Saturday, October 20, 2012

Evidence by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets.  If you are not familiar with her poems, they are infused with the natural world and contain so much wisdom that they are a balm for my soul.  A couple of my favorites of hers are "The Summer Day" and "Wild Geese".  Google them and read them.  They'll give you a taste of what her delicious poems are like.  This collection is pretty much standard Mary.  A feast for the senses and emotions.  I highly recommend this, or any other collection of her poems.  Here's one of my favorites from this book:

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass


Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say - behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.


Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone's face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs….


Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
The dancer, the potter,
To make me a begging bowl
Which I believe
My soul needs.

And if I come to you,
To the door of your comfortable house
With unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
Will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.


We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change.
Congratulations, if
You have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure-
Your life-
What would do for you?


What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.
And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

Okay, I admit it.  I'm a Neil Young fan and that was my main reason for reading this book--which by the way, I found interesting.  It is a book suffused with comments about loss and aging and its author is not a high faluting author, just an old rocker who has some things to say.  He says them in a stream of consciousness style, jumping around in time a lot as he's telling you his story.  But it was interesting to learn a bit about how he was raised and the kinds of experiences he has had that played themselves out in his music.  He also tells you a great deal about his ideas about improving the sound of today's music by restoring high resolution digital music.  If you are not a Neil Young fan, I'm not sure this book would hold your interest--but if you are a fan of his music, you'll enjoy this back story.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Edward Warren has been living in Thailand for several years, after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke.  He gets a frantic phone call from his mother, in which he learns that his Dad lies comatose in a hospital, gravely injured in a car accident that also involved his younger sister Cara.  He quickly returns to the United States.  Luke is an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wolf pack in the wilds of Canada.  It's impossible for his children to reconcile the broken man in the hospital bed with their dynamic father.  When doctors say Luke's chances of recovery are practically nil, his daughter Cara hopes for a miracle.  But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father's organs.

With this book, Picoult examines the intersection between medical science and moral choices, and she manages to make us confront some provocative questions.  If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save somebody else's life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another's death? When a father's life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate?

Jodi Picoult is known as a writer who deals with family, relationships, love, and so much more.  She is a meticulous researcher who says it drives her crazy as a reader when she catches authors in inaccuracies--so she is a stickler about it.  For Lone Wolf, she spent time with a man who lived in the wild with a wolf pack for a year (Shaun Ellis) – and got to meet some other wolves he has in captivity.  She recommends that you read his book "The Man Who Lives with Wolves," and tells you that if you want to learn more about wolves or sponsor wolves, you can contribute to The Wolf Centre and Foundation, where he continues to work to understand more about wolves and wolf behavior.  The website is

Her research into wolf biology, and the heirarchy and mentality of the pack makes the story all the more enjoyable.  It is also a compelling read because of its examination of a very complex subject that many families may have to deal with at some point.

It is well written, packs an emotional punch, and the family dynamics are handled quite well (this is a Picoult trademark).  

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