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“The first thing I’ve got to do,” said Alice to herself, as she wandered about in the wood “is to grow my right size again; and the second thing is to find my way into that lovely garden. I think that will be the best plan.”

–Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865

I woke up in a “six impossible things before breakfast” sort of mood today,

managing her flamingo

so I took myself on a playdate

to the Memphis Botanic Gardens to chase wonder.

oh my ears and whiskers

She wasn’t hard to catch.

I should like to be a queen best
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I wrote this post almost 10 years ago. Today I stumbled across it while looking for something else and had a weird moment with myself – a sense of younger me telling older me what I really needed to remember. Reposting to stay reminded.

My Little Spacebook

“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions…live  your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

~~*~~

Last year Parker Palmer shined my teacher’s heart when it when was tarnished.  His book The Courage to Teach got me through a teacher’s heart crisis and showed me how to teach (and live) with greater integrity.

Though untarnished this year at semester’s end I figured the teacher’s heart was due for routine maintenance, so I picked up a copy of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to RenewalPhysicist Arthur Zajonc joins Palmer to bring educators back to the big questions underlying what we do.  In this work lives the question: “How do we promote educational efforts that address the whole human being (mind, heart, and spirit) in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet?”

This and other questions posed in…

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When pandemia became all the rage on Planet Earth in 2020, I took stock and decided I didn’t really need to be around for most of it, so I saddled up the unicorn and trotted off to the Land of Make Believe.

Joe Abercrombie kept me enthralled for many moons of the journey. I’m not sure how I have lived this long without knowing about his First Law Series. There are three books in the series, and I’ll be honest, I don’t recall what exactly happened in which book of the series, so lucky you, I won’t bore you with ALL the details –just the ones I think are important.

The Blade Itself (Book 1)

Abercrombie lifted the title of the first book of the series, The Blade Itself, from a line in Homer’s Odyssey:

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.

As you might guess, the whole series has a lot of dudes in it and if they aren’t having skirmishes, battles, epic battles, sieges, or wars, then they are either preparing to fight or trying to figure out who they can get away with killing next. Ordinarily, this sort of thing reads like a bunch of “blah-blah-blah” to me, but Abercrombie writes fight scenes with a choreographer’s sense of body awareness that appeals to the dancer in me. Movement details are vividly described, remarkably entertaining, and often hilarious.

Under questionable authority figures, soldiers in the series are as likely to go bumbling and clanging about with “dirty faces, but clean armor” as they are to actually engage in serious combat. Their leaders also tend to be incompetent, often entrapped idiots, who suffer from a range of issues: excessive drinking, lack of authority, plain old heartburn, and poor fashion choices. It makes you wonder what kind of man would go to war dressed “not a uniform, but bedwear with a military motiff”? and also…”if the measure of a man was the size of his hat, then these were great men indeed.” Rest assured, it’s not all fashion faux pas, there are also intense fight scenes that are every bit as disgusting and gory as one might expect. Abercrombie’s world is as brutal as the second book’s title suggests, coming from a quote by Heinrich Heine:

We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged.

Before They Are Hanged (Book 2)

Personally, I did not come here for the fighting, but for the fun stuff — the magic, drinking, gambling, revelry, and story people! While the characters are somewhat stereotypical (there’s an ancient, enigmatic wizard of course, and his apprentice, a bunch of inquisitors, a former slave warrior woman with devil-blood, and a sorceress), they come alive through the dialogue, action, and description. The Northman, Logen Ninefingers, was one of the most endearing. He’s a big, bad-ass berserker and battle-hardened member of the Bloody-Nine. He speaks with these little primal spirits, which admittedly sounds pretty lame, if not emasculating, as I write about it now, but somehow Abercrombie makes it all seem like a super cool and perfectly manly thing to do. There is also Major Collem West, in the Union Army who “sometimes felt as if he was the only man in the union seriously preparing for a war, and he had to organize the entire business on his own, right down to counting the number of nails that would hold the horse’s shoes on.” Major West is a bit too full of his own importance to make him likeable, but he has a sister Artee, who is lots of fun with all her sass. She is the kind of woman who gets sloppy drunk at 10 a.m., just because she’s bored and then she reads novels full of “knights with mighty swords and ladies with mightier bosoms.”

