"an old book has something for me which no new book can ever have -- for at every reading the memories and atmosphere of other readings come back and I am reading old years as well as an old book.”
L.M. Montgomery, The Selected Journals, Vol. 3: 1921-1929

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dreaming of Iona

On my trip to Great Britain last summer, I spent two glorious days on Iona.  Those two days were among my very favorite days of the whole trip, which was a dream come true in every way.  Since then, I can't stop thinking about Iona and about my next trip there!  Since I have a new job beginning soon, I know it will be a while, so I've been satisifying my desire to travel back with some armchair reading.

As I've mentioned before, Celtic Prayers from Iona is one of my very favorite books and one that I refer to almost daily.  It forms a wonderful foundation for a daily cycle of prayer and scripture reading that is easy to incorporate into a modern lifestyle.  Reading the prayers written in the Celtic tradition takes me right back to a blessed afternoon spent on a quiet hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean where I had a profound spiritual experience.  I have this one in both hardback and on my kindle so that I am never without it.

Another prayer book that I like is An Iona Prayer Book by Peter Millar.  This one is broken down such that it could be used daily and yet change depending on which week of the month it is.

But I really wanted to read about the island and how it affects the people who visit and stay there.  So I first turned to an account by Joan Anderson.  I had read her book, A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman several years ago and when I learned she had written a book about her journey to Iona; The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself,  I knew I had to read it.  The first half of the book is about her life leading up to her time on Iona, the emotional journey that led her there.  While I enjoyed it, it was the portion about Iona that I really appreciated.  Having been there so recently myself, I could picture it as she described so clearly.  It was a lovely journey back.

Currently, I am reading Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place.  It too is a personal journey, a journey of healing (after battles with two different cancers) and the role of renewal that Iona played in her life.

I have also read two different pilgrimage guides, both similar and yet both different.  Around a Thin Place is available on Amazon or you can order it from Wild Goose Publications in both book and e-book formats.   This book offers both a "wild" pilgrimage and a "road" pilgrimage that between them take in most of the important sites on Iona.

The other pilgrimage guide is by Peter Millar (of the Iona Prayer Book noted above); Iona: A Pilgrim's Guide .  This one was my my favorite of the two as it seemed less pretentious somehow.  In reading both of them, I enjoyed reliving my short time on the island and have learned of more places to visit the next time I go there.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Artist's Books

With all the Kindle love on here lately, I didn't want you to think that I no longer buy any "real" books!  There are some books that a Kindle (even a color one) just can't do justice to.  Especially when it comes to books on creating art.  Two new ones have joined my library this past week.

I have lots of books in my library about creating Art Journals.  But none of them were quite what I was looking for, as I wanted something more focused on drawing and sketching in watercolor and ink about my daily travels, nature, or whatever happens to suit my fancy.  Most of the books out there are more about fancy art collage scrapbooking types of things, which though fun and lovely, weren't quite what I really enjoy doing.  So, when I saw Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures at Barnes & Noble earlier this week, I knew it had to come home with me!  I read it through in one long evening.  The next day, I went out and added a couple of art supplies to my travel pouch and then spent the afternoon putting some of the tips and techniques into play.  I loved it!  Then I came home, re-read part of it and today, spent more time playing with some of the ideas!  If you want to create and Artist's Journal filled with art, sketching, watercolors and some journaling ~ then this is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it!

Most books about watercolor painting are more about the large wet on wet techniques.  But what I do is more of a dry brush technique suited to small scale work.  It's nearly impossible to find good books on these types of techniques.  They are outnumbered probably 500 to 1 by the wet on wet technique books. So when I found Painting with Watercolor, Pen & Ink and saw the nice variety of techniques presented, it also came home from the bookstore with me.  While it is a great technique book, I don't find it as inspiring as Artist's Journal Workshop, but I'm sure I'll refer to it now and again as I search for a technique to render an idea.

As I perused my bookshelves at home, I realized that I already have a book by each of these author/artists!  I purchased The Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature (Sierra Club Books Publication) on one of my trips, either at Sequoia National Park or at Rocky Mountain National Park.  I've read through it a few times and found it quite inspirational (though not as much so as Artist's Journal Workshop).

I also have Painting Weathered Buildings in Pen, Ink & Watercolor (Artist's Photo Reference S.).  Again, I have it mostly for the techniques it shows.  I have an abiding interest in vernacular architecture and love to sketch buildings, though I usually end up sketching the nature around them instead.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

On my Kindle 2/18/2012

While I love the feel of holding a book in my hand and seeing books on the shelves, I am also learning to love my Kindle!  It fits so easily in my purse and makes it easy to take my reading material to and from work and everywhere I go.  I love that I'm never without something to read!  I also like that I don't have to purchase more bookshelves or have to think about hauling still more boxes of heavy books the next time that I move.  And with that in mind, it fits right in with the current books I'm reading on my Kindle.

Living in a small to moderate sized apartment, I constantly deal with clutter.  As someone who loves books (lots of them!) and as someone involved in various arts and handcrafts, as well as someone who loves dishes, I am constantly in danger of becoming totally engulfed in "stuff".  I make list after list of my "essential" items and dream of downsizing to the extreme, while at the same time realizing that with the activities I enjoy, this is probably one of those castle in the sky dreams.  But I still need to keep my stuff in line and learn how to live with less of it.  As I prepare for a major purge in the next month, I've been reading, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life by Francine Jay. This book, first helps one think about their stuff in terms of why we own what we do (is it useful, beautiful, or do we have an emotional tie to it?) and then helps us think through whether or not it is an item that gets frequent use ("20% of what we own gets used 80% of the time") or is it an item that belongs in our "outer circle" (gets used less than once a week but more than once a year).  Or is it something that belongs in deep storage, such as the things we only use once a year (seasonal decorations, tax returns, etc.)   The first half of the book deals with these types of things, our attachments to stuff and what makes it hard to let go.  The second half of the book focuses more on specifics, or exactly how to go, room by room, and separate our stuff into Treasure, Trash, or Transfer categories and how to think through what goes where.  I love her concept that "Life is the space between our things."  If I have to spend too much time taking care of stuff, I am not free to live and do.

Miss Minimalist: Inspiration to Downsize, Declutter, and Simplify is another book by Francine Jay, the same author of "The Joy of Less".  It is a collection of posts on the topics of downsizing from her blog.  While the ideas are similar it is complementary to the first book.

Simplify by Joshua Becker is yet another Kindle book on the topic of de-cluttering in order to live more fully.

In the past, I have read other books on this topic that are on my bookshelf rather than on my Kindle.  One of my favorites is It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff  This book also helps one work through the emotional attachments that we have to our stuff and helps to think of concrete ways to break those attachments and live happier with less stuff.

I find that it helps to re-read these from time to time, as it's all too easy to fall back into old habits and suddenly, one finds their self swimming in stuff again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Currently on my Kindle

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Dayby Michael J. Gelb
I was pointed towards this great book by Susan Branch via her delightful blog.  It's quite an interesting read with lots of exercises for stimulating fresh thought and creativity!  Right now I'm simply reading through the book.  Once I've read through it, I'll go back and do some of the exercises it suggests.  Reading this book makes me realize what a wonderful upbringing I had, as my parents regularly encouraged my sister and I in many of the directions this book suggests!

Also on my Kindle is Village School (Fairacre)by Miss Read.
I first read this book many years ago. I was a young stay at home mom in those days, busy with all the activities that come with a houseful of four young children. Life seemed impossibly busy at the time and reading the Fairacre books by Miss Read was a delightful break and a look at a somewhat gentler life.  I remember how I loved finding yet another Miss Read book at the library to bring home and savor!  Now I'm re-reading it along with Leslie at Wisteria & Sunshine.  Delightful!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables
Where does one start to describe a favorite book?  Anne of Green Gables is one of those stories that I come back to time and again.  I love the incorrigible character of Anne (spelled with an "E"!) and how she is so very real!  I came to the Anne books as a young mother, introduced by "Victoria" magazine back in the early 1990's.  How I missed them as a girl growing up, I'll never know, as I read incessantly in those days (as now!)  How glad I am to have found them though as they have become dear favorites!

I love the way Anne chatters on, non-stop about what ever delights her.  There are also the lovely descriptions that make Anne's world live and breathe for the reader.  Each time I read the descriptions of Green Gables on Anne's first morning there, I thrill to the words as they describe almost perfectly, my own "house of dreams".
" A huge cherry-tree grew outside, so close that its boughs tapped against the house, and it was so thick-set with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen.  On both sides of the house was a big orchard, one of  apple trees and one of cherry trees, also showered over with blossoms; and their grass was all sprinkled with dandelions.  In the garden below were lilac trees purple with flowers and the their dizzily sweet fragrance drifted up to the window on the morning wind.
   Below the garden a green field lush with clover sloped down to the hollow where the brook ran and where scores of white birches grew, upspringing airily  out of an undergrowth suggestive of delightful possibilites in ferns and mosses and woodsy things generally."
I also love the bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout. 
“Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"
"Kindred spirits are not scarce as I used to think.  It's splendid to find out there are so many of them  in the world."
"isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no new mistakes in it yet?"
"Isn't it fortunate I've got such an imagination?" said Anne.  "It will help me through splendidly, I expect."
"Look at that sea, girls -- all silver and shadow and visions of things not seen.  We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds."
"Well, I don't want to be any one but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life," declared Anne.  "I'm quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads."  
There is such a boundless sense of optimism in Anne of Green Gables!  I'll always love the graceful way of living that is presented; having tea, Sunday School picnics, concerts and visiting between friends and neighbors.  Such a wonderful portrayal of community. All of the Anne books provide us with a vision of a wonderfully idealic life, one which inspires me to make more effort in living my own "ideal world of dreams"!
"but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it.  The joys of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams.  And there was always the bend in the road!"