>My Bookshelf: The Mindful Writer… and Reader

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A quick glance at what I’m reading right now:

In hardback:

The Mindful Writer by Dinty Moore. I walked to The Tattered Cover Bookstore here in downtown Denver last week and bought this wonderful little book and have almost finished it. Dinty does a wonderful job of pulling together quotes from writers and artists and then reflecting on them and how their wisdom relates to what he’s learned from his Buddhist experience, but even moreso from his experience as a writer, an editor, and a teacher. Using the “Four Noble Truths” concept, he comes up with “Four Noble Truths for Writers” as the four sections of the book. Each one is so full of insight that I want to savor each page slowly, but instead I find myself turning the pages, wanting more. I know this is counter to the whole idea of mindfulness and being in the moment, so I’m trying to slow down and ingest and apply the wisdom of these pages to my life, and especially to my writing.

On my Kindle:

Robert Leleux’s latest memoir, The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving is a great read to couple with Dinty’s book, because Robert is so mindful in his writing. I met Robert a couple of years ago when he was the guest MC for the Pulpwood Queens’ Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas. The Living End is about how Alzheimer’s changed the relationship between his grandmother and his mother, who were estranged for years until the disease caused his grandmother to forget why she didn’t want to have anything to do with her own daughter, Robert’s mother. It’s about that and so much more, and I can relate to it on many levels.

Also in hardback:

Of course I’m continuing my journey through Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, which contains my essay, “Chiaroscuro: Shimmer and Shadow.” The anthology just got an excellent review, here at the Alabama Writer’s Forum. It’s available at lots of independent bookstores now, and I’m hoping to participate in some readings/signings beginning in May, so stay tuned.

When I visited The Tattered Cover Bookstore last week, in addition to Dinty’s The Mindful Writer, I picked up a few more titles and hope to dive into them soon:

The Writer’s Home Companion (1987) in paperback

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankle (1959) also in paperback, which I read about ten years ago and want to read again

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth (also in paperback)

And one more in hardback:

Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham. Cunningham’s book, The Hours, provided lots of inspiration for my current novel-in-progress, and Specimen Days provides another look at interweaving the lives of three main characters from disparate places and times. Where he used Virginia Woolf to tie the characters’ lives together in The Hours, he uses Walt Whitman as the connecting thread in Specimen Days. Saint Mary of Egypt, a fourth century prostitute-turned-saint, plays that role in my novel, Cherry Bomb.

I’m trying to wrap up my novel-in-progress while feeding my soul (it’s Holy Week for Orthodox Christians) and continuing to learn about writing from those who do it so well. My plate is full with all that and exploring Denver and hanging out with my children and grandchildren. I’m beginning to learn my way around, and to appreciate the beauty of this place, which is so “other than” the South, where I’ve spent the first six decades of my life. I can see how the South has shaped so much of who I am and how it informs my writing, especially my fiction, just as my spiritual journey has shaped much of my nonfiction writing, like my essay in Circling Faith. I am thankful to be where I am in my life right now, spiritually and geographically. And I’m also thankful for these mindful writers who also paving the way for me.

>Special Friday for the East and the West

>Today is Good Friday for Western Christians, who are coming to the end of their Holy Week commemorations and preparing to celebrate Easter this Sunday. And here in the West, everyone from churches to grocery stores are gearing up for this sacred tradition. I was saddened by a grocery store ad I’ve seen several times this week, though, which says that Easter is “all about the ham.” No mention of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at all.

For Orthodox Christians throughout the world, the forty days of Great Lent come to an end tonight with Vespers for Lazarus Saturday. Here’s a wonderful description of the meaning behind this weekend’s events:

“Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday”

And I love this artwork and story about Lazarus from South East Cyprus.

This year Eastern Easter, known as Pascha, is one week later than Western Easter. It varies every year. If you’re curious about why, here’s an article that explains why Pascha is a moveable feast.

I’m missing my home parish, St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis, as Holy Week approaches, and especially with the loss of a wonderful man, Paul Parham, who passed away this week. Paul was loved not only at St. John, but also at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, where he was Director of Communications for ALSAC-St. Jude, and later worked as a volunteer after his retirement. Paul also volunteered at St. John as business manager for fifteen years. I was church secretary for two of those years and always looked forward to Tuesdays, when Paul was in the office with me. His funeral will be held at St. John tomorrow, on Lazarus Saturday, which is a preview of the celebration of the Resurrection, which will happen at Pascha. May his memory be eternal.

And of course Sunday is Palm Sunday for Orthodox Christians. My reflections on Palm Sunday from 2011 are here: “The Tinderbox.” That’s my husband holding the palm branches, and Father Troy Mashburn, our pastor, holding the Gospel Book, at the end of the procession for Palm Sunday, also known as The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem.

So, whether you’re commemorating Good Friday and headed towards Easter on Sunday, or participating in the events of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday this weekend, I hope it will be a blessed time for all of you. I’m about to check out the schedule of Holy Week services at St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church here in Denver, and I hope to participate some… depending on when my third granddaughter decides to make her appearance. She’s got two shots at being an Easter baby with these two feast days being only a week apart this year and her official due date being April 14. I can’t wait to meet her! Have a great weekend, everyone.

>Denver Bucket List

>So, I’m in Denver for a month, and reading the touristy magazines in my condo and talking with my Denver kids about what the city has to offer has made me want to create my own personal “Denver Bucket List” so I won’t miss anything I’d really like to see and do while I’m here. I’ve already done a couple of things on the list, but I’ll include them here anyway, because that’s how I am with lists. Yep, I’m one of those people who makes “to-do” lists and puts things I’ve already done on the list with a satisfying check mark beside each of them as I approach my day or week or month. I do love check marks, and it makes me feel like I’ve got a jump on the day.

So, the things I most want to do while I’m in Denver are:

1. Spend time with my children and grandchildren. That’s really why I’m here, and I’m loving being with my two young granddaughters, Grace and Anna, ages 2 ½ and 1 ½, (my son, Jason’s girls) and eagerly awaiting the birth of my third granddaughter, my daughter, Beth’s, first. Lovely visits with each of them on Sunday and Monday have gotten the month off to a great start.

2. Ride the light rail. I love public transportation in big cities, and I can catch the light rail just a couple of blocks from my condo downtown, and less than twenty minutes later I’m less than a block from my daughter’s apartment. Enjoyed my first ride on Monday.

3. Drive by myself and learn my way around Denver. I got a start on this on Monday, when I borrowed my daughter’s car and drove back downtown to my condo. No problem! Today I plan to drive out to Arvada to visit my son’s family. Between the map I printed off and the GPS in my daughter’s car, I think I’ll be okay.

3. Enjoy the pedestrian joys of downtown Denver, including the 16th Street Mall, just a block from my condo. There’s a free shuttle that runs the length of 16th Street, which is a mile long, so if I get to one end and I’m too tired to walk back, that’s always an option. One area I want to visit along the mall is called Writer Square.

4. Visit The Tattered Cover, Denver’s oldest and most famous bookstore. They’ve got three locations now, but I’m going to hang out at the one on 16th Street. Check out this video of their new espresso book print-on-demand machine. And look what I found on their website: Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality.

5. Visit St. Catherine Greek Orthodox Church, either for a Holy Week service or possibly even Pascha.

6. Visit some of the sites in the Golden Triangle Museum District which includes museums, art galleries, the public library, shops, restaurants, and historic homes.

7. Hang out at Larimer Square, and especially see the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

8. Shop at the Ikea store. I love their catalogue, but I’ve never been to one of their stores. I hear it’s an all-day affair! Beth and I plan to go there tomorrow.

9. Finish my novel-in-progress, Cherry Bomb: A Novel. Yesterday I finished drafting the final chapter, but now I plan to add an epilogue. One more read-through with revisions, then I’ll mail the manuscript to my freelance editor back in Oxford (Mississippi).

I’m sure there are more Denver area things I’d like to do some day, but if I make it through even half of this initial “bucket list” this month, I’ll be doing good. Especially since I’m mainly here to be with family… and finish my novel. On a future visit maybe I’ll get to watch Peyton play for the Broncos! When I got here on Sunday, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a blue Broncos T-shirt with Manning’s name and number on it! It seems fitting, since I was in school with Archie at Ole Miss back in the day, and then Peyton played at UT where two of my kids went to school, and now he’s in Denver with both of them. Go, Broncos!

So glad the snow has stopped and it’s sunny and will be 60 degrees here in Denver today! Bucket List, here I come….

>Isn’t Airport Security Fun?

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Yesterday I had an exciting time going through security at the Memphis airport. Not sure why I was chosen to be the star, but here’s what happened.

After I took off my shoes and took my computer out of its bag and loaded everything onto the conveyor belt, I walked over in front of the screening machine and a security agent said, “Ma’am, would you feel comfortable removing your hat?”

“Oh, of course! I forgot I was wearing it.” So I put the hat in a bin and sent it through the machine and walked back in front of the screening machine.

Same security agent said, “Ma’am, would you be comfortable removing your jewelry?”

“Well, I wore all leather and pearls today, nothing will set the machine off, so I don’t see why I need to remove it all.”

Security agent looked at the other agent and they both nodded.

“Okay, ma’am, then you’ll have to have the full body pat down.”

Whatever. I stood in the machine with both hands above my head like a criminal, then stepped through the other side where a (female) security agent patted me down… all over my arms, legs, hips, and between my breasts. Nothing really offensive, and hey, I’m happy to help keep terrorists off my plane. But then another agent nodded at this one and said, “Be sure and swab her hands.”

“Swab my hands?” I asked, a bit miffed at this point.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“What’s that for?”

“To check for chemicals on your hands.”

“Why?”

“Because you required the pat down.”

I noticed the woman in front of me had a pat-down, too, but they skipped the hand swab on her.

I guess I must have looked special enough to get the star treatment.

As a Delta Priority Gold Member, I was first on the list for an upgrade to First Class on the flight to Denver, but all the First Class seats were taken. So, the stewardess approached me before take-off and told me I would receive a free cocktail during the flight.

“Oh, thank you!” The star treatment continued… and later in the flight a different stewardess showed up at my seat with a second complimentary gin and tonic, although I hadn’t asked for it.

Maybe that was my reward for being such a good girl back in security.

Gotta’ love Delta.

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