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Field Notes, vol 8

June 16, 2013

field notes
I’ve taken up walking. In my undergraduate years, I walked everywhere: I lived on a residential campus, in the middle of a small town’s downtown, and it was lovely. One of my biggest dreams is to live in a place where walking can be my chief form of transport, but while I’m working towards that, I also think it’s important to find contentment in the present. So, despite living at the end of a cul-de-sac, in a city geared towards cars, with a searing hot climate, I’ve begun walking again. With my illnesses, my walking has so far been of the modest variety: while I build up strength and flexibility, I go for slow fifteen to thirty minute jaunts that cover at most half a mile. The first and last bit is always the same, due to that cul-de-sac; in the middle, I have a choice of two streets. Either way, I walk to the end of that street, turn around, and walk back up it. Sometimes, I bring along my audiobook or Pimsleur Spanish lessons. Other times, I bring along my camera and enjoy the different perspectives it brings, the extra focus on changes and previously overlooked details. But most of the time, I try to make a virtue of the sameness by turning my walks into meditations. At first, this was difficult, but I persevered, and it has truly helped me appreciate life as it is now, instead of always looking to future plans. I’m surprised by how much walking has strengthened me, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally; carving out that space in my daily schedule, engaging my body while leaving my mind free, all of it has become a life affirming practice. I’ve also been lucky: so far unseasonably cloudy weather which has kept things a bit cooler (highs in the 90s instead of the 100s, which means the 70s last a few more hours of the mornings) and blocks the searing sun. This walking seems indicative of my current life: nothing terribly momentous, just small steps that are paving the way for larger ones. I’m both contented and hopeful, which seems to me as fine a recipe for happiness as any other.

My favourite walking shoes, secondhand Timberland boots acquired from ebay.

My favourite walking shoes, secondhand Timberland boots acquired from ebay.

I also have bookish things to discuss today. Yesterday, I realised that in order to pick up my available holds at the library and stay under my checkout limit, I needed to have more books ready to return! So I set aside Middlemarch, despite only being halfway through my reread (and just as in love with it as the first time around) and turned my attention to library books, having a bit of a mini read-a-thon. I wanted something with an older feel, though, so I first picked up The Makioka Sisters. Granted, I probably should have checked the page count before starting, but my edition had a deceptively small spine, so I didn’t realise it was 500 densely written pages until I was already engrossed! I ended up spending most of the day with it, but it was time well spent. As I think I’ve mentioned, my regular reading strategy involves reading a novel cover-to-cover, then reading about 120 pages each from two nonfiction books (in alternate 60-ish page chunks), then picking up another novel. I swear this isn’t as robotic as it sounds: it’s actually quite organic to my preferences and reading rhythm! Anyway, so the two nonfiction books I picked up next were Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John Phillip Santos, an absolutely beautifully lyrical memoir by a south Texan, and Diane Purkiss’ At the Bottom of the Garden, an intriguing scholarly exploration of fairies in European, and mostly British, culture. They were both fascinating and kept my attention riveted, but by the time I’d finished the last portion of the Purkiss, I wanted something a bit lighter. So I began Mrs. Malory and the Only Good Lawyer, one of Hazel Holt’s cosy English mysteries, and got halfway through before falling asleep.

 My street this morning, when the sun broke through the clouds

My street this morning, when the sun broke through the clouds

This morning, I finished it up: I found it diverting but a bit slim and, well, light. I suspect I wasn’t in quite the right mood for Holt’s particular style of comfort reading, but oh well. I do think Mrs. Malory is a lovely woman, so it’s always nice to spend time with her! I then returned to my nonfiction picks and ended up finishing Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, which completely fulfilled its promise and made me rethink my anti-memoir stance. Clearly, I need a more nuanced criterion for such a broad genre! I’ve got about a hundred pages left in At the Bottom of the Garden, which has been such a treat. I’m not entirely sure which novel I’ll pick up first, but I’m gravitating towards Nalo Hopkinson’s newest, Sister Mine. I do love Caribbean lit, and some socially aware urban fantasy featuring twin sisters sounds just about right. I intend to continue my private read-a-thon today as well, not just in preparation for my library visit, but also as a kind of recharging before my niece arrives tonight for a sleepover. I’ll be watching her for all of tomorrow, and while I’m sure we’ll have great fun, I’m just as sure I’ll be exhausted by the time I put her to bed!

I adore mushrooms, but we rarely get them here, so I was thrilled to stumble across these this morning.

I adore mushrooms, but we rarely get them here, so I was thrilled to stumble across these this morning.

I’m so glad I’ve been able to get back into blogging! As of now, I’m still happily working on catching up with my back list of books to write about. I find it terribly amusing just how many posts I’d have to write to actually succeed, but as long as I view it as a game and am enjoying it, I might as well stick with it. On days when I feel like writing, I alternate my focus from the newest to oldest titles on that back list: somehow that variety has kept things fresh. And I don’t beat myself up on days when I don’t feel like posting. I’m still working out how best to comment on others’ blogs and reply to those left on my own, but I’m making progress, and I love feeling like part of the community again. I’m still planning a mini makeover for the blog too, but it takes a lesser priority than posting and commenting, so who knows when it will happen! It’s fun to play with different ideas in my head though, at least for now.

I hope everyone else is having a lovely day. I’m off to read!

Roots belonging to one of my neighbour's live oak trees. Live oaks are by far the most common tree in my area.

Roots belonging to one of my neighbour’s live oak trees. Live oaks are by far the most common tree in my area, sturdy enough to thrive in the challenging climate.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2013 11:26 am

    Great posts. I love your account of walking and am glad for you about your walks. Do you have Thích Nhất Hạnh’s book on Walking Meditation? I highly recommend it.
    Yes, you need to rethink any opposition to memoirs. They are so wonderfully honest about being BOTH fact and fiction. Just be sure and choose good ones that don’t claim to be The Truth.

