May I recommend a Book?

January 19, 2013

Books are like people, they need friends, they need to be loved, and by loved I mean understood, interacted with, allowed to inspire and to move and to raise questions.  Books are not at all the same as authors any more than children are the same as parents; books are related to authors, they come from authors, but as much by the grace of God as by the mere intercourse of imagery, words, thoughts and urgings, the mingling of fear and desire the requisite transgression and forbidden voyeurism, the nakedness and the hope of true love and a yearning for something fine and sublime that we know when we find it but can never quite put our fingers on.

Being a late bloomer in many ways, I realize that if I wait until I have truly gathered what I want to say about Katrina Kenison’s new and luminous book, Magical Journey, I may be far behind the social network of relevant timing.  Katrina’s book is not a book to rush through (although feel free to rush to purchase), for it is all about her personal journey of slowing down, savoring, presence to the moment—the truly good stuff—and it is an invitation to the sort of party those of us who feel otherwise invisible and wall-mountain-flowery might feel safely coaxed and ever-so-glad we pushed through self-doubt and self-negation and simply showed up to accept that we are indeed included.

Books come to you, sometimes they leap a little off the shelf and you never admit to anyone that you saw it happen for fear of being labeled mad.  Sometimes someone recommends a book, like an acquaintance dying of AIDS on a balcony at a party in the Hollywood Hills and you think, “Wow, amidst the bullshit here is a true tip.”

A client gave me a book, they said it made them think of me, and after a couple of years of it sitting around I read it, starting in the middle, and it proved wonderfully transformative, as if it was a conversation waiting patiently to happen.

Another client told me about a book and I read it in Ireland and drank it in deeply and it remains with me, even though its author passed on to worlds beyond ours.

And so it is that my words show up here in this time and space to point you toward a friend of a book waiting as patiently as a yoga teacher for you to drop into its soft pages and find a friend with whom you can laugh, cry, talk and… drop the bullshit that leaves us feeling outside, inadequate and like we’re missing something.  Magical Journey is a shard of mirror reflecting as much of the world as you can soften your gaze to see, a shard to reflect the little bit of world you carry with you in your own unique soul, and, mirror to mirror, soul to soul, Katrina will help you see what you hoped was always there—what you saw with your own beginner mind back in the day before narrative and social constructs, before you knew enough to fear a party much less an invitation.

To be frank, I am only one quarter of the way through Katrina’s book, but I felt so arrested and liberated by pages 63 and 64 that I paused for a blog post.  I fully intend to savor this book at my own damn pace, and I shall say what I please about it in the future.  Many of my best blog buddies have read to completion already and are singing Katrina’s praises; I’m just singing along with the chorus even if I haven’t learned all the words yet…

Yet, I wanted to invite any random reader who happens upon these words to consider:  what are you looking for?  What makes you think you haven’t found it?  What makes you think you’re not good enough, or “there yet,” or complete?

I’m not entirely sure why I dog-ear pages and write in margins.  Rarely, I return to the margin notes and often I am unable to read what I wrote.  It’s like trying to capture a river, or come to terms with time; you just cross and cross and cross until you become the river of time.  Still, the first quarter of Magical Journey has more dog-ears than the Dog Park and Go, Dog.  Go! (one of my eternal faves) combined.

Rather than quoting Katrina’s book at length, suffice it to say that writing (and music and films and painting) that truly moves me, tends to move me to write or paint or sing-along off-key in the car.  Katrina has me writing here; thinking about how she is a soul sister across a continent, how our shared adoration for Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and our never-met but parallel play lives in 80’s New York, and our transformational experiences of yoga, and our take on parenting offers synchronicities and magic of their