Middle Tennessee has become a snow globe today. With schools and many businesses closed, folks are home with an ample supply of bread and milk (it's a Southern thing). And at my house, extra bags of bird seed to keep our feathered companions nourished - finches, dark-eyed juncos (below), cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmice, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and the gorgeous white breasted nuthatch.
If you have the luxury of enjoying this snow day in the comfort of your favorite chair with a warm cup of your favorite coffee, tea or cocoa, then hopefully you've got a stack of books nearby. If not, here are some of my favorites that I hope nourish you a bit, wherever you are today.
All are nonfiction or poetry, except one by a writer whose fiction first captivated me a few years ago, and then I discovered his essay collections. Enjoy!
Devotions by Mary Oliver
I've selected Devotions because it's her most recent collection of poems spanning five decades of work. But seriously, anything, always, Mary Oliver will feed you, particularly if you have a love of the natural world. And if nature isn't your 'thing', I believe Mary Oliver's writing can give you a refreshing lens through which to appreciate nature's wonders.
One of her most famous poems is "Wild Geese".
Could we ever have enough of this poem? I don't think so :)
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,
and heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wile geese, harsh and exciting ---
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell
David George Haskell is a professor at the University of the South in Sewanee. His first book, The Forest Unseen, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and documented the changes of a one-square-meter patch of old growth forest with writing that blended lyrical prose and scientific accuracy.
In this new book, Haskell visits a dozen trees around the world, observing and recording the myriad ways trees connect our living world. There is so much to learn! And it is a treat to journey with Haskell - a poet, a naturalist.
A few years ago I had the privilege of taking a birding class with Haskell at Sewanee. And what insight it gave me to his writing. His senses are so highly tuned to every sound, behavior patterns, and what nature reveals in her silences. He is brilliantly able to translate those observations in his writing.
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed
Has our digital world wreaked havoc with your attention span? I noticed that happening to me last year when I couldn't focus through a book chapter without my thoughts wandering. I worked on retraining my brain...and must admit, it's a continual process. This book gave me bit-size nuggets to hold my attention on the page and to keep turning the page. This book is a collection of quotes and wisdom from her works including WILD, "Dear Sugar" podcast and Tiny Beautiful Things.
If you enjoy playing that game where you flip pages under your thumb for a few seconds, then stop to read the "random" page you've selected - this is the perfect book to enjoy! I just did that and here's the passage I opened to:
"There is a middle path, but it goes in only one direction: toward the light. Your light. The one that goes blink, blink, blink inside your chest when you know what you're doing is right." ~Cheryl Strayed
All These Wonders - True Stories About Facing the Unknown presented by The Moth
I only recently discovered The Moth. Are you familiar with this wonder of live storytelling? If not, check them out! This collection includes 45 stories about facing the unknown, taking risks, mustering courage. There is surely a morsel for every appetite in this book, whether the thought of risk brings you exhilaration or flutters of fear.
There is one line of one story that may perfectly encapsulate a risk journey:
"For a while things are very good, and things are bad, and then things are good."
The lesson? Keep going.
Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy
This book made me fall in love...with writing, with its characters, with its scenes and twists and turns. It broke my heart and put it back together again. There aren't adequate adjectives and adverbs to describe how I loved this story. And how, after reading it, I couldn't get to a bookstore quickly enough to purchase everything Simon Van Booy ever touched.
One reviewer called this book "achingly beautiful" - YES!
I've heard people say they judge a book by its first line. If you are that person...
"For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.
Mantra Wellness (a magazine)
For a while, while I retrained my attention span, magazines were my bridge.
Who am I kidding...I LOVE magazines. Always have, always will. Especially some of the new publications (at least new to me) that bridge a traditional magazine format but are presented with the quality of a bound book. Bella Grace is one of my top picks.
But just a few days ago, I discovered Mantra Wellness. All I can say is YUM! I was only disappointed to realize that issue 20, which I purchased, meant I had missed the previous 19.
This publication embodies each of our own 'enough-ness' in stunning imagery, healthy lifestyle options, and creative nourishment. I'm going to subscribe yesterday!