  2. June 16, 2013 2:04 pm

    Love these Field Notes of yours. I love Makioka Sisters, probably my most favorite of Tanizaki’s books. Happy reading!

  3. June 16, 2013 3:23 pm

    You are an inspiration – the one thing I really need to add to my schedule is gentle exercise and walking is exactly right for that (it’s SO good for you). I keep putting off trips out because there’s always something seemingly more urgent to do, but I can see how good it would be to just get out there and do it. I also want to read The Makioka Sisters and am delighted you enjoyed it.

  4. June 16, 2013 6:19 pm

    I need to get motivated to do more walking (whether at the gym or outside). Honestly i think the heat (even if it hasn’t been that bad for Texas yet) just wears me out. Glad to hear you enjoyed the Makioka Sisters – such a great book.

  5. June 16, 2013 6:19 pm

    Walking offers time for thinking…I seem to get so many good ideas while walking! In my fantasy life, I would be able to walk to work every day (preferably to a fun job at a bookstore or yoga studio. In real life, I drive twenty minutes to my busy and sometimes stressful teaching job! Oh, well, maybe some day. I share your reading habit of needing to read some non-fiction in between novels. And I do the same sort of thing…I don’t finish a whole non-fiction book, but just read a chunk, then I can move on to another novel. It sounds like you have a good reading (and walking) rhythm right now. Your description of The Makioka Sisters makes me want to get that book right now!

  6. June 16, 2013 7:12 pm

    I love your Field Notes! I love your reading pattern — usually I read without a pattern, just one book at a time, but if I’m reading multiple I always fall into the same sort of rhythm — 50 pages in one and 50 in the other, until they’re finished. Somehow it makes the reading go faster!

  7. June 16, 2013 8:15 pm

    So glad to hear you’re feeling a bit better with walking and reading! The idea of walking and keeping the mind free is quite interesting to me; I have to get back into the habit of walking to and from work, it really gives me a few minutes of peace at least twice a day :)

  8. June 17, 2013 3:30 am

    Enjoyed reading your post, Eva. Nice to know about your walking adventures. The picture of your street in the morning is quite beautiful. Can’t believe that with so many trees and grass it tends to get hotter during the day. Loved the pictures you have posted. Happy walking and reading!

  9. June 17, 2013 8:18 am

    I’ve been thinking of a mini makeover for my blog too, but so far I’ve been too lazy. I love walking and try to walk every evening.

  10. June 17, 2013 9:53 am

    I also wish I could use walking more as a form of transportation, but I’m set so far back from the street (like you with your cul de sac) that it tacks on a half mile round trip to wherever I’d actually want to walk to. Plus I live in a very hilly town, so even when I was in better shape than I am now, it was quite a workout. So, while it’s nice to go for a walk just to get out, it’s not very practical to walk instead of drive as I’d end up all sweaty by the time I got to wherever I was going!

  11. June 17, 2013 10:00 am

    I love these updates! I am so glad to hear that you are doing well and am happy to have you blogging again.

  12. June 17, 2013 6:02 pm

    I also love to walk and really need to work it into regular routine. For better or worse, I live fairly near a strip mall, so I have walked there sometimes to pick up a take-out meal or frozen yogurt. I also live within walking distance of my post office so I’ll use the return of a Netflix movie to get me to do that short walk. There are a lot of residential neighborhoods nearby too. So I really have no excuse not to walk more. :) There is one wooded park nearby but it seemed a little sketchy the one time I went there, so I haven’t been back.

    I’ve never hear of the Makioka Sisters but I looked it up and it sounds like a great family epic. I’m intrigued by those chunkster books that aim to capture an era of transition.

    I too am working to become part of the book blogger community again. I fell out of the habit of posting regularly and it’s been hard getting back into it and into reading and commenting and keeping up with all the interesting book blogs out there. But I feel hopeful.

  13. June 17, 2013 8:30 pm

    Well done you! I’ve got forty-five minutes or so of enforced walking every day due to living in New York City, and I am very very VERY gripey about it when it starts getting hot.

    How do you manage to write about books you’ve read quite a while ago? The thoughts I thought about them fall out of my head within a few weeks, I’m ashamed to say. Even one week from reading the book it gets noticeably harder to write a review.

  14. June 18, 2013 4:36 pm

    I love you “Field Notes” and am glad you are feeling better and back to blogging. I am very curious about At the Bottom of the Garden!

  15. June 18, 2013 9:33 pm

    Walking—man. I’ve moved from the city back to suburbia for the time being. Even though it’s only two months, it still feels like exile, because I can’t reasonably walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy or the library, which I could do where I was in the city. I do have the family dog to walk, but the heat makes him not want to walk beyond doing his business most of the time. The heat’s driving me inside, too, so I’ve switched from walking to random dance breaks. It’s been working so far.

    It’s so lovely to get an update from you, and I’m glad that you’re finding a new way to be a part of the community again. I’ve missed your voice.

  16. June 19, 2013 6:56 am

    That is great! Walking is so healthy physically and it can be such a mentally and spiritually healthy exercise as well. I know when I walk or run I really enjoy taking in my surroundings and just letting my mind go. Occasionally I’ll get in a zone and end up composing blog posts in my head that I then want to rush back and get down.

  17. July 1, 2013 8:12 pm

    I love that you are a walker! I just moved to a more walker and cyclist friendly town with the hopes that I’ll be driving a lot less. I still have to drive to work but for all the other things I do, I can carve out the time to walk which is great for my body, mind, and soul.

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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