Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Books that Broke My Heart and a Poem of the Month

This month there were plenty of posts floating through my Facebook feed that listed 10 books from various people--10 books "that have stayed with you in some way," as the instructions read.  My friend Melanie tagged me, so I compiled my list, without taking long or thinking "too hard," as instructed. Here's my list, in no order:

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Koningsburg
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell 
The Culture of Disbelief:How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religion, Stephen Carter
The Christmas Wish, Richard Siddoway
Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, Martha Nussbaum
Literacy in American Lives, Deborah Brandt 
Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, Katrina Kennison

These books aren't necessarily my favorite books, but all of them were influential in some way to me. For example, From the Mixed-up Files gave me the courage, as a little girl, to begin to write my own book, and The Culture of Disbelief gave me the courage to claim my religion publicly and verbally in ways I hadn't before and with reasons that resonated. Many of the others on this list taught me, or reminded me again (since this is a lesson I seem to need to relearn) about the importance of walking in another's shoes, or trying to put myself in someone else's position and not judge them.  
This lesson, reflected in many of the books on my list, reminded me of this poem "Lead" by Mary Oliver.  In this poem, Oliver encourages us to hurry to where we will have our hearts broken open. But, significantly, she doesn't mean that we need experiences that will shatter our hearts, but instead, that we need experiences that break our hearts open "to the rest of the world."  This type of heart-break exposes our hearts to the sadnesses and joys and experiences of others in such a way that we can't close our hearts to others.  This is something I needed reminding of this month. Here's the poem:
by Mary Oliver
Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.
3 Things I Am Grateful for Tonight:
(1) muted lightning flashes behind dark clouds and a shining temple spire, (2) conversations with family, (3) baby loves

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