Field Notes, vol 8
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.
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.
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’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!