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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

On a Rainy Summer Day: Read!

July 29, 2010

Tags: order, African-American, Austen - Jane (1775-1817), Barbery - Muriel (born 1969), biography, books, Brontë sisters, cello, Chesterton - G.K (1874-1936), China, Chinese, Colbin - Annemarie, declutter, Dickens - Charles (1812-1870), Father Brown, gardening, Hill - Laurence (born 1957), Kleist - Heinrich von (1777-1811), Kuriyama - Shigehisa, lightning, Loti - Pierre Ebert (1850-1923), Maigret - Commissaire, Mantel - Hilary (born 1952), Mitchell - David (born 1969), Mittelmark - Howard, Mungello - David (1943), mysteries, Newman - Sandra, novel, philosophy, On a Rainy Summer Day: Read!, Oshinsky - David (born 1944), polio, rain, reading, Rowley - Hazel (1951-1911), Simenon - Georges (1903-1989), Stead - Christina (1902-1983), Stewart - Katherine Silberger, summer reading list, swimming, writing, yoga

What are you doing if it is raining? Do you let it ruin your day/your summer/your life?

This is what I do (not to mention that not everyone is on vacation, of course):

Declutter. I take one corner in my house, and start. I plan to do only ten minutes, but if I get carried away and stick with it longer, so be it. Yesterday, although it was not raining, I started in my study. Because it needed it sorely– and heat can be just as forbidding for the outdoors as rain is.

Play the cello. Still badly. But since my recent summer camp, with 120 adorable kids (I was one of them), I extended my repertoire to jazz and swing. Really fun!

Read. And this is what I want to write about today: my summer reading list. One summer, in Maine, I read one Dickens novel after the other; another summer, I tackled Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. This year’s is without rhyme and reason – just what tickles my fancy:

• This summer, I want to read as many of Georges Simenon’s mysteries as I can get my hands on. Superintendent Maigret is the hero. So far, I have read about six. A joy to rediscover him.
• G.K Chesterton’s Complete Father Brown Stories. Finished already. These mysteries did not age quite as well as Commissaire Maigret’s but if you like an old-fashioned, Catholic sleuth – this is for you.
• David Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story. If you grew up in the fifties, this one will touch you.
• Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall. Won the Booker Prize. A engrossing novel about Henry VIII, Anna Boleyn and the whole mess they created. Beautifully densely written – not for breezing through.
• Howard Mittelmark, Sandra Newman, How NOT to Write a Novel. This is a re-read for me. Easy to read, and instructive.
• Christina Stead, by Hazel Rowley. If you read Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, you might want to learn more about the life of its Australian author.
• David Mungello, The Great Encounter of China and the West, 1500 to 1800. Is on my reading list because of the Chinese novel I am writing. Probably too scholarly for the average reader.
• David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Also a must-read for my Chinese project – but more fun.
• Another reread: Annemarie Colbin, Food and Healing. There are so many interesting details that once in a while I have to take it out again.
• Shigehisa Kuriyama, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine. Very interesting, very philosophical. Kuriyama teaches at Harvard.
• The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. An intelligent delight – finished it already.
• Pierre Ebert Loti, An Iceland Fisherman. Warmly recommended by my friend Diana. This is an old book – from 1886. A different pace, a different voice than what we are used to now.
• Laurence Hill, Someone Knows My Name. A gripping tale about African slaves coming over the ocean to our shores, against their will.
• And an enjoyable little fluff: Yoga Mamas, by Katherine Silberger Stewart. Fluff - but taking yoga serious.
• And my old stand-by, perhaps the best story ever written in German: The Marquise of O, by Heinrich von Kleist.

I get my books either from the library or buy used – otherwise I could not sustain my reading addiction.

This is what I could do: Go for a swim in the rain. It’s exhilarating. Just make sure there is no danger of lightning. Every year, about one hundred people are killed in the US by lightning, mostly in the southeast. Worst state is Florida; Alaska is safe – you guessed it.

Or go deadheading the roses and dahlias in the rain. Might be adventurous too. Because, as I always say, Nature build me water-tight: No rain gets through my skin.

The Doctor Is Sick

May 15, 2010

Tags: order, Barbery - Muriel (born 1969), Boston, cold, flu, Gauguin - Paul, mortality, Muriel Barbery, Paris, Paul Gauguin, renewal, soul-being, The Doctor Is Sick

I have a cold. A bad cold, not a flu. With humiliating running nose, headaches and general crabbiness.

You might think doctors should not get sick, especially not natural doctors. I couldn’t agree more. But here I am finding myself in bed, unkempt, headachy, sleeping, reading (“The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barberry – marvelous!), sleeping again – and suddenly I feel happy.

I needed this. I needed the quiet, the no-demand, the thinking break.

See, most of the time, we are social animals, defined by what we do with others, for others. But there is, deep down, this other part of ourselves: the unsocial part, the pure soul-being. The part that asks why we are here on Earth.

As a sick child, I was bedridden often. All I did was reading and dreaming.

Paul Gauguin’s most famous picture is a huge canvas, covering a wall, not of a home but fit for a railroad station. It is called: “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” It hangs here in Boston in the Fine Arts Museum and shows South Sea people in their natural state, in their natural habitat. It was this picture that Gauguin hurled into the face of well-heeled, fin-de-siècle Paris.

Those ultimate questions that cannot really be answered have to be asked, anyway. And it seems to me, I do that best in bed, alone, not quite fresh smelling, and confronted with my mortality – yes, even if it is just a banal cold that hit me. I know, in a day or two, I will re-emerge into real life full of energy, deep thoughts for writing and good intentions. I needed this renewal.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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