Have you ever read a book that, unknowingly (perhaps self consciously) in the choosing of it, speaks to something you’re going through at the time you are reading it? The connection is awe inspiring! It’s happened to me several times, actually. And I add such experiences to my book of kismet.
Most recently, well, two years ago this Columbus Day, I was on Cape Cod with my girlfriends. One, who lives there all summer, takes us to the quaint shopping area in Harwichport town center. After lunch, she says, “I have to take you to this adorable book store. You’ll love it!” And I did. Upon entering I felt a hominess, as sense that the owner was probably the only employee who just loved bringing in original and, often, local books. I can loom for hours in a bookstore, perusing, touching, smelling. My hand picked up a thinish book; pictured on the front, a woman walking on the shore– aptly named, A Year By the Sea. Said friend told me it had been written by an author who lives on Cape Cod, and it’s memoir about a period in her life. Enough said. I was sold. I bought it and put it in my ever revolving pile of books to read on my bookshelf. I’ve picked it up, twice since then and thought, maybe I’ll read it now, only to put it down because I listened to another’s beckoning.
This past weekend, my husband and I had made plans with our daughter to spend a day on the boat, something we hadn’t done in weeks. After awakening to overcast, and my daughter who changed her mind about coming on the boat, yet again, I was less than enthusiastic about our voyage, but my husband really wanted to go, so I didn’t want to disappoint him. While he’s fishing, which is usually our ritual, I read. Because there was no sun to bask in, I knew I’d better choose an all encompassing book, one I could lose myself in; otherwise, I’d grow restless and cranky.
There wasn’t a choice at all. I picked up A Year by the Sea, by Joan Anderson. No second guesses. I didn’t know, at that point– kismet had struck again!
I read for hours, engrossed– even eating lunch with one hand while reading. I devoured every word, most tasting as if they’d rolled off my own tongue. Contemplative and delighted at the same time, I measured her words along side my own experiences. I dog-eared the pages of the passages with which I could identify:
“I watch, as if peering through the lens of a movie camera, shifting from one frame to another. Truths, once held as secrets, slip out. Similarities and differences become comfortable companions in this primitive place where violence and peace go hand in hand.”
“You must always retain some part of yourself which is nobody’s business. The minute you let others in on your secrets, you’ve given away some of your strength.”
“No longer desperate to know every outcome, these days I tend to wait and see, a far more satisfying way of being that lacks specificity and instead favors experience over analysis.”
“‘Listen to the muse when it’s talking to you or it just goes on, and you miss its statement — that moment when you could have done something'”
“‘Vital lives are about action… You can’t feel warmth unless you create it, can’t feel delight unless you play, can’t know serendipity unless you risk'”
Thank you, Joan Anderson, for helping me to put into perspective so many of the feelings and thoughts and experiences I’ve just started learning to recognize, and, more so, embrace.
Here is some of the new insight I’ve gained:
Forget what was & live what is- The past is for memories and reflection. The present is for living, in life, what you’ve corrected from the past and for experiencing the NOW.
Make a bucket list: cross off what you’ve accomplished & add to it frequently- It’s important to plan for the future, but not only to plan– to act.
Do something unpredictable- Get out of your comfort zone & just do it (don’t over think or analyze it): face the fear, give into the indulgence!
Learn something about yourself every day-Accept that you will never arrive in the sense that every moment is a process. Honor the process.
Notice something you had not before, but what has always been- We are so busy getting up in the bus-Y-ness of life, that the little things go unnoticed. Notice the little things, and the big things will made clearer.
Nurture what matters- I’ve spent so much time investing in things with no return, simply because I haven’t nurtured the people who really matter; I’m done taking them for granted because every moment is precious.
And do you know what I loved best about the whole day? It wasn’t even rocking with the current, or the fact that the sun did shine, or the peacefulness of the birds dancing above us, and the fish playing hopscotch below, or appreciating a well-written, captivating book, or being so lost in an experience that I had no concept of time, it was that after my husband had put all of his fishing gear away, himself ready to head back home, instead, he sat next to me and said, “You don’t want to leave, do you? Until you finish your book.”
Both of us are still learning.
Joan Anderson, who has gone on to write more about her journey, keeps a blog (which I now follow) & hosts retreats (attending one is something I’m adding to my bucket list).