summer reading

I finally checked off a book I had on my summer nightstand, from last summer.   While we were in the Dominican Republic, I finally read The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  I wish I had brought another book along for our 10-day stay because I finished it by our second day… no kidding.  The book is not very long and it is indeed that good.


I actually didn’t know anything about the book before I read it other than it was about Japanese women (the cover may have helped with that!)  But what I was not expecting was multiple narratives woven into one collective voice brought to life by the author.  Otsuka writes of Japanese women brought to America in the early 20th century (as “picture brides”) and their lives that follow.  It is the beautiful marriage of the individual and collective that made the book so memorable and compelling for me.  She writes that “we” did this, that and the other… this happened to “us”, etc.  Not only was it an unorthodox approach to traditional form, but her approach allowed for each character’s individual story of love, injustice, and emotions to be experienced on a personal level while speaking to the collective emotional experience of a marginalized group.  When it happened to one character it happened to all of them, including the author.  I really liked how it read like an autobiography, but one of a generation of women in one clear voice.  Highly Recommended.

we are not the poem

Putting Thoughts To Paper Graphic

Whilst lounging under a cabana a couple of weeks ago, I re-read a go-to writing book, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.  This time one particular chapter left the page and has been stuck somewhere in the back of my mind ever since.  It reads as follows:

…We think our words are permanent and solid and stamp us forever.  That’s not true.  We write in the moment.  Sometimes when I read poems at a reading to strangers, I realize they think those poems are me.  They are not me, even if I speak in the “I” person.  They were my thoughts and my hand and the space and the emotions at that time of writing.  Watch yourself.  Every minute we change.  It is a great opportunity.  At any point, we can step out of our frozen selves and our ideas and begin fresh.  That is how writing is.  Instead of freezing us, it frees us.  …It is important to remember that we are not the poem.  People will react however they want; and if you write poetry, get used to no reaction at all.  But that’s okay.  The power is always in the act of writing.  Come back to that again and again and again.  …Don’t identify too strongly with your work.  Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words.  They are not you.  They were a great moment going through you.  A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture.  [Emphasis mine.]

As I reflect again on her words, I think about how much I hold back from this space… for fear of being frozen by my words.  I avoid talking about my experiences with religion, social justice, politics, and other things because I don’t want to be put in a box and have someone say… “but you said…!!!”  I feel so much more fluid than my words or photos might suggest.  I am constantly learning and growing and I don’t ever want to be in a position that I have become so cemented that I can’t gain a fresh perspective.  Just because I have articulated an experience about x,y,or z doesn’t mean that a new experience couldn’t make me think/feel very differently.

And a huge fear of mine is to appear flaky (i.e. changing my mind on things), and flaky = stupid and (according to my therapist) I value competence A LOT (in others and the way others perceive me).

But I guess I shouldn’t be making decision out of fear in the first place.  And I need to remember that I am not the poem… I am not my essay on x,y, & z and I am not my photography, etc.  And if others don’t understand that, maybe it’s not my issue, but theirs.

weekend scene

We indulged on our last weekend before Lent.  (That might be an understatement.)   We started the weekend extravaganza at one of our favorite food trucks — Rice Box, ahhh, comforting American-style Chinese fare.  I then spent Friday with my Aunt north of the city.  She took me to one of her favorite fancy grocery stores for perusing and afternoon coffee-ing.  (It reminded me lots of a favorite Chicago shop.)  Saturday was spent cleaning, organizing, and painting again.  I have really enjoyed my efforts at painting — only abstract art mind you.  I’m terrible… but I’m learning.  I enjoy seeing how the colors mix and how different brushes (and other tools) make unique shapes.  I’m determined to get better.  If I was smart I’d sign up for a class somewhere, but alas, the internet is my only teacher right now.  I also started a new book totally expecting to not really get into it… well, too bad work is getting in the way because I’m a third of the way into it and I want to finish it by next Sunday.

I am so grateful for my free time — to spend how I like.  It is a luxury I hope to never take for granted.


summer reading

I guess summer is officially here starting this evening.  My list this year is a complete potpourri of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and prose.  I can’t believe how many books I can be reading simultaneously.  But the only one on that list I have not opened yet is The Buddha in the Attic.  (My sis just gave it to me two weekends ago.)  I did however manage to complete The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo over the weekend (finally — after a several month long hiatus half-way through).  I’m not so much into books with so much violence against women. I’m not sure that I will be reading books two and three (although I do have them now). Most all the others are books I’ve had partially read (for years in some cases!) and others that I’m going through a second time.  And a writing instructor I once had encouraged me to read at least one poem a night before going to sleep, and I’ve been taking her advice.  Not pictured here are three more library books just of poetry.  It’s an exercise I would highly recommend.  I’m so glad summer is finally here and maybe I’ll actually make a dent in this list by summer’s end.

on eating well

Ever since February I’ve had a bit of a shift in my eating habits.  After the binge that is the holiday season and a semester of classes that interfered with my exercise I reluctantly got on the scale and just about melted when I saw what number was looking back at me.  I know it’s not just about a number, but I had noticed that even my “cookie pants” were quite tight.  I even started realizing that I wasn’t wearing certain items in my closet because a.) they looked terrible and b.) they weren’t fitting!  Frustration and shock started to set in.  It had to change — and right then.  OK, so maybe it wasn’t a total lightening strike moment, but it was a wake-up call.


looking up

This photography project by David Stephenson is right in our  wheelhouse.  It’s always a good piece of advice when experiencing a new space, look up.  I love the perspective Stephenson used — straight on from the middle.  Being a lover of organization, symmetry, and the like — I love the beauty in these divinely geometric spaces; the patterns and repetition speaking somewhat to the infinite nature of God (and damn good architecture!)

Lucky for me all these images and more are in a wonderful book!