As soon as I read about it in November, I knew I wanted it.
I suggested it as a Christmas gift. But the book wasn’t officially available until December.
So I ordered A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick for my birthday. It arrived Friday – along with four other books in three packages.
Birthday Books 2019. To share with my beloved. Photo: TLClark.
I’m the sort of person who likes books about books. A Velocity of Being is not quite that. It’s better: letters about reading from authors and artists, musicians and scientists, actors and others. Each was asked to “write a short letter to the young readers of today and tomorrow about how reading sculpted their character and their destiny.” (Maria Popova, “Introduction,” A Velocity of Being).
As if that were not enough, every letter is accompanied by a work of art created in response to that particular message. The works by illustrators, graphic designers and other artists are exquisite, adding a rich layer of interpretation to the letter.
Just a few examples:
In the first letter Jacqueline Woodson writes of reading to her young son and impulsively kissing “the top of my son’s mohawked head.” (p. 16) Lara Hawthorne captures the moment beautifully.
Leonard Marcus encourages us to pack books carefully when moving. “Not many things in life can be counted as ‘permanent possessions.’ But a few things can, and our favorite books are among them.” (p. 158) Julia Rothman’s illustration shows the chaos of boxes being packed to move with one carefully marked “PERMANENT POSSESSIONS.”
“The world itself is all beautiful” Andrew Solomon writes, “but sometimes it can be hard to see that, and books let you understand moments of beauty you might otherwise miss.” (p. 100) He writes about loneliness, justice, kindness, sadness, happiness and more, two sentences at a time. Catarina Sobral used bright, bold, primary colors to portray a child whose world is upended by reading a book.
I haven’t read every letter – yet. Nor have I spent time musing over every illustration – yet. A Velocity of Being will take some time to absorb and to enjoy – one letter, one picture at a time.
Snow drift through the sun room window. Glad for the sun. Not so glad for the wind – except to see the fabulous shapes being sculpted. Photo: TLClark.
My beloved suggested I could write about Cabin Fever. We’ve reached the age where “better safe than sorry” guides decisions. We’ve both driven enough miles on snow/ice covered interstates or in gusty cold winds to know that snow/ice covered plus gusty cold winds is a recipe for disaster. So we’ve rescheduled today’s appointments in Iowa City which were the rescheduled appointments from yesterday.
What to do?
Play games on the computer (seems to have become the default option).
Read a book (another common default option).
Pull out an old fashioned board game or maybe a deck of cards.
Memorize a poem.
Work on the puzzle.
Do some genealogy sleuthing.
Sort those old pictures and get them boxed to mail to someone who will enjoy having them.
Play the piano/keyboard.
This puzzle was a challenge the first time around – not sure why we decided to do it again. Photo: TLClark.
Watch a movie.
Clean the bathrooms.
Clean out a drawer or a closet.
Write a sympathy note or a thinking of you card – with pen and paper.
Be creative in the sewing room.
Clockwise from top right: a) Hand sew the binding on scrappy strip quilt. b) Free motion quilt the butterfly quilt. c) Add sashing to the finished blocks and join them into a quilt top. d) Start an entirely new project using fabric from the bins in the corner. Photo: TLClark.
Use the colored pencils to draw something new or color in a coloring book.
Sort, discard or keep, categorize eleven years of digital photos.
Plan another series of blog posts.
Call Mom & Dad or Grandma Mary.
Sort through a box full of old church papers; recycle most of it.
Work on taxes.
What would you add to the list? What would choose first?
This is the fourth of a series of posts in response to the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert William Service. Read the whole poem by clicking here. The first stanza is in my first post foundhere; the second is here and the third is here.
Now, the fourth stanza of the poem “The Wonderer” by Robert Service:
Then oh! but how can I explain
The wondrous wonder of my Brain?
That marvelous machine that brings
All consciousness of wonderings;
That lets me from myself leap out
And watch my body walk about;
It’s hopeless – all my words are vain
To tell the wonder of my Brain.
A few observations about how the brain operates. There is the “Eureka!” sort of moment; a realization of discovery. There is the “Wow!” of wonder, of being taken aback at how another is thinking. There is the pondering, the imagining of what might be.
EUREKA! As a brand spanking new Computer Programmer in the “real world” in 1987 I was amazed at how my brain worked. Computer coursework in college had not taught me exactly what I needed to know. But it had taught me how to think to learn what I did need to know for using particular programming languages in a specific computing environment. I marveled at how my brain made connections.
WOW! My oldest nephew was about 4 years old when I pulled out the book God’s Paintbrush by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. Upon hearing the title, B responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “It must be really big.” It took me a moment to realize that God, who is pretty big to a preschooler, would have a really big paintbrush.
IMAGINE. Ponder. Contemplate. Wonder. About a creative endeavor. About a career move. About the words of a poem, the lyrics of a song, the phrases in a text. About a relationship. About God.
Holy God … assure us again that ear has not heard, nor eye seen, nor human imagination envisioned, what you have prepared for those you love you. – From Book of Worship, United Church of Christ.
God has prepared things for those who love God that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. – 1 Corinthians 2:9b CEB
I’ve started the new year with two works of fiction. One was added to my “to read” list as soon as I heard the author was preparing to release her next book. The other was a Christmas gift.
Both books are written in English. Both have language that stretches me.
Tony Hillerman has long been one of my parent’s favorite authors. But it’s my first time to read one of his books. I started The Blessing Way as bedtime reading on Tuesday.
I have read every book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series – except the latest one – at least twice. The Kingdom of the Blind went with me on Wednesday as waiting room reading. Once started, I read it straight through, putting it down only to drive home, to prepare and eat supper, and to sleep.
Returning to the Hillerman book, I was struck by how I was challenged by the language. The names of the native peoples, their names for places, and even some of the descriptions of the southwestern U.S. landscape are mostly foreign to me. I have to concentrate to keep them straight.
Set in French speaking Canada, Penny’s books also include names of people and places which are mostly foreign to me. Having done nothing with the French I took in college 34 years ago, decoding phrases written in French takes effort. I have to concentrate.
Reading as an enjoyable pastime requires falling into the language. Relaxing into the rhythm of words and phrases and sentences. Being open to new vocabulary as well as new ideas. Allowing the text to reveal a new or unfamiliar world.
What are you reading? How is it challenging you to see more broadly or think more deeply?