books in hand

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Dear Ruthi,

Day 11 finds me well into vacay and at a loss for what I might be birthing. What am I anticipating? This vacation. My X that marks the spot (Barbara Brown Taylor). 

In many ways I do feel like I’m waiting – for what I don’t know. I continue with little starts that quickly fail – case in point, the Trader Joe’s chocolate covered sea salt butterscotch caramels I’m scarfing down, and before bed at that! Half an hour ago I was falling asleep on the couch with Av reading in my arms, only to go to bed and lie awake thinking about having not written you. Now I’m sitting at my computer, listening to the surf, stuffing my mouth instead of filling the page wondering what the hell is going on. Ruthi my friend, what the hell is going on?!

Today was a rain day which called for tradition – Grandma’s treat at the Barnes & Noble where she takes us each year and buys everyone a book of their choosing. Truly, she is the best. As the last one in I lingered at the display in the vestibule. The first book I grabbed was a copy of “The Intellectual Devotional.”

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I was drawn by my affection for kraft paper, nice font choice and use of white space, the call to “Revive your mind” (oh yes, please, that!), the brain graphic and what it reminds me of… and if I’m really honest the title poked at me right in the wound that says ‘intellectual’ needs to be distinguished from ‘daily’ because ‘spiritual’ is of a different kind. Bah. Fortunately my contempt was thwarted when the first page I opened to was this:

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The one book I brought with me! Okay, that’s not entirely true. I brought our ’40 Days’, the last book I read so I could type up my notes, and the Sabrina Ward Harrison journal you gave me – but I think you catch my drift. I have never travelled with one book, not for any overnight, let alone a full vacation. I was intentional with this choice, suspecting this 785-paged, 17th-century, Spanish literature would require my full attention and commitment. Sixty pages a day will do it and keep me well ahead of my 26 Books in 2017 allotment. I figured it could go either way. Sadly it’s not going the way I would have liked..

It’s borderline painful. I was introduced to “Man of La Mancha” in high school, fell for the Impossible Dream, and have taken every chance to see the production live. Don Quixote and Sancho are much less endearing in their full form. I’m hoping it’s not much longer before Aldonza graces the pages beyond the Dulcinea pining of Don Quixote’s. 

If this is the route of the intellectual quest, perhaps I’ll reconsider my journey and reset my compass. 

Usually I get carried away in bookstores. Intrigued, inspired, reminded. The books pile up, along with a sense of needing to read them. This year I’m trying something new, and despite struggling with Cervantes, I’m loving the strategy. Based on predetermined categories, I laid out 26 books from that piled up pile in my home and declared I would read them in 2017. A book every other week seemed easy to commit to, but may prove much harder to deliver on. Being reminded of this plan subdued me this bookstore visit. Something I’m grateful for.

I spent quite a while on the floor in front of ‘Art Technique’ seeking inspiration in calligraphy books for my pursuit of penmanship, but was also distracted and inspired there by the art journaling books. They so reminded me of you! In another section I held several Thich Nhat Hanh books, one in particular on communication, drawn to the chapter on communicating with ourselves. Listening to our bodies seems ill-advised when mine keeps telling me to sleep and eat. But when it came down to choosing, there wasn’t one I wanted to leave with. I settled on a book Av showed me with a twinkle in her eye, one from the American Girl series, “The Care and Keeping of Us: A sharing collection for girls and their moms.” So cheesy. So us.

I was happy to indulge my girl as she was already lugging a basket. The thing is, she will read, this vacation alone, all 9 books she walked away with: 2 from grandma, 3 as a very belated birthday gift from her siblings, 1 as a prize awarded by her dad, and 3 she bought with her own money, plus the three in the collection that were my pick. She’d already finished one by the time we got home from the outing, which is why I’m all about the library for her. Grandma likes to indulge in general and Av is the type of spirit that inspires a desire in others to indulge her as well. (As I’ve sat here typing, she tidied the entire condo common area before retiring to bed, the purpose I hope to discover in the morning).

She has a voracious appetite for books shared by her mother and paternal grandma alike. One we’re happy to indulge as I’ve already mentioned. So much so that both her dad and grandma okayed the request to bring one of the newly purchased books into the restaurant for dinner. Something I frown upon. It somewhat surprised me that every group that passed us by as we waited outside for our table commented how wonderful and unusual it was to see children reading. Seriously?! Are they aware kids read books on devices as well? I try to always leave the house with my device, a book to read, and a journal to write or draw in. I advise my kids to do the same. Bandages, tissues and water as well… but those are less to the point. 

For me historically, as well as today, the books to read get much more use than the books to write or draw in. But I’m practicing. Here. Right now. Technology, bright ideas, and questionable commitments be damned!

What book(s) will you carry with you this next adventure?

With love,

Jules

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