A Valentine’s Day rundown. Mostly worked this week. But, some things:
Reading: The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. This had been on my to-read list for a couple of years, and I couldn’t remember why I originally put it on. What started as a novella on a Harlem street-hustler (in a moderately magic-filled world) spiraled into Lovecraftian horror. I enjoyed it – a fun, quick read – though I still can’t recall what was it that made me jot it down originally…
Listening: Bach’s Cello Suites. My favorite is 1, which is a ubiquitous piece, but all of them are lovely. I’ve always enjoyed cello music. I’ve been told it’s because the cello makes a sound closest to the human voice of all the instruments. I don’t know if that’s true, but I wanted to revisit some cello music, particularly Bach.
Learning: About Alaska. Currently looking over some information regarding the 1899 Harriman Expedition. Apparently, Teddy Roosevelt was an admirer of the reports of flora and fauna being assembled by the team of the expedition, but it didn’t stop Roosevelt from dismantling Harriman’s railroad company in 1904 in antitrust litigation.
And more on personal libraries, following up from the earlier post:
“On a basic level, there are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter.”
– Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
Long before I discovered minimalism or the Kondo-method, there was a book I had read discussing the hows and whys of long-term travel. And I wasn’t ready for it when I first read it, back in 2003. The world was where I’d wanted to be, but I had a lot holding me back. It wasn’t until 2016 that I took significant steps toward making the dream of long-term world travel a reality.
Still, I combat the clutter and spending in my life. Having finished Strayed’s Wild, a portion of me wants to rid myself of nearly all my things, the bulk of which are already in a storage unit. She burned books after she read them, nightly, lightening the load of her pack to make walking just a tad easier.
We’ve all moved, and know that each time we lift that heavy piece of furniture we think that next time it’s not coming with us. But what about the smaller pieces, the things that don’t add value to our life anymore – things we just carry out of familiarity? Wouldn’t moving on be easier without them?
Maybe they’re not all material. Maybe some things we carry our internal – things that don’t serve us. Maybe those are the most important things to let go of…
What I’m reading: I read very little this week. Best of intentions and all, but time slipped away. I did start perusing An Innocent Abroad, compiled travel wisdom by Don George and published by Lonely Planet. But, not enough to actually call it reading.
What I’m listening to: Die Winterreise by Franz Schubert. I learned of this song cycle five or ten years ago, and I listen to it every winter. It’s 24 pieces, poetry set to music, following a man’s journey into the snow to rid himself of his departed, lost love. Quintessentially German.
What I’m spending time on: The Witcher on Netflix, starring Henry Cavill. I hadn’t followed the phenomenon that is The Witcher, from a fantasy franchise based on the series of books from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. But the show has garnered some attention, and I wanted to see what it was all about. A man fighting monsters in a world with wizards, elves, and dragons.
What I’ve shared:
The week that was, Dec. 20th. More work; started making end-of-year plans; brainstorming goals for 2020. The next ten days will be pretty crammed full. But I had some good highlights this week.
What I’m reading: Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler. Oddly enough, I first started reading this a year ago, December 2018. I did not finish it, but something made me pick it up this week. I have the Kindle edition, and with reading on my iPad I sometimes find it less intrusive when I don’t continue reading. The unfinished book stays on my nightstand, screaming at me to pick it up again. The iPad doesn’t say much at all. But led to Jack Gilbert while reading this, so I’m curious to see what other gems may come out of it.
What I’m listening to: Not impeachment proceedings, and only some Christmas music. This week I bounced mostly from podcasts to trying to pick the next audiobook I want to dive into. I’ve got several in the queue, but I haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger on one. I’m hoping inspiration strikes.
What I’m spending time with: This week it’s a quote – “If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” I hadn’t read Jack Gilbert before. I may have read that bit in Light the Dark last year, but I didn’t feel it like I feel it now. Another quote which has some meaning to me comes from another Jack, this one named Kerouac. “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”
Other things of interest this week:
“If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” – Jack Gilbert
In Light the Dark, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Big Magic) wrote about finding the work of poet Jack Gilbert (no relation). Shortly after reading this over the past few days I came across a quote by Benjamin Franklin which stated, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” And the two seemed to complement each other.
Elizabeth writes, “Live bravely when you’re young, we say. And maybe again when you retire, if you play your cards right. Jack Gilbert refused that argument: No, I’m just going to live that way every single day of my life, thanks.”
What would that look like? To live bravely throughout our days? For Jack Gilbert, who worked at steel mills before becoming a poet, that looked like a Pulitzer nomination for his first book. Then, accepting relative obscurity, he went to live and travel in Europe and Asia. He published five collections in five decades, and two novels. But he stayed away from mainstream literature and academia.
But he lived truthfully, to himself, and to others. He experienced life and sampled all it had to offer. Fellow poet and lover Linda Gregg said of him, “”All Jack ever wanted to know was that he was awake—that the trees in bloom were almond trees—and to walk down the road to get breakfast. He never cared if he was poor or had to sleep on a park bench.”
Life is different for all of us, but bravely living it will leave a mark on those around us regardless of who we are or where we come from.
In other words, do something worth writing.
Today I wanted to share a couple of things.
First, the new short-format podcasts from Tim Ferris on Books I’ve Loved. There are two of these so far, the first with Ferriss’s suggestions, and the second with book suggestions from Seth Godin and Esther Perel.
Also on books, this Laura Vanderkam article on How to Make Time to Read, from Medium.
My recent posts have been about books and reading, and these two offerings seemed to fit right in.
Another thought following the past two posts. Why books?
I was in Amsterdam two years ago, riding the tram across town, and there were passengers in large numbers reading books. The same was true in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, etc. Not when I take the bus or train here in the States. Why are books still so popular over there, while not so much here?
I may explore that in more detail when I travel over there next (not sure when).
But as for now, I know that I like my books. I like reading them. I like bookstores and libraries. And that’s not going to change.