Last Argument of Kings (Book 3)

Social commentary is scattered throughout the pages, much of it as relevant and applicable to the mundane world I was attempting to escape as it was to the story’s action. That is just civilization, as Ninefingers muses, “…people with nothing to do, dreaming up ways to make easy things difficult.”

The last thing I have to say about it all is that I experience the series via audiobook. Steven Pacey is the narrator. His wonderfully rich, deep voice and English accent is the sort one may sit and listen to contently for hours. I did, for 71 hours and 58 minutes to be precise, though not all in one sitting, of course. When the series was over, I knew I immediately had to get another book by Joe Abercrombie, which I did. But that’s a different post for another day.

Last weekend I left my house and went to an actual theater to see a movie. It felt like a bold and daring move, bordering on reckless debauchery. This is what the world has come to. The movie was Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, and it was so significant that a week later I’m still thinking about it. I’m not sure why it stuck with me all week, but like the title says, I got some ‘splainin’ to do, mostly to myself, so I can figure it out and move on with my life. There will likely be spoilers in this post; consider yourself forewarned and prepare accordingly.

Much of the action in Being the Ricardos takes place over the course of a tense week in the personal and professional lives of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnez (Javier Bardem) on the set of I Love Lucy. Deviations from the production week timeline occur via monologue from the writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll, and producer Jess Oppenheimer (played by Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox and John Rubinstein, respectively). Serving collectively as a narrator, each one reminisces from a vantage point decades later, about the off-screen drama. Thus, they set the stage for pivotal moments, like when Desi and Lucille first meet on the set of the movie Too Many Girls. They also provide details about the couple’s relationship, with quips like, “They were either tearing each other’s heads off or tearing each other’s clothes off,” which is followed by a scene in which the couple does both simultaneously. The story weaves back and forth through time creating a patchwork effect.

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of the smart and savvy businesswoman behind the character of Lucy Ricardo was brilliant. Javier Bardem’s performance was equally as awesome — he dances, he sings, he acts! The whole cast was just fabulous. I was so lost in the story I couldn’t even tell you if the black-and-white scenes were the original footage or remade by the present-day actors. And I don’t even care. So there.

It was fascinating to see how Lucille and Desi persistently pressed the establishment to accommodate their personal lives and to expand the broadcast of basic human life to the public. In their day, of course, married couples did not share beds on TV and children were apparently brought into the world by stork. Yet they eventually convinced the network to televise a pregnant Lucille/Lucy on national TV at a time when such things were considered much too risqué for general public consumption.

The story was structured in such a way to explore the dynamic tension between fantasy and reality, practice and performance, public politics and private life. These tensions are as relevant today as they were then. The individual parts were jumbled, but recursive. By the end, the pieces came together to create a unified quilt-like whole, even as the couple was being torn asunder.

The linguistic nerd in me was gratified by all the dialogue surrounding the concept of “communism,” which demonstrated how abstract ideas come to have vastly different meanings depending on one’s personal experiences. The treatment of communism reminded me of Trumbo, another interesting movie set around the same era when all the cool intellectuals who hadn’t actually experienced the particulars and practice of communism were being accused of thinking it was such a great idea.

I wonder whether the movie would have been as salient if I had not seen it in a theater. Could it be the need to sustain attention for two hours straight that kept the movie with me for a week? Or maybe there is just something special about the ancient ritual of sitting in the dark experiencing a shared story with other people.

I don’t know the name of the tree or the bug, but the sky that day was a Salvador Dali. It was exactly the sort of wholly cloudless sky he recommended for long, philosophical gazing. The azure held that luminous transparency of spirit, that “precious substance which eludes…rational faculties.” When you fall into that disconcerting blue it literally blinds you with your own projections because it is “constituted of nothing but infinite layers of superposed transparent air” (p. 21).

Dali, S. (1948). 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. Translated by Haakon M. Chevalier. New York: The Dial Press.

[This post was inspired by Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit who is playing a fun game of “Photo Shorts.” Tag. You’re it!]

Hello again People of the Internet!

I have resurfaced from the deep.

