Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cold Tangerines

My friend Ellen recommended a book to me called Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. I didn't admit to her (until now) that I cringe a little at book recommendations. There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with reading a book that someone else really likes. Maybe the book spoke to them in a way that it just won't talk to you; perhaps something in a person's life resonates with the book and they only imagine that you share that sonorous quality. Whenever someone recommends a book I find myself reflecting on the quote that, "In literature, as in love, we are often astonished at what is chosen by others."

However, Ellen is someone that I trust and admire so her recommendation didn't dare go into the "perhaps, maybe before I die" pile of books on my mental shelf. Instead, Cold Tangerines showed up on my library hold queue and jumped quickly to the top. I started it this week, and (as of my train ride home today) I have just a few chapters remaining. It's the kind of book that speaks to a reader - I suppose I mean female readers - and I almost wish I could Xerox off different chapters and press them into the hands of family and friends and say "You need to read this!" or "This is SO what you are going through!"

And, of course, with a book that relevant to my loved ones, there were to be found several passages that seemed to be written directly at me. In a chapter called "Prayer and Yoga" she laments that both are decidedly good for her yet she doesn't stick to either as often as she should. (Sound like anyone you know??) I also really liked her thoughts on writing. As I contemplate another looming November with NaNoWriMo, I find myself pondering if I want to embrace - unleash - my identity as a writer once again. I've wavered and flip-flopped about taking on the chaotic novel-in-a-month challenge this year and then, this afternoon, I read this:

"Sometimes when I'm writing, if I try really hard, I can move more slowly, like a dancer or a mime, and taste things more vividly, and see not just the trees and the grass, but the individual leaves and blades. Things are richer and brighter than I thought, now that I have slowed down enough to see them."

~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines p. 137

I don't think NaNoWriMo is quite the atmosphere for slowed down perception that Niequist is speaking of, but I understand her need for the reflective introspection that comes from times of writing. It's where I spent a lot of time in the days when I was a prolific journaler - heck, even when I was a more prolific blogger. I look with some shame on my sparse posting of this year. I see it not as sad because I missed sharing inane thoughts with friends and family but rather, sad that I was living my life without reflection.

There's a famous quote that says "We must live life forward and define it backward," but I think most of us fall into the trap of too much forward motion on that one. Not that it would be good to over-define life to the point of not spending one's time living it. When we can find the place between rushing out to live each day and poignantly reflecting on our journey as a whole, that's where a well paced life will be. Neither hurried nor bored, that will be a balanced life indeed.


Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El) said...

First of all, thank you for your kind words!

Just yesterday in class, we were talking about different people liking different books or NOT liking them, and how that's okay. I actually asked the kids, "Have you ever had a friend go nuts over a book, and you read it and don't like it?" They all said yes. I told them about The Book Thief, how both you and Sarah loved it, but I'm struggling through it!

So how funny to see your post today. Let's agree, from here on out, no pressure on book suggestions!

This one was loaned (lent?), and it took me a while to get into it.

I DID share some of Cold Tangerines with other people. We'll talk someday...otherwise this comment will be too long!

This is the kind of woman's book that would best be read every few years. Things will hit you from memory and from whatever's happening in your life as you read. (Does that make sense?)

One of my former (now in college) students is reading it, I wonder what she thinks?

Sarah Lynn said...

So I was told by Ellen this morning that I needed to check out your blog. . . And I'm glad I did!

Cold Tangerines was an awesome book. It's one of those books that I think I'll be reading more than once : )

If you ever read anything worth recommending, let me know! I'm ALWAYS looking for good stuff!