Monday, April 2, 2012

tied up with string: like breathing

If you've read my blog before (or ever glanced at my sidebar), you're well aware that I love to read. It's more than that, though: Words generally have this mystical kind of power over me, and I love to get lost in them.

So naturally it's hard (if not impossible) for me to pick an all-time favorite book or poem. But I'm going to try.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. 

Suffice it to say, this book changed my life. It was given to me by an English teacher my senior year of high school after she found me hiding in the bathroom, crying and doubled over with anxiety. Turns out, Traveling Mercies was exactly what I needed, and it has remained one of the best cures I know in times of confusion and doubt. It's traveled with me to every country I've ever lived in, usually in my carry on, as I don't want to risk losing it. Lamott's voice is funny, wise, and so beautifully human I could burst. She tells the truth about her brokenness; as a result, I end up feeling whole.

I don't really read a lot of adult fiction, so I can't say I have many favorites on that front. I do, however, have an intense love of quality children's books. (No surprise there, given that I'm an elementary school  teacher and my mom is a children's librarian :) )

Here, in no particular order, are three of my favorite picture books (which, like Traveling Mercies, have managed to traverse the globe with me):

So Many Days by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo -- Plenty of adult appeal; there's a deep metaphorical meaning that most kids just won't get.

A River of Words by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet -- I may be a little biased on this one, but I'm certainly not the only fan of this book, which was nominated for a Caldecott in 2009.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis -- The concept and illustrations are simple, but there's nothing subtle about this book; creativity and imagination practically vibrate from its pages.

I frequently share poems on this blog; they have a tendency to move me like nothing else can. I define poets as "people who string words together in such a way, so as to describe that which is beyond words," and I love them for it. Leaves of Grass holds a special corner of my heart, and this is probably my favorite poem of all time:

Walt Whitman

Allons! The road is before us!
It is safe – I have tried it – my own feet have tried it well – be not detain'd!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the

        shelf unopen'd!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn'd!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the
        court, and the judge expound the law.

Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

(I've actually posted it once before, and it was also one of the readings at our wedding.)

Until tomorrow, then! Cheers :)