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Field Notes, vol 6

March 11, 2013

field notes
For years now, my niece and I have been playing a game, in which we build a story with sentences that have to alternately begin with fortunately or unfortunately. I rather feel as if parts of my life have taken up such a plot, so I will describe them accordingly. Fortunately, after a two year process, the government has declared me legally disabled. Unfortunately, I am not eligible for disability pay as I haven’t worked full time long enough. Fortunately, I am eligible for a different kind of support. Unfortunately, this kind comes with different rules than the ones I thought I’d have to follow, and the new rules mean the death of some long-cherished dreams. Fortunately, I have other, smaller but still cherished, dreams. Unfortunately, it will take a lot of effort and a bit of luck to achieve them. Fortunately, I have incredible family and friends who will help me.

Scones are one of my favourite homemade breakfasts.

Scones are one of my favourite homemade breakfasts.

And that’s the end of the story so far. As you can imagine, this has been a season of changes for me. Consequently, I’ve needed a lot of quiet spaces for my mind to ponder over and my soul to reconcile with them. Instead of reading, I’ve been drawn to tasks that keep my body busy while leaving room for those inner spaces. I’ve been cooking, baking, thrifting, knitting, rearranging furniture, spring cleaning and sorting, walking, Thistle-ing, photographing, and daydreaming all the while. That’s not to say I haven’t been reading at all, simply that less of my time and energy have been devoted to books than usual. I’ve also been a bit fussy about books lately: in fact, after starting and stopping four different ones last week for various reasons, I finally gave up and turned to Jane Austen. She was just what I needed. In fact, of the three novels I’ve read this month, two have been rereads: Sense and Sensibility and Yaba Badoe’s True Murder, a wonderfully atmospheric book set in a British boarding school and featuring a Ghanaian main character. I first read it in December of last year, after buying a used copy since it hasn’t been published in the US yet (I think it cost me perhaps $4, including shipping from the UK), and I couldn’t resist revisiting it. I know I’ve said this before, but one of the greatest joys I find in rereading is that I’ve already loved the book, so I can completely relax, knowing it won’t let me down. Of course, this rule becomes less true the longer it’s been since my first read of the book, but as only a couple of months had passed I was certainly safe! Funnily enough, my current fiction read is also a reread (Women Without Men, a strange little Iranian novella I first read in 2005 or 2006 and that has stayed with me ever since). Clearly, my brain has enough to process with real-life plots and is shying away from fictional surprises!
Spring has certainly arrived here, and I see more buds and nests on each of my walks.

Spring has certainly arrived here, and I see more buds and nests on each of my walks.

I’m happy to read new-to-me nonfiction though, and in fact I find myself eyeing the nonfiction I have out from the library with more interest than the fiction! Two of the nonfiction books I’ve read this month were stunningly excellent, although completely different. A Good Horse Has No Color by Nancy Marie Brown is personal nonfiction, focusing on Brown’s relationship with Iceland and especially on a trip she took there with the goal of finding two Icelandic horses to bring home with her. Help Me to Find My People by Heather Andrea Williams, on the other hand, is a piece of academic nonfiction (Williams is a professor and the book was published by a university press) examining the emotional ramifications of broken slave families in the US, both pre-Civil War and post-Civil War when the newly freed people tried to find family members without any clear idea where they’d even been sold. Both were just exquisitely written, and I can’t wait to delve more into them. Sadly, Compulsive Acts by Elias Aboujaoude disappointed me: Aboujaoude is a psychiatrist specialising in obsessive behaviors (OCD, addictions, etc.), but I just didn’t care for him (as he came across in the book) or his writing style. Definitely not another Olive Sacks or Atul Gawande! Luckily, that one seems to be the exception rather than the rule for this month’s nonfiction reading, since I’m in the middle of two more wonderful books: The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James (a historical look at Haiti and its revolution first written in 1938 and recommended to me by Kinna) and Findings by Kathleen Jamie (a newly published essay collection I heard about from Litlove).
I covered the shoe boxes I use to keep my shelves tidy in woodland wrapping paper. The fox makes me smile every time I open the closet!

I covered the shoe boxes I use to keep my shelves tidy in woodland wrapping paper. The fox makes me smile every time I open the closet!

This is probably likely to continue to be a slower reading month. I find myself, well, cocooning: drawing my attention and focus more inward as I prepare to dramatically reshape. Let’s hope it’s turns out to be not quite as dramatic as what caterpillars go through!
Thistle's always ready to make me smile.

Thistle’s always ready to make me smile.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Caldwell permalink
    March 11, 2013 4:49 pm

    I am fairly new to your blog but you appear to be a very intelligent, well-educated woman with a lot to offer to the rest of us. i am glad that you have a strong family/friend support system. I have great confidence that you will meet all the challenges that are thrown your way, and probably are/will be a wonderful support and example to many others who have challenges in their lives that they did not expect. I love your library videos. I am usually interested in at least one of the books that you talk about, but even more interesting, I find that I like to hear you talk about the ones that I probably won’t be reading. I think that says something about your giftedness. Thank you for your openess and especially for your love of reading.

  2. March 11, 2013 4:52 pm

    Love the photo of Thistle. He looks like a little fox and speaking of foxes I like the wrapping paper. great idea. Reading moods come and go so it’s fine to not read much. Being the book lover you are the mood will return. Take care of yourself. I enjoy following what you’re up to. A big hug from Tasmania down here. Pam

  3. March 11, 2013 4:53 pm

    I so wish your story had more “fortunately’s” in it…and at the same time am glad it didn’t have more “unfortunately’s”! Do email me when you get a chance and let me know what you found out after you were able to speak to the woman again, okay? I must admit that Rich and I talk about this often, so hopeful…well, you know! :D
    I adore adore adore that picture of Thistle! She would definitely keep me in smiles too. :)

  4. March 11, 2013 6:07 pm

    Hugs, Eva. That is a lot of things to be processing. I’m glad you have such a sweet little dog to take care of you.

    Also! I read this book I thought you would like — it is about decent people trying to do good for each other in difficult circumstances (which I tend to like). Carleen Brice’s Children of the Waters? I remembered your post a while ago about searching for comfort reads, and although many sad things happened in Children of the Waters, I found it comforting anyway. And thought of you!

  5. March 11, 2013 6:56 pm

    There’s nothing like a treasured book when you need some comfort, is there? And in the “fortunately” column, fortunately you have a wonderful companion in Thistle! Has there ever been a cuter dog?

    Wishing you all the best.

  6. March 11, 2013 7:25 pm

    I, too, have a hard time getting involved in fiction when I’m preoccupied with other things. I barely read any fiction at all for the first 2 years of either of my kids’ lives, in fact.

    Your “Unfortunately”s sound really darned tough to deal with. Cherished dreams can be hard to let go of, but I hope there will be many new dreams to come true in their place.

  7. March 11, 2013 9:47 pm

    I am so sorry to hear that you won’t be able to achieve some of those dreams—but I am happy that you have such a wonderful support system (Thistle included!) to help you through.

  8. queenofthepark permalink
    March 12, 2013 1:03 am

    Sending caring thoughts your way, Eva. It certainly can be unappealing to read fiction when things are tough, and your wonderfully eclectic tastes will serve you well at the moment

    Fortunately we get to watch your delightful vlog and to see gorgeous Thistle. Your library habit and that little pup will be indispensable as you navigate this next chapter in your story.

  9. March 12, 2013 7:34 am

    I’m so sorry you are having so many struggles with red tape and rules and regulations. I hope you can get it sorted out. Lovely pictures.

  10. March 12, 2013 8:50 am

    I’m glad you’ve finally gotten through the process and hope you have more “Fortunately” than “Unfortunately” from now on. Thank goodness for good books and cuddly furred friends.

  11. March 12, 2013 11:00 am

    Ah, cocooning… I know it well. I hope those little dreams come true!

  12. March 12, 2013 6:01 pm

    Oh Eva, that’s so sad and an indictment of how the system constantly fails the people that really need it. I was wondering how you were, and I am sending you lots of hugs and good thoughts while you go through this. I am glad you have people, friends and family, around you, to support you, and Thistle – Thistle is such a lovely bundle of joy for you!

    I’ve been cocooning too, recovering from my surgery. I ended up reading mostly fiction, and writing again – I’m working on some stories now. I can hope that some good comes out of your cocooning too, it looks like you are being creative in unexpected ways now. I love the picture of the nest, too!

    Take care, and remember to take it all one day at a time. I wish I could more for you though, and really wish we had been able to meet while you were up here in the Fall.

  13. March 12, 2013 6:02 pm

    PS Funny, I ended up reaching for Jane Austen too, while I was recovering! There is something delightful and restoring and affirmative about her writing, isn’t there? As well as being clever and witty and funny.

  14. March 12, 2013 7:13 pm

    Hoorah for rereads and for appealing nonfiction as well. I love that picture of Thistle and the fox wrapping paper is great. You seem adept at finding things to treasure around you.

  15. March 13, 2013 9:13 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your dreams dashed on the rocks of bureaucracy. I work in a bureaucracy, and it’s amazing how the meaningful ideas and people can just get lost in the maze. I hope you find many dreams within your reach. And here’s to comfort reading and cuddly pups, thank goodness for those things.

  16. March 14, 2013 4:12 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about the rough times, Eva. But the cocooning sounds like it’s just what you need right now. (btw, I love this fortunately/unfortunately game of yours…I might have to try it with my nephew!)

  17. March 17, 2013 2:36 am

    Hugs, Eva, to both you and Thistle.

  18. March 23, 2013 4:12 pm

    What an adorable little dog! I hope that you are feeling better each day as spring arrives. Take care! I found you as a Sunday Stealing “victim” on Mr. Lance’s meme blog. Best wishes for better days ahead for you. No need to answer, no questions. hehehe Hugs!

  19. March 28, 2013 11:39 am

    Sorry to hear about your unfortunately’s, but hope that your fortunately’s (and your irrepresible looking dog) lead you to good new places. Good luck going forward.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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