Forty-nine years ago today, I married my best friend. He and I were, and still are, kindred spirits. Both of us felt that kinship when we first met, but we also had proof sitting on our respective book shelves. Each of us owned a very old book from the same set of books….one on his shelf and a matching volume on mine. His was Pride and Prejudice (Reader, need I say more?), and mine was Silas Marner. For that reason, and of course many others, we decided WE were meant to be.
I am awake early this morning. Sadness woke me from a grieving dream about a friend who is moving away.
So I made some tea and opened a book of poems from the library. Poems by Ursula le Guin. I read her introduction and then a couple of random poems. Poetry touches me like music, going straight to my heart in a way that bypasses all my filters and protections. I was touched by her words — words that describe similar experiences and familiar feelings — we have shared common ground, the Poet and the Reader.
And then I found her poem called “Dos Poesias Para Mi Diana.” There, inside this poem, was an electrical connection! Without knowing anything about the personal life of this writer, her words alone, without explanation or history, let me know that we have walked the same pathways, shared two far-distant places on this planet. I am thrilled, touched, overwhelmed momentarily by the synchronicity of this magical connection. And it’s like the voice of a friend from far away gently reminding me that distance, and time, are irrelevant. Our connections, our friendships, transcend time and space.
Good morning, my friends!
This is what I love about reading and blogging… Last night I finished another Barbara Pym book, A Glass of Blessings. I am enjoying reading all her books this year in celebration of her centenary year. The title of this book comes from a poem, which I had never read, by the English poet, George Herbert. So this morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, I looked up the poem and read it so that I could further understand why Barbara Pym named her book by that particular phrase from his poem. Then, out of curiosity, I looked up George Herbert himself, because I am woefully uneducated about many of the English poets. And I found out…that today is his BIRTHDAY! Another good example of what I call “reading synchronicity!”
So what happened today? Yesterday, I wrote a post about two lovely books/memoirs I just finished reading, both written by Alma Flor Ada — Where the Flame Trees Bloom, and Under the Royal Palms. Today, I was thrilled to discover that she had somehow found my post and had written a comment on my blog, thanking me for my “kind words” about her books. I read her comments during my lunch break, and when my students came back in from recess, I shared with them my excitement that this author I so respect would take the time to write to me about her books. My second graders listened and asked a few questions, and agreed that it was a “pretty cool” thing that happened.
But then…while my students were busy working on a math assignment, I pulled out our reading textbook to prepare for tomorrow’s reading lesson. Being new to this grade level this year, I’m not familiar with the stories in the basal reader, and I hadn’t looked ahead to see what story was next. When I opened the book, I was completely amazed to discover that the story my students will read tomorrow is called “The Rooster Who Went to His Uncle’s Wedding: A Latin American Folktale,” retold by Alma Flor Ada! It’s one of her grandmother’s stories, a delightful tale, and my students will be reading it knowing that their teacher and the author share a passion for reading and writing and remembering. Isn’t that awesome?
I am at home, not teaching for a few months, on a medical leave of absence. When I first started my Leave, a reading friend brought me a bag of books (and some tea) to enjoy while I am at home recuperating. One of the books was Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton, a book that had already touched my life and left a deep impression on me 25 years ago. My friend didn’t know that I’d been thinking about this book and wanting to reread it and remember exactly why and how it influenced me, so it was a delightful coincidence (synchronicity?) to find it in the bag.
I’ve been reading it this morning and thinking about how important solitude is in my own life. Perhaps it’s because I was the only girl in my family and therefore always had a room of my own. Or maybe, as the daughter of writing/thinking parents, and the granddaughter of a gentle, introspective poet, there’s a genetic need for quiet concentration and reflection. But I definitely have that need, and May Sarton put words to it for me in her journal.
First, she describes things that are true in my life and things about me that have lead me to this period of imposed solitude:
- Life comes in clusters, cluster of solitude, then a cluster when there is hardly time to breathe.
- I feel cluttered when there is no time to analyze experience. That is the silt–unexplored experience that literally chokes the mind.
And then, she describes the experience of extended solitude:
- There is no doubt that solitude is a challenge and to maintain balance within it is a precarious business. But I must not forget that, for me, being with people or even with one beloved person for any length of time without solitude is even worse. I lose my center. I feel dispersed, scattered, in pieces. I must have time alone in which to mull over any encounter, and to extract its juice, its essence, to understand what has really happened to me as a consequence of it.
- I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange–that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and “the house and I resume old conversations.”
This Leave of Absence, these months at home, are an opportunity for me to resume old conversations with myself–to reconnect with my own “real” life and to find a balance between my clusters of solitude and all the times recently when there was hardly any time to breathe.