Monday, August 18, 2014

Expansiveness and reading

"The bigness of the world is redemption. Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route, of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest. Being able to travel both ways matters, and sometimes the way back into the heart of the question begins by going outward and beyond. This is the expansiveness that sometimes comes literally in a landscape or that tugs you out of yourself in a story." 
(Solnit, Rebecca: The Faraway Nearby, GRANTA, London 2013, pp.30f.)

As always when away from my usual surroundings, my mind was spinning with ideas, plans and general thought overload while in Germany, all of them things I couldn't wait to get stuck into, but as always this was followed by fatigue descending upon my return and the seemingly very important prerequisite to get organised before any action can be taken.

But I am also a great believer in quiet times and the need to let ideas percolate. I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking, with minimal note-taking for a change, and I am sure it will all come together at some point and in some shape. That painting for my sister and brother-in-law that was supposed to be a Christmans present...still on my easel. In my defense, I am staying at their house catsitting (hence more cat pictures!) and haven't brought many supplies with me. It's just me, the laptop, the papers, and a few books, and the expansiveness of the landscape here.

I have been following Maria Popova's wonderful brain pickings for a few years now, and I want almost every book she features. Her website is also a treasure trove for illustrators and lovers of children's literature, as both form a substantial part of her curated offerings. Thanks to her I have been introduced to the work of illustrators I hadn't been aware of before, such as Marion Fayolle.

I quit facebook a couple of years ago but rejoined it as I was required to have a personal profile in order to become the administrator of - so far - three pages (I still have a lot of reservations about facebook and  spend a minimal amount of time on it, but it is undeniably a great tool for business). When I wanted to share a brain pickings post (Einstein on fairy tales and education) on one of them, I checked whether the website was on facebook and 'liked' it, and thus have been reading and re-reading a lot of the content. Until I realised I have been consuming all this digested material online, but so far have only read a fraction of the actual books that these posts are about, and then probably in most cases because I already owned them. Whereas with reviews in newspapers I tend to buy or borrow the books that have caught my interest soon after, or at least the titles go straight onto a list in my purse. I reckon it is because online content is at one's disposal forever; newspapers get discarded (though I have a drawer full of cuttings). My online bookmarks are adding up, and I know I can always go back. But the sheer amount of all those links is overwhelming. I have been reading too much online, and it is hurting my head and eyes and making me jittery and shortening my attention span. So it is high time I got some of those books.

My new favourite writer Rebecca Solnit has been on my radar a lot, and the next book of hers I want to read is Wanderlust: A History of Walking. This will also be to mark my intention to form a habit that will be non-negotiable (as that might well be the only way to stick to it): On days I don't go for a run, I will go for a walk. And go to the beach more often, for "reinforcement", as Solnit puts it in The Faraway Nearby: "...just to know that the ocean went on for many thousands of miles was to know that there was an outer border to my own story, and even to human stories, and that something else picked up beyond. It was the familiar edge of the unknown, forever licking at the shore." (ibid., p. 31)

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