I try in the summer to alternate my reading choices between teacher professional learning titles, and books picked purely for the pleasure they promise. With due respect to those who write to teach me something, I learn at least as much from the pleasure reading – from those who write for the art of it, or for the joy of it, or for the joy of me.
The other day I finished I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. I have read nearly everything she has published, starting with Love Walked In, which introduced the characters in I’ll Be Your Blue Sky.
De los Santos’s latest novel is a story about love, and forgiveness, and family. It’s about listening to the voice in you that knows who you are and where you belong. It’s about being brave, taking chances, and doing hard things as you figure out who you are and where you are going. And it is a reminder of the mystery in the world, out there waiting to be seen.
I love the way de los Santos crafts sentences. I love the way they sound in my head. I mean, I love the way they come together into people and situations created out of nowhere, but I literally love the way the words sound. I guess some people are big picture readers. I think I read word by word, getting the sound and feeling out of each one before I move on to making meaning. I also love how de los Santos creates characters. Her work reminds me of the power of writing to put us, as readers, in situations that exercise our empathy as we are immersed in circumstances and introduced to people whose lives are not like ours. And it also reminds me that sometimes we find things in other people’s creations that help us see ourselves more clearly. There is a section early on in this novel describing the character Edith that could almost have been written about me – swapping out a few specific details for my own. Reading that section, I felt seen. That is a powerful gift.
I have also been reading Mary Oliver’s poetry collection, Devotions. I love the physicality of Oliver’s poetry. With few words she frames out the connections between all the living world, and clearly articulates that redbird eggs and eyelashes are as attention-worthy as oceans.
Oliver reminds me that our lives are enhanced, our spirits filled-up when we pay attention to the wonder in the things we might otherwise call ordinary.
After reading some of her small yet sublime, intimate and universal poems the other day, I sat down and wrote about some scraggly tomato plants I picked up at the nursery the other day. And I was happy enough with my own verse to post it. I used to think I had to write deeply philosophical meanderings to convey my world view, but it fit into a tomato. That’s a lesson to remember.