Sunday, August 15, 2010

Life Skills for Beginning and Ending and In Between

Two weeks later, I've finished 2 more of the books recommended to me by the owner of Watermark Books. They seem perfect bookends, one about the beginnings of life and one about endings and near endings and how they affect how we live now.

Lift, by Kelly Corrigan, is written as a letter to her children, about things they would forget and about what a "bold and dangerous thing parenthood is." The 83 page book is built around a concept from hang gliding called "lift". You fly from thermal (a column of hot air surrounded by turbulence) to thermal looking for lift from the turbulence to keep you flying.  The turbulence can be dangerous but it is the only way to get altitude and without it, you sink.

Taking on the risks of being a parent, by definition, means turbulence.  Sometimes it is dangerous.  She writes of someone who's child, Aaron, died. But most of the time living with that risk (of tremendous damage to your heart through your children) is part of what it means to be a parent and is constant: "Risk was not an event we'd survived the but place we now lived."

This is a great book to give to new mothers who are finding their way through the first few years of being a parent....maybe the later years too.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs is Heather Lende's second book. (If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name was her first.) Heather writes the obituary column for the Haines, Alaska newspaper. That and her near fatal bicycle accident give her a greater attentiveness to spiritual matters.

Each chapter starts with a quote from the Book of Common Prayer, a gospel hymn or a Bible verse. In chapter 5, the Book of Common Prayer quote is "Father of mercies and giver of all comfort: Deal graciously,we pray thee, with all who mourn."   The chapter is about her mother's death.

The title of the chapter and the book, "Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs", comes from her mother's last words of instruction before passing away. Heather wanted some form of advice, wisdom, blessing or last meaningful communication from her mother as she lay intubated and dying.  What Heather got was a grocery list and this phrase, which at first didn't seem meaningful.

"The more I think about it, the more I start to realize that my mom's final grocery list contains plenty of wisdom about how to live the second half of my life without her. Maybe it is wishful thinking, or maybe I didn't have enough for lunch and am light-headed, but what I hear her notes, and thus her, imparting, is this: eat dessert, be sure there's coffee for the morning, write things down so you won't forget them, and don't waste paper. And I remember what she told my dad, when he asked if there was anything at all she wanted us to know. 'Take good care of the garden and the dogs!' I put some more mulch on my strawberry patch and then I throw a stick for my own dogs, relieved that I haven't missed something big, after all, knowing that a person could do worse than to live by those words, and so very thankful that my mother didn't ask for more than that." (101-102)

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