netflix. It has been much discussed on the internet. It was silly and anachronistic and I still can't say I hated watching it. And it made me read the book again, which is always a good thing. Austen is always a comfort read for me. 

Book #42 was Kentucky poet Ada Limón's latest book of poetry, The Hurting Kind. Limón was just named the new Poet Laureate of the United States. I enjoy her work and have shared several of her poems before on this blog. This first reading of her book was rewarding, and I'll be reading it again.

Book #43, The Fight for My Life: Boxing Through Chemo, by Kelly Motley was written by a friend who is married to another friend I met in graduate school. I got to go to an event that Kelly did in Nashville promoting this story of how she fought breast cancer, using boxing and a macrobiotic diet. This is an intense book, and Kelly doesn't shy away from describing the agony she experienced. Sometimes I had to put it aside for a while because it is so intense! She emerges as a strong, indomitable woman facing a formidable foe. Probably the part that will stay with me the most is the epic saga of her hair. Her nutritionist said that her clients never lose their hair during chemo. I won't give away what happens, but just know that my words "epic saga" are appropriate! I liked the writing, the honesty, and the unflinching description.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Summer Nurtures our Souls

Carol Varsalona is our host today and has asked us to reflect on the way summer nurtures our souls. I decided to go (mostly) wordless and show you some photos I've taken during cycling and birding expeditions in Kentucky and Tennessee this summer.

In that last one, you can see a foreshadowing of the next season!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Poetry Friday: Every Mile


This week, my total number of cycling miles since I joined Strava in April clicked over to 1000. (Strava is an app to keep track of athletic activity.) A thousand miles, mostly on a tandem (the one in the picture, from summer days in Kentucky, or the one in Paraguay), but some on a single bike. 


The poem I'm sharing today is really a song, written by one of my favorites, Nichole Nordeman. It's about miles. (Scroll past the video to read the words.) As I listen to this song, I think about the miles from this year so far. Some were fun and exhilarating, coasting or even pedaling all out downhill, going out-of-control fast. Some were painful, endless climbs, in the lowest gear. I even fell off my single bike a couple of times, once landing hard enough that I had to replace my helmet. (Always wear a helmet, kids.) There were a bunch of literal miles, and it's also, of course, a metaphor for all that I can't go into. You have your own miles; you know what I mean.

Every Mile Mattered

by Nichole Nordeman


Spread the map on the table

With the coffee stain

Put your finger on the places

Show me where you've been


Is that California

Where your teardrops dried?

You drew a circle around Georgia.

Can you tell me why?


I see should have beens, could have beens

Written all over your face,

Wrong turns and bridges burned,

Things you want to change


It's history

You can't rewrite it

You're not meant to be

Trapped inside it


Every tear brought you here

Every sorrow gathered

It's history

But every mile mattered


Get the box off the top shelf

With the black and white

Snapshots of your old self

In a better light

Ghosts and regrets back again

I can see it in your eyes

Send them home, let 'em go

Don't you think it's time?


It's history

You can't rewrite it

You're not meant to be

Trapped inside it


Every tear brought you here

Every sorrow gathered

It's history


Every road and every bend

Every bruise and bitter end

All you squandered, all you spent

It mattered, it mattered

Mercy always finds a way

To wrap your blisters up in grace

Every highway you'd erase

It mattered, it mattered

But it's history

It don't define ya

You're free to leave

It all behind ya

Every tear brought you here

Every sorrow gathered

It's history

Every mile mattered

Every mile mattered



I shared this song once before, in 2018, with some thoughts.

Mary Lee has the roundup this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Poetry Friday: July

I'm in the United States during this warm, dry summer. Some of the best moments in the last few weeks have involved friends, family, birds, and bicycles. I took the coneflower photo above on a morning birding expedition a couple of days ago.

Here's a poem about July:

July Day

by Babette Deutsch

The afternoon sways like an elephant, wears

His smooth grey hide, displays his somnolent grace, weighing

The majesty of his ponderous pace against

The slyness twinkling in an innocent eye.


Keep reading here, where the metaphor of the "elephant afternoon" goes on. 

Here's this week's roundup.

Reading Update

Book #33 of the year was a re-read, How to Survive a Shipwreck: Help is On the Way and Love is Already Here, by Jonathan Martin. Since I bought it in October 2016, I've gone through it several times. You can see the review I wrote on first reading here.

Book #34 was Summer Love, by Nancy Thayer. This was a fun, if forgettable, read.

Book #35 was Karma Gone Bad: How I Learned to Love Mangos, Bollywood, and Water Buffalo, by Jenny Feldon. This is a story of an expat, a "trailing spouse" who moves to India for her husband's job. She has trouble adjusting, but eventually manages it, as the title suggests. This was well-written and quite entertaining.

Book #36 was The Kidnapping of an American Missionary: One Woman’s Story of Courage and Conviction Under Fire, by Phyllis Sortor. I read a paper copy, but it looks as though the only format currently available from Amazon is on Kindle. Sortor, a long-term missionary in Nigeria, recounts the story of her traumatic kidnapping.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Poetry Friday: I Remember Galileo

I love Gerald Stern's description of the mind in this poem. Is the mind more like a piece of paper or a squirrel? You decide. 

I Remember Galileo

by Gerald Stern

I remember Galileo describing the mind

as a piece of paper blown around by the wind

and I loved the sight of it sticking to a tree

or jumping into the back seat of a car,

and for years I watched paper leap through my cities;

but yesterday I saw the mind was a squirrel caught crossing

route 80 between the wheels of a giant truck,

dancing back and forth like a thin leaf,

or a frightened string,


Here's the rest.


And here's today's roundup. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Reading Update

Book #27 was Father of the Rain, by Lily King. This is the story of Daley, first in her childhood as her parents are splitting up, and then as an adult as she struggles to help her alcoholic father dry out. This was my third Lily King novel, and I enjoyed it.

Book #28 was H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald. Helen's father has just died, and Helen is training a goshawk. She's also reflecting on T. H. White, the author of The Sword in the Stone, who did some falconry of his own. My daughter recommended this one, and I was glad I read it.

Book #29 was Love Makes Room: And Other Things I Learned When My Daughter Came Out, by Staci Frenes. Frenes is a Christian musician whose life was upended by her daughter's revelation, in high school, that she was gay. This book chronicles the family's journey to acceptance.

Book #30 was The Bird of Light, by John Hay. This was a paper copy, given to me for Christmas by my daughter, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for a day of air travel. It's a beautiful book about terns, both scientifically and poetically written. 

Book #31 was I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry, by Susie Kelly. This is a memoir about a young British girl growing up in Kenya in the 60s, and then her subsequent life. 

Book #32 was The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change, by Pauline Boss. This recent book, by the author who popularized the term "ambiguous loss," is a quick and helpful read.

Thursday, June 09, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Celebration


"The joy that Jesus offers his disciples is his own joy, which flows from his intimate communion with the One who sent him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure, experiences of honor from experiences of dishonor, passion from resurrection. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression, or persecution. It is present even when this world laughs or tortures, robs or maims, fights or kills. It is truly ecstatic, always moving us away from the house of fear into the house of love, and always proclaiming that death no longer has the final say, though its noise remains loud and its devastation visible. The joy of Jesus lifts up life to be celebrated." Henri Nouwen

You can see what everybody else posted here.