Soul Food, var. Story

Excuse me for starting off like a 19th century philosopher of the male European variety, but as I have deepened into the experience of being this being that I refer to as Me, I have noticed how much I require Story in order to thrive. I crave good stories like sunshine, water, essential nourishment. Sometimes, I feel like I eat books, ravenously.

Inspired by Liam’s audio books, I have begun listening to stories, primarily via podcasts like This American Life, FreshAir, Afropop Worldwide and The Moth, while I do quiet types of housework (ie not the dishes) or yoga practice.

So, my Zen practice does not resemble the practice of when chopping garlic, simply be chopping garlic. It is more of this nature: when chopping garlic, listen to a compelling story and chop said garlic more mindfully because you are moving at the speed of listening closely. 

Visiting the library leaves me feeling like a rich woman. As a child, I would return once a week throughout summer vacation with a towering stack.  I remember the day when I looked along the familiar bookshelves of the young adult section and could find nothing unread. It was paralyzing for a moment until I realized (or more likely my mama suggested) that I could go into the adult section. I am tempted to dramatically declare that I never looked back, but of course there is always so much to find in children’s and young adult fiction, so that would simply be untrue. My reading world did, though, widen ever so much from that moment forward.

As a kid, I liked to climb a particularly well-situated pine tree on our property line and graft on to my perch. With a bird’s eye view of the sleepy neighborhood and a good book in hand, I was content to let the summer days pass.

When my oldest child is resistant, if I can find a bit of narrative to weave into our moment, he becomes hooked like a fish and will follow me just about anywhere in good cheer. Truly, he spends his days steeped in story of his invention. I have adapted to requests to play by providing a bit of narrative structure and he is glad to do the rest of the work. 

These days, I read whenever I can. It is one of the ways I consistently choose to relax. In the Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, it is recommended to take a week’s break from reading anything at all in order to see what arises from within. She states that “blocked creatives” will take refuge in the creations of others. No doubt, I say. I am approaching a place of willingness to try this experiment, nearly four years after reading the prompt.

My non-fiction read of the moment is Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon, and I am working my way slowly through this most evenings. It is thick with experiences of parenting children who are strongly different in some way or another from their parents. It is very thought provoking and inspiring.

Upon reflecting, I see that I am not currently reading a novel, but I am also consuming the essays of Islands, The Universe, Home, by Gretel Ehrlich. I am enjoying her writing after so long away from it, she is so deliberate and evocative in her wording. And, here I find, the more I write, the more words I wish to use.

One longtime daydream has been to run a bookstore, café, yoga studio, garden, nature center, etc. So, for the meanwhile: blog book talk, anyone? What is on your bedside table this mid spring or playing alongside your daily work?

8 thoughts on “Soul Food, var. Story

  1. Once I gave up reading novels for Lent. During those six weeks I worked on selections by Stanley Hauerwas from “The Hauerwas Reader.” I didn’t MISS novels, but I gave up on Hauerwas as soon as Easter was over. I find the most compelling elements of a novel or short story are the ideas and the beauty of the language. A friend of my husband’s quit their book group because he said, “Fiction just doesn’t speak to me right now.” I can’t imagine that!

    1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I think that I often choose novels for armchair adventuring and for the first time, possibly ever, I have been taking extended breaks from them just as a matter of having my library card suspended and just recently wresting our bedroom back from the baby’s night time sleep needs. With my “free” time so limited, it does show up a choice-read? stretch? run? write? draw?! make a phone call? etc. Love to you and the family ❤

  2. I have been reading from the young adult section, or whatever the category of literature in the children’s room at the library is called, simply because I am so often trapped in that particular room. It was a revelation to me that I could browse those shelves instead of the ones in the main library, and not suffer at all. Regarding Julia Cameron and a fast from reading…I can see her point, but for me, turning off the computer is far more compelling and creative-making than putting down books, and I often am so inspired by amazing writing that it can’t help but translate into something of my own, sooner or later.

    1. I agree with you Kyce that the computer is the real distraction temptress in my work space and my mind grasps for it to a disturbing degree. I am looking forward to a fast on our month long road trip this summer. For the children’s and young adult fiction, I really benefited from teaching fifth grade a handful of times because it kept me diving in to what the kids are reading these days. Cheers, sister-see you on the trail!

  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series has been popping up for me recently, so i’ve been indulging a bit…. And had a good laugh reading the dry wry wit of our dear departed Doug Adams, describing a song being sung – which, if IT had been written by Paul McCartney, would have made enough on the royalties to buy large portions of England for Sir Paul to survey from his ivory tower….

    1. Hi Nolan! I love that you are rereading Hitchhiker’s. I rarely choose to reread books because I am bedazzled by all the choices that I have yet to pick up. Once in a while, I will reread something that I read in my teenage years and it is such a revelation to feel the same story through a more experienced heart. I think that you have given me a solid rereading suggestion here. And, ‘dry wry wit’ sounds like a description for a fancy drink that I might like. Cheers, brother!

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