Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Books of 2011

The Sacred Ordinary Best of 2011 Reading List. 

These books were not published in 2011 - they are just the most splendidly written books that I happened to snuggle up with during the year. 


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
Here if You Need Me - Kate Braestrup
     Moving recollections of the author's sensitive work as chaplain during search and rescue operations for the Maine Warden Service.
36 Views of Mount Fuji - Cathy N. Davidson
     An armchair visit to Japan through an American writer's eyes.
Making Toast - Roger Rosenblatt
     A writer/grandfather accounts family life after the unexpected death of his daughter.
Broken Vessels - Andre Dubus
     see July post:  The woman with one and one half legs
Meditations from a Moveable Chair - Andre Dubus
     ditto above
Truth and Beauty - Ann Patchett
     The story of her unusual relationship with Lucy Grealy


Room - Emma Donoghue
State of Wonder - Ann Patchett
Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese


The Field - Lorna Cahall


The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
Unless It Moves The Human Heart - Roger Rosenblatt
The Memoir Project - Marion Roach Smith

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Pain of Unloved Presents

It's difficult to disappoint our son with the wrong present.  I don't think he ever expects to really like a present, so when something is truly a wrong match for him, he easily puts a positive spin on it by saying something like: 

"Where did you find this?"  or "It must have been expensive." 

I, on the other hand, really enjoy a nice present and hope that my husband will surprise me with something soft or beautiful or will get me a pair of my favorite exercise pants.  (He did.)

Last birthday, my husband stunned me with corkscrew earrings.  Corkscrews with levers, for opening lilliputian wine bottles. 

"Aren't they great?"  He wants to know.

I'm stunned beyond lying.

"They're great."

Later he says, "I can tell that you don't like your earrings because you didn't say thank you."

"You think I don't like them?"

His words ring in my ears on Christmas morning when I open an elaborately decorated package from Bali.  We have several Buddhas around the house and I'm guessing it's another quiet praying statue. 

It's a wooden sculpture of a naked woman in cobra pose.  Her buttocks is unusually round and large.  Her breasts are sharply pointed.  Her hands and feet are long and flat to support the form.  She has a ponytail. 

Right away I say it.  "Thank you!"

"I know you don't like it, but you'll learn to like it." 

He expects me to put it on display.

"You don't like it because you're not comfortable with your body."

I do not think this is the source of my feeling about the sculpture, and note that I have not claimed any dislike.

Our newly opened presents are scattered on the coffee table.  Dry sausages, cashews, canned oysters, stuffed penguins, a camera pen, a book on Italian food, and the naked yogini that traveled all the way from Bali. 

I remember the pain of not liking the corkscrew earrings.  Melvin's pain that I did not like his gift.  My pain that I hurt him because I didn't like his gift.  I'm determined to make Melvin's feelings more important than a piece of wood. 

I nestle the yogini near a plant on my chest of drawers.  Admittedly, she is slightly behind the plant, but she is going to help me hold Melvin's joy and love thoughtfully and tenderly.  She  will remind me to practice gratitude for my wonderful and caring husband.  I will visit the yogini every night when I take off my earrings and every morning when I put them on, and be thankful that at least they do not have wing lever corkscrews on them.