For the love of sanctuary

In times of upheaval, noise, and fear, like those we’re going through now with the Trump administration’s penchant for dishonesty, disregard for equal rights, and seeming dislike for democracy itself, finding healthy places of refuge are important. I can’t tell you what the healthiest places are for you, I can tell you what they are for me.

Books, music, dance, nature, love,  are all sanctuaries for me. In his essay, “Nature”, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Here is a sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstances which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her.” I agree with Emerson, far beyond the reach of any mastery of words I might have in my possession.

For me, the sanctuary found in nature’s embrace protects the soul while the sanctuary in a loved one’s embrace protects the heart. We are all connected.

And yes, of course, music. Classical, jazz, international, Springsteen, the Beatles, and so on. The right music can take the blues away and allow an already happy day to strut its stuff in the clouds. Nature and music aside, it is safe to say books are my primary refuge. They have been for nearly as long as I have memory.

Of all the gifts my parents gave me, I rank my love of reading at the top. I read thirty to forty-something books a year on average. I am baffled by those who go through life without them. No doubt they are aware of other sanctuaries life offers that are utterly lost on me. I hope so. We all need them, and, more importantly, we all deserve them. From my days of homelessness to now, being connected to a book makes the shifting currents of life easier to manage.

Through good times and bad, if you’ll permit me the use of an all too worn phrase, I’ve been part of the infinite number of worlds found in the pages of books. Along the way I spent time with Dickens and Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, Jon Dos Passos, Whitman, Updike, Anna Quindlen, James Salter,  and on and on and on. My mind has traveled the sentences their minds created! And, along the way, I’ve hung out with Pip, and listened to Steinbeck’s Charley bark like crazy at the bears in a canyon out west. I spent time with Lincoln and his cabinet in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, “Team of Rivals.”

Your refuge can be a rich resource of knowledge. I gobbled up Shelby three-volume, “Civil War: A Narrative,” a collection of work so extraordinary I almost believed I was living in the 1860s and nowhere else.

Taking healthy care of yourself is not an act of disloyalty to anyone else. Moreover, remembering to take care of yourself, a retreat into a loved sanctuary, a conversation with a friend, say, will make you far more effective when you turn your focus to the benefit of others. Something we all need to do in today’s climate.

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Books Read – 2016

As those of you who’ve been following this blog over its 10-year life span know, I have the admittedly self-indulgent habit of publishing the list of  books I read in a given year. I would give all the gold in the world to see the list of books my parents and grandparents read. When I read a book I know someone in my family read, I know I am hiking on a trail of words they hiked before me. It’s a nice feeling. I miss them all, beyond the reach of any words ever written.

  1. The English Major, by Jim Harrison
  2. Greenwich, by Howard Fast
  3. The Sportswriter, by Richard Ford
  4. Point Counter Point, Aldous Huxley
  5. Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual, by Nicholas Murray
  6. The Big Seven, by Jim Harrison
  7. Appointment in Samarra, by John O’Hara
  8. The Great Leader, by Jim Harrison
  9. The Summer He Didn’t Die, by Jim Harrison
  10. The African Queen, by C.S. Forester
  11. The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot, #2), by Agatha Christie
  12. Legends of the Fall, by Jim Harrison
  13. Break In (Kit Fielding, #1), by Dick Francis
  14. The River Swimmer: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
  15. The Ancient Minstrel: Novellas, by Jim Harrison
  16. Letting Go, by Philip Roth
  17. The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  18. The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley
  19. Everybody’s Fool, by Richard Russo
  20. A Question of Upbringing (A Dance to the Music of Time, #1), by Anthony Powell
  21. Dangerous Davies, the Last Detective,  by Leslie Thomas
  22. The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot, #13), by Agatha Christie
  23. A Buyer’s Market (A Dance to the Music of Time #2), by Anthony Powell
  24. Dangerous In Love, by Leslie Thomas
  25. The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time, #3), by Anthony Powell
  26. Can You Forgive Her?, Volume I, by Anthony Trollope
  27. At Lady Molly’s (A Dance to the Music of Time, #4), by Anthony Powell
  28. Dangerous By Moonlight, by Leslie Davies
  29. Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant (A Dance to the Music of Time, #5), by Anthony Powell
  30. What’s Become of Waring, by Anthony Powell

************

Books Read – 2015

  1. “Don’t Look Back,” by Karin Fossum
  2. “Knots and Crosses,” by Ian Rankin
  3. “He Who Fears the Wolf,” by Karin Fossum
  4. “The Indian Bride,” by Karin Fossum
  5. “The Return of the Soldier,” by Rebecca West
  6. “Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life,” by Phillip Davis
  7. “Black Seconds,” by Karin Fossum
  8. “The Officers’ Ward,” by Marc Dugain
  9. “When the Devil Holds the Candle,” by Karin Fossum
  10. “Bad Intentions,” by Karin Fossum
  11. “The Water’s Edge,” by Karin Fossum
  12. “The Caller,” by Karin Fossum
  13. “The Lighthouse,” by PD James
  14. “Cover Her Face,” by PD James
  15. “A Mind to Murder,” by PD James
  16. “The G File,” by Håkan Nesser
  17. “Shroud for a Nightingale,” by PD James
  18. “Unnatural Causes,” by PD James
  19. “Updike,” by Adam Begley
  20. “From Doon With Death,” by Ruth Wendell
  21. “A Man Called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman
  22. “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin
  23. “His Family,” by Ernest Poole
  24. “Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady,” by Louis Bromfield
  25. “The Fruit of the Tree,” by Edith Wharton
  26. “The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg,” by Louis Bromfield
  27. “Certain People,” by Edith Wharton
  28. “A Son at the Front,” by Edith Wharton
  29. “Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street,” by Richard R. Lingeman
  30. “Edith Wharton,” by RWB Lewis
  31. “All That Is,” by James Salter
  32. “Light Years,” by James Salter
  33. “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough
  34. “Tortilla Flat,” by John Steinbeck
  35. “The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge,” by David McCullough
  36. “East Side Story: A Novel,” by Louis Auchincloss
  37. “Père Goriot,” by Honoré de Balzac
  38. “New England White,” by Stephen L. Carter
  39. “Last Night: Stories,” by James Salter
  40. “Dusk and Other Stories,” by James Salter
  41. “Palace Council,” by Stephen L. Carter
  42. “Jericho’s Fall,” by Stephen L. Carter
  43. “Burning the Days: Recollection,” by James Salter
  44. “Rich Man Poor Man,” by Irwin Shaw
  45. “Voices Of A Summer Day,” by Irwin Shaw
  46. “The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling,” by Henry Fielding
  47. “Our Souls at Night,” by Kent Haruf
  48. “The Road to Los Angeles,” by John Fante
  49. “Sanctuary,” by William Faulkner
  50. “Ask the Dust,” by John Fante
  51. “Dreams from Bunker Hill,” by John Fante
  52. “Redemption,” by Howard Fast

Books read in 2013

1) “Mr. Sammler’s Planet,” by Saul Bellow

2) “Ravelstein,” by Saul Bellow

3) “Bunner Sisters,” by Edith Wharton

4) “The Dean’s December,” by Saul Bellow

5) “Morte D’Urban,” by J.F. Powers

6) “A Theft,” by Saul Bellow

7) “The Bellarosa Connection,” by Saul Bellow

8) “Teeth, Dying & other matters,” by Richard G. Stern

9) “Tales of Grabowski,” by John Auerbach

10) “The Actual,” by Saul Bellow

11) “A Father’s Words,” by Richard Stern

12) “Other Men’s Daughters,” by Richard Stern

13) “A Widow for One Year,” by John Irving

14) “Natural Shocks,” by Richard Stern

15) “Stitch,” by Richard Stern

16) “Wise Blood,” by Flannery O’Connor

17) “Golk,” by Richard Stern

18) “My Life as a Man,” by Philip Roth

19) “Zuckerman unbound,” by Philip Roth

20) “Anatomy Lesson,” by Philip Roth

21) “The Prague Orgy,” by Philip Roth

22) “Framley Parsonage,” by Anthony Trollope

23) “Scoop,” by Evelyn Waugh

24) “The Moviegoer,” by Walker Percy

25) “The Counterlife,” by Philip Roth

26) “The Last Gentleman,” by Walker Percy

27) “The Facts,” by Philip Roth

28) “The Adventures of Augie March,” by Saul Bellow

29) “Patrimony,” by Philip Roth

30) “The Plot Against America,” by Philip Roth

31) “Sabbath’s Theater,” by Philip Roth

32) “Half a Life,” by V.S. Naipaul

33) “Staggerford,” by Jon Hassler

34) “American Hunger,” by Richard Wright

35) “Charles Dickens: Volume One,” Edgar Johnson

36) “The Staggerford Flood,” by Jon Hassler

37) “Jude the Obscure,” by Thomas Hardy

38) “The Great Dissent,” by Thomas Healy

39) “Eclipse,” by John Banville

40) “The Headmaster’s Dilemma,” by Louis Auchinloss

41) “The Rector of Justin,” by Louis Auchinloss

42) “Richard Wright: The Life and Times,” by Hazel Rowley

43) “Thornton Wilder: a life,” by Penelope Niven

44) “The Winter of Our Discontent,” by John Steinbeck

45) “Rex Stout: a biography,” by John McAleer

46) “The Idiot,” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky