Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Art of Pilgrimage

The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau

Pilgrimage is a well-documented phenomenon that crosses religious and cultural boundaries. While I most associate pilgrimage with the medieval trips to the Holy Land, pilgrimage makes up one of the pillars of Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism also have shrines to which pilgrims travel. Then there are the literary and historical sites which draw loyal followers every year.

In many ways, any trip can be a pilgrimage though not all trips are pilgrimages. A pilgrimage is infused with meaning and purpose, a searching for something that will change you. Cousineau talks of the planning and preparation that help build the foundation for a meaningful pilgrimage to occur and then of how you must let go of your plan to allow...hmm... he'd probably invoke the fates here to shape your pilgrimage. Pass by that which you do not love is a common refrain taken from traditional pilgrim guides.

I picked up this book as part of my investigation into liminal spaces--transitions, transitory periods, journeys. It's in the liminal spaces Almost Christian suggests that the mature Christian grows and develops. Pilgrimage is the essence of liminality as you physical journey to a place and back and yearn for a transcendent spiritual experience you can bring back with you.

However, this is thoroughly a secular or at least non-Christian book. For many people, this wouldn't bother them, but the lack of particular religious focus left me a bit empty. For instance, Cousineau describes The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania and how it has become a symbol of freedom for the Lithuanian people. However, as a Christian, the symbol of the cross, while certainly standing for freedom, represents more than freedom from an oppressive government; it's freedom from Sin, Death and the power of Devil. It's nice that it has historical and ongoing political signifance, but I'm sadden by the fact that most people who make the pilgrim's journey to this hill do not have the hope that I have in the symbol of the cross.

In another section, he describes the preparation of a tour guide who travels to South America. To prepare for the journey, this otherwise atheistic person prays to an ancient Mayan god to bless his travels. I see the yearning for spiritual connection, but there's an ongoing disconnect between this person's travel and his life at home. For me, that would describe an ultimately unsuccessful pilgrimage experience, but he seems fine with it.

So as someone looking for pilgrimage as a way to increase and develop faith, I ultimately felt this book missed the point. Despite that, I think The Art of Pilgrimage provides a good method for preparing for a trip that will impact your life, that will bring you back as a better person (though I'd hope for more than just being a better person). Cousineau's applications are easy to implement. They require more intention (which will take time) than any fancy supplies.

I'd recommend it to anyone looking to get more out of their travels--religious or not. And I'm looking for ways to infuse a bit of pilgrimage spirit into our upcoming trip to Niagara Falls.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

One of a Winter's Thursdays is Missing Love

Say what?!?

That's the book I read, One of a Winter's Thursdays is Missing Love. Oh I'm sorry. That's two books I just finished A Winter's Love and One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Two of my favorite authors who couldn't be more different from each other. Shall we start?

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
More than Maureen Johnson or John Greene or maybe even JK Rowling, Jasper Fforde may be my favorite living author. His Thursday Next series is the reason I thought I could read serious, classic fiction and like it. Not that HIS work is serious, classic fiction--but he plays with the English classics so well that they become one again the living, breathing works that they are remembered for. The more I dive into Bookworld the more seriously I take my job as a reader--to pay attention to each word the author has painstakingly agonized over and to appreciate and participate in this creative work. That all sounds stodgy, like a literary criticism textbook, but acted out in this speculative fiction where the written Thursday Next might be the real Thursday Next and even she isn't sure who is who, it's the joyride reading should be. Fforde is disorienting, but don't put down the book because of that--the characters are counting on you to keep up their read counts! (Seriously, start with The Eyre Affair continue through six books until you finished One of Our Thursdays is Missing you won't be disappointed. Then go read all the works he references and read the novels again, you'll feel so smart!)

A Winter's Love by Madeleine L'Engle
I nearly put down this book. Despite having just read Fforde and knowing the importance of readers, I nearly put down this book. I love Madeleine L'Engle, but her adult fiction is just so gloomy. I wasn't sure I could handle another book set in Winter in the Swiss (or maybe French?) alps, with affairs, broken marriages, and semi-alcoholic rages. But I'm glad I did stick with it. A Winter's Love occupies this fringe territory of the L'Engle corpus where yes, it does pull a lot of set pieces from other works, but it does something totally different. I haven't paid too much attention to perspective in my previous readings, but in this one, as I was getting sick of Emily's "Am I evil enough to have an affair?" whining, she switches to her husband Courtney's introspection about his withdrawal from Emily and their marriage. And when you start to wonder how anyone could hang out with Gertrude when she's drinking, you get a bombshell from her past (and this could be literally since it's just after WWII). It is gloomy and it is NOT A Wrinkle in Time (that's two more L'Engle books away), but it is worth it. You see L'Engle's range as a writer along with her on-going use of conventions.

Next up, I'm taking on one of my Liminality/Pilgrimage books, The Art of Pilgrimage. Hopefully, that will be finished by June 1st when the Summer Reading Program starts!!!!

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Other News 5/27

In my return to blogging, I promised to give more life updates. So here we go.

At the beginning of May, my library switched to summer schedule. Therefore, I work an almost normal work week--Monday through Friday in any case. However, I start at noon and leave work around 8:30. This severely cuts into my morning time. I'm working on getting my "projects" done before work so that when I get home, I can read and loaf to my heart's content. It's almost working. I'm almost used to it. It's still frustrating.

Mike will most likely be defending his dissertation next week (God willing). It seems like a such a simple thing to write one dissertation, but there is still so much to do. Over Mother's Day weekend, Mike perform his first wedding/renewal of vows for a cousin in Minnesota. It was a quick trip, but we got to see his family and enjoy some beautiful weather for the outdoor ceremony. Our niece, Emily, sported a couple Aunt Bethany french braids, and we took some time to talk to her about her baptism birthday that was coming up the following week.

All in all, it feels like a lot has changed, while a lot stays the same. I'm working on being content within the moment--a hard thing for a future planner like me. But I'm grateful for the opportunities and blessings God has put in our life right now.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Review Fail

I don't even know where I left off. :-( With the class reviews and everything, it complicated so here are the books I've read since Deus Ex Machina, which I'm sure I reviewed. Oh look that makes about 30 books I have not reviewed. So how about a happy face or a sad face depending my recommendation

:-| Live and Let Die (James Bond)5/23Fiction
:-( Camilla Dickinson (L’Engle) (This was re-released under the title Camilla later so we'll see how it compares.)

:-) And Both Were Young (L’Engle)5/19Fiction
:-) The Elephant in the Boardroom (for Church work types)
5/17Non-fiction (Church)
:-( Ilsa (L’Engle)--but it's really rare; the lib book I had is about $245. Very Southern Gothic which one doesn't associate with L'Engle.
:-) Casino Royale (James Bond)5/13Fiction
:-| Lies My Teachers Told Me--the kid from Deadline recommended it--yes I took a book rec from a fictional character
5/12Non-fiction History
:-| First Light (Thoene AD Chronicles) It's Christian historical fiction. A bit cheesy and hmm... convenient
:-) Jane (Jane Eyre retelling)--Mr Rochester is a rockstar!
:-) The Small Rain (L’Engle)4/30Fiction
:-) Absolutely Positively by Heather Webber <3 Cincy author
:-) Plain Kate by Erin Bow4/24YA-fantasy

:-) Demonglass (Next book out March 2012)4/24YA
:-) Twelfth Grade Kills (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)4/23YA
:-) Eleventh Grade Burns (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)4/21YA
:-| The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton4/19YA (Non-fiction)
:-) The Adoration of Jenna Fox4/18YA (LIS614)
:-( The Battle of Jericho--Draper4/17YA
:-( The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy4/15YA (LIS614 Non-fiction)
:-| Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism--meh textbook for YA class
:-( Every Bone Tells a Story4/13YA (LIS614 Non-fiction)
:-) Toads and Diamonds4/11YA (LIS614)

:-) Deeply, Desperately (Lucy Valentine)4/9Mystery/Romance
:-( Fun Home4/9YA (LIS614 Graphic Novel)
:-) Curse as Dark as Gold4/8YA (LIS614)
:-) Matched (!!!!) Helps my Hunger Games TEABS
:-) Prudent Advice: Lesson for my Baby Daughter3/30Non-fiction
:-) Tenth Grade Bleeds (Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)3/30YA
:-) Delirium
3/29YA (Oliver)

So I have discovered I have a definite preference for the sci-fi and fantasy genres. YA non-fiction is not my bag, though I like it well enough at the adult level, but only if it's well-written. For instance, I liked what
Lies my Teacher Told Me had to say and learned a lot, but after awhile the author taught me so well that I could read his own bias in his book and got fed up with his self-righteous attitude.

Also you will see that I had begun my summer reading list before I posted it to the blog. Sorry I couldn't wait.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Summer Reading Plan

My class reading is done. My library account is officially down to a handful of books. I finally may have some control over my "To Be Read" list.

But why would I want to leave it that way?

Therefore I present my summer reading plan:
  • James Bond--I've had some James Bond books that I borrowed from my dad...oh for four years. I was reading them out of order though so that really didn't work well. So this summer I will read the 14 books by Ian Fleming, starting with Casino Royale. Maybe for fun, I'll try to track down the movies too. (Though I said I was going to do this with the Bourne movies and never did...)
  • Harry Potter--I haven't read the series in a while. The last movie is coming out. Enough said!
  • Madeleine L'Engle--Another favorite author I have not spent enough time with recently. However, she has 60 publications to her name. This is what makes my reading plan ambitious.
  • Piligrimage and Liminal Spaces--In light of Almost Christian, I'm looking into this idea of transitions within the Christian life. I've borrowed 7ish books on pilgrimage and liminal spaces. This is the heavy reading of my summer.
Like last year I'm participating in my public library's summer reading program. For every 3 books I read, I get FABULOUS prizes. And they are actually FABULOUS prizes. The child, teen, and adult who read the most at each branch of the library win a Nook Color!!!