I do not use the word ‘literary’ lightly. If one is expecting car chases and rock-’em-sock’-’em action, one will be highly disappointed. No, this is a psychological book full of quiet terrors, surrounded by incidents so mundane that the average person can’t help but identify. This is of course the point. Your life? Mine? Opened up and spread across the cold metal dissection table? What would one find, if one looked closely enough? In this world of six-degrees-of-separation, who can say they have not met someone at a party, sat next to someone on a bus, bought cheese from someone, had their hair styled by someone, even perhaps been friendly to, even perhaps loved, a person with whom the shadowy offices of global surveillance would take exception. A file would be started. I shouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s one on me.
This morning, while at prayer in my garden, I found a feather. It’s tiny, surely from either one of the breast feathers of a bird, or perhaps from one of the babies starting to appear. It’s a bluish grey and white. Fragile as a dandelion wisp.
I have a long history with feathers turning up in odd places. Once I came into my office — I was the only one at home, hadn’t been out — and there appeared a long white feather on my desk chair. It now sits in a porcelain bowl with some other objects and feathers that came to me by, let’s just say unusual means. The white feather appeared shortly after my mother died. You decide what that means.
Note: Of course, not all girls are so involved. And of course the problem isn’t limited to ‘girls’ — a term Sales recognizes as problematic in terms of contemporary gender classification, but which she uses, and which I use here, to define a specific group of people, of a certain age who self-define as heterosexual. Similar issues exist within the LGBT community and similar concerns apply.
Although I’ve not finished my reading for 2015, ’tis the time of lists. A number of ‘best of’ lists this year have me scratching my head, since I read some of the books and didn’t care care for them very much, and the fact Kim Kardashian’s SELFISH made the Globe & Mail’s list… well… the less said about that the better. Reading preferences are so personal, aren’t they?
Nonetheless, in case a few of you may share my sensibilities, here are my best 10 reads of the year — some new, some quite old indeed, but in my opinion all of them well worth reading. Enjoy, and tell me what you’ve loved this year, won’t you?
My dear friend, Sister Rita, SSJ, and I are writing a book together, and will tell you more about it as we go along. For now, let me just say I couldn’t be more excited about it, as the wisdom I’ve received from her over the years has been, and continues to be, invaluable.
She sent me a reflection she wrote for Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d share it with you. Here it is:
Reflection: November 23, 2016
There is a situation playing out in Canada right now that has me both sad and alarmed. I won’t go into details, since at present we have almost none of those, and they will come out soon enough.
I didn’t want to put my face in this fan, honestly, but as a writer with a (kind of) public profile, sometimes to remain silent is to seem complicit or condoning louder voices. So, here goes…
This shouldn’t need saying, but apparently it does: Opposing a rush to judgment/lynch mob mentality before anyone even knows what the allegations against someone are, is not “silencing victims”; it is upholding justice.
Time, I have come to believe, is not linear, but cyclical, a spiral not a line.
Indigenous people and the Old Testament tell us everything has its season, and after winter comes the spring, the summer, the autumn, and then the winter again, although of course it’s never exactly the same winter. Each day both unique and resonant with history, with other days, other winters, other springs.
And so, where are we now?
As I watch the horrific events unfolding in Paris tonight, of course my mind goes back to the years I spent in the City of Lights.
I remember that terrible day, 9/11, when I lived in Paris in a top floor apartment in the 16th arrondissement. From my window I could see all the way from the Cathedral in Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. I stood in that window all afternoon and long into the evening, grieving for New York, and wondering if the Eiffel Tower would be the next landmark bombed. My Best Beloved was in Zurich, where the borders had slammed shut, and we didn’t know when we’d see each other again.
Sometimes, you just have to raise your voice. I know there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world right now, all vying for your attention. This is one life. One man. One innocent man. And maybe, just maybe, you can make a difference.
I’ve written before about Troy Davis and why I am opposed to the death penalty. Today I am morally obliged to return to the subject.