It seems mushrooms have become all the rage around here. I blame Merlin Sheldrake for my fungi obsession. Somewhere mid-summer, I burrowed into the underland to explore the unmakers of the world through his brilliant book Entangled Life. I would review it, but I think it’s better to let the author speak for himself…and eat his own words…


It was from this book I first learned about zombie ants and the mad sorcerer fungus that animates them to achieve its nefarious goals. True story: There’s a type of parasitic fungus (Ophiocordyceps) whose spores shower down on carpenter ants as they go about their ant business. The fungus penetrates the ant’s exoskeleton, then chemically hijacks the ant’s central nervous system, forcing it to do things it wouldn’t normally do. Specifically, the fungus makes the ant climb up on vegetation, and lock its jaws on a vein of a leaf. The fungus continues to grows inside the ant’s body, and out through the ant’s feet, which it ties down to the plant’s leaf with threads of itself. Then it sprouts a mushroom out the creature’s dead body so its reign of spore terror can continue on to infect other unsuspecting carpenter ants. I drew this picture just for you because I thought you might want a visual:

Hey, what do you call a fungi that makes music?

A decomposer.

Waka waka waka!

Be good so you don’t get in truffle!

Sorry my mushroom puns are in spore taste.

“By opening the door to the shadow realm a little, and letting out various elements a few at a time, relating to them, finding use for them, negotiating, we can reduce being surprised by shadow sneak attacks and unexpected explosions.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

On a sleepless night earlier this week, I used the gift of extra time and energy to do some reading that has been neglected on my nightstand for far too long. Since then, a particular passage in the book The Subway Chronicles: More Scenes from Life in New York, has been tapping at my mental chamber door all week. Author Jacquelin Cangro, recounted a scene that unfolded during her subway commute: a little girl got onboard the train with her father and soon after erupted into a spontaneous twirling dance accompanied only by the music inside her own mind. The author watched with amusement tinged by a wistful yearning for the sort freedom of expression that comes with being four years old.

I sympathize with the author — oh to be free from the trappings of adulthood — from the notions of decency and decorum, from responsibility and respectability, from the ‘shoulds’ and ‘Thou Shalt Nots,’ from the veils and gilded cages.

A tiny dancer still lives inside of these subways, chambers, shadows, and longings…

If we cracked the door open just a little bit, what would we see…?

I started thinking about this list while reflecting on the 10-year anniversary of MyLittleSpacebook. Now that I have the list compiled, I realize the lessons I’ve learned from several of the books below have formed much of the basis of my own entrepreneurial toolkit. If that’s your jam, maybe there’s something in here for you too. Without further ado, here we go:

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation ~ Parker Palmer

It’s astonishing how huge an impact such a small book has had on my life. I was introduced to Parker Palmer’s work as an assistant professor/researcher trying to find myself as an educator. Palmer’s The Courage to Teach helped me discover what was in my teacher’s heart. His Healing the Heart of Democracy helped me better understand the notion of civil discourse in the face of seemingly unresolvable conflict. But, it was Let Your Life Speak that ultimately helped me realize what my work was NOT, which was a painful, but necessary step in finding out what my work is. At the time I read it, I was being carried along, almost imperceptibly, on a strong current powered by other people’s expectations and long-standing institutional traditions. Academia can be like that. Reading the book made me ask myself hard questions about the work life I was living, which I discovered was not at all the same thing as the life’s work that was living inside me. The book gave me the courage to jump ship and to begin charting my own course towards my life’s authentic work, which is an ongoing adventure, both terrifying and delighting!

The 4-Hour Work Week ~ Tim Ferris

Ferris’s book introduced me to the idea of lifestyle design. He generously shares all sorts of ideas on how to be awesome and get more done in less time.

Tribe of Mentors ~Tim Ferris

Ferris assembled an elite and successful crowd from which to source even more ideas on how to be awesome. The reading list alone is worth the price of admission!

The Happiness Project ~ Gretchen Rubin

My time-logging and goal-tracking systems were inspired by Rubin’s account of Ben Franklin’s systems as described in his autobiography. These practices have been effective in keeping me focused and helping me understand where my time goes so I can manage it better. Also, Rubin wrote about commonplace books, which I’ve also started keeping.

The Artist’s Way ~ Julia Cameron

Thanks to Julia Cameron I have been writing daily morning pages faithfully since December 21, 2019. While I have been journaling for years and years, I’ve never done so in such a purposeful and disciplined way as I have since starting The Artist’s Way. This book is a game-changer!

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains ~ Nicholas G. Carr

This book was not my idea. A client wanted us to read it together, and so we did. It expanded my understanding of the relationship between technology and thought. It also made me more aware of the tools I use and how they may impact and use me.

Meditations from the Mat ~ Rolf Gates

This book inspired a trip to a yoga conference in Washington, D.C., to practice with this master in person. The practice he led was absolutely beautiful – one of my all time favorite yoga classes ever. His workshop at the conference was informative, and I learned a lot I needed to know about how to start a business and how to sustain it at that conference. It also inspired me to dive deeper into my own practice and to embark on a 300-hour teacher training.

Sacred Plant Medicine: The Wisdom in Native American Herbalism ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner

Nothing about this book makes logical sense. It’s all magical heart song. Not even how I got it makes sense – we were on a road trip and there was the necessity of a bathroom break that somehow wound up happening at a Cherokee Museum and none of us were even planning to go through the museum, but there was a half-naked guy in a magnificent feathered headdress and as if that wasn’t confusing enough I was in the giftshop instead of the bathroom, and the book was calling and in my hand, but another of us was ready to go, so I put it down, and then third member of our party got confused about what we were even doing there and bought a ticket to the museum and before we could even figure out entirely what was happening, we wound up doing the museum tour. If it sounds like drugs were involved, I assure you, they weren’t, though it’s possible they should have been. After all that happened the book was still waiting and calling so I got it and no plant has ever been safe or the same since. Anytime this book gets opened something for-sure crazy is about to go down and I’m not even kidding.

Blink ~ Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell taught me the science behind thin-slicing, which neatly explains a lot of things attributed to intuition.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life ~ Twyla Tharp

I love Twyla Tharp’s writing style. It’s so simple and elegant. From her I learned the creative habit and that in itself was life-changing.

So that’s my list!

How about you? What books have changed your life?

Fair Warning: I’m way too old (and sophisticated) for this, but I’m about to go all sorts of 13-year-old-fan-girl here and fly my full-out-nerd flag about some books.  Brace yourself, this could be jarring because it also includes a page from my bullet journal.  I know. I’ll just go ahead and apologize for all that’s to follow in advance. This is what we have to deal with when I  have free time and my inner teenager takes over.  It’s like totally gnarly, ya know?! Yeah. I guess I should also mention that my inner teenager lived on the coast of Southern California in the 80s, so she’s a bit of a Valley Girl. I’m going to do my best to rein in the Valley. (Reign in the valley! Rain in the valley!)  Mercy.  Here we go…

Fever Series

As you can see, I’m like totally obsessed with Karen Marie Moning’s work. Ok, I’ll admit, it’s not just her work– it’s also her.  I’ve pored over every page of her website and I must say she’s wicked-cute in her promo pics with her bright red lipstick, smoky eyes, and silky blond hair.   The Fever Series has been completely consuming.  It’s my all time favorite series ever!

In case you missed it, I reviewed books 1-3 of the Fever Series HERE,and books 4-5 HERE.

Sidebar note: The setup idea for my spiffy bullet journal drawing of book covers came from bookriot.com

Without further ado, here are a few of the juicy bits from Moning’s Fever Series 6-10:

 

“Dude, it’s a post-apocalyptic world, who does job applications anymore?”

6. Iced – The walls between the human and Fae realms have fallen. With the Hoar Frost King busily unweaving the universe, cold and dark days ensue in Dublin. The absolute best part of this book for me was the Unseelie King’s library and all the crazy waiting to be unleashed there. I could live contentedly in that library for the next 300 years. And OMG the Crimson Hag — what a brilliant monster concept!

 

“Temptation isn’t a sin you triumph over once, completely and then you’re free. Temptation slips into bed with you each night and helps you say your prayers. It wakes you in the morning with a friendly cup of coffee, and knows exactly how you take it.”

7. Burned –  Mac really didn’t do much for me in this book.  I guess the weird hoard of silent birdy-priests that were inexplicably following her around had her too distracted to be a decent bad-ass. There was also her whole involuntary invisibility thing, which I suppose could put a damper on a girl’s sex life.  I guess we all go through these phases   when we’re not at our personal best because of what all the other weirdos are doing around us. In contrast, what used to be Dani returns from her time-bending foray through the Silvers, and she finally becomes someone I can like.

 

“…the dance was only for her, to let her soul breathe, to revel in being alive one more day.”

8. Feverborn – Mac abruptly becomes visible again. She and everyone else are trying to find the Song of Making so the expanding black holes don’t blot out the whole world. One of the Highlanders transforms into something else entirely. The dead walk the streets again.  There was a lot happening in this book.  There were also disjointed, rambly parts that I didn’t get, but the book as a whole was saved by the cliffhanger, which was deeply satisfying.

 

“Things never stop going wrong. Life isn’t about waiting for peace to arrive, it’s about learning to thrive in the midst of war. There’s always another one on the way.”

9. Feversong – Moning runs this book like a conductor coming to the end of a symphony. Various subplots that have been bouncing along throughout the series converge and mysteries resolve.  A super sweet love story emerges in the midst of the end-of-the-world chaos.

 

“I’d rather be fearless and criticized than fearful and approved of.”

10. High Voltage – This is all about Dani and all the stuff she had to go through to become someone I like. Then she turns into something else entirely, which was even better.

 

 

 

 

Link for Fever Series Review: Books 1-3

I am going to review books 4 and 5 of the series in a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness sort of way ’cause they’re spaghettied up inside my head.  

Book 4 of the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

DreamfeverDreamfever

“Life’s not linear at all. It happens in lightning flashes. So fast you don’t see those lay-you-out cold moments coming at you until you’re Wile E. Coyote, steamrolled flat as a pancake by the Road Runner, victim of your own elaborate schemes.”

Just to get this out of the way first: the 4th book is a sexstravaganza. That’s all I have to say about that. 

Mac is lost and broken.

The blasted book is still running around Dublin creating chaos.  I absolutely love that the book is a character.

Now, there are a lot of characters weaved through the first three books that I  haven’t mentioned, like Ryoden and the Nine. The Nine are a bunch (well, 9 to be precise), of seemingly immortal, buff dudes. Ryoden is the leader of the pack, and he owns Chester’s, a multi-level nightclub and the headquarters of the Nine on the private lower floors, which I imagine as a high-tech and sophisticated version of batman’s cave. When the walls between realms fell, Chester’s becomes the “it” hangout spot for both human and Fae. Barrons, though one of the Nine, doesn’t reside at Chester’s because he has living quarters at his own bookstore, Barrons Books and Baubles. The bookstore is all magical and warded and sits on the border between Dublin and The Dark Zone.

Dani, is another important character. She’s a 14-year-old Fae-killer with the power of superspeed.  At this point in the series, Dani, like Mac, is a sidhe-seer outcast. The sidhe-seers are an order of women with unique senses and super abilities, who have protected humans for centuries against the Fae when the Fae slip through cracks between the realms. At this part of the series, the walls are mostly down.

shadowfever

“Nightwindflyhighfreeeeee.”

–The Hunter

Mac, aka “Rainbow Girl” due to the color palette of her fashion choices, goes to the dark side. She returns in black leather as the evil Lord Master’s sidekick.  No, I haven’t told you about the Lord Master yet, and that’s mostly because I think it’s an unfortunate name for a character – even if he is the ruler of the Unseelie (i.e., the grotesque, evil Fae).  It’s just embarrassing. I guess it is for Mac too because she resorts to calling him “LM.” To make matters even weirder, he was Mac’s sister’s boyfriend at the time of her murder.

I haven’t read anything quite like the world and the monsters that Karen Marie Moning makes. There are fantastic things going on in this woman’s imagination – plots and subplots and twists and turns and interesting places with weird monsters.  In this book Mac goes through the Silvers and winds up lost in the Hall of Mirrors where there are portals to fascinating and dangerous worlds. The series is so entertaining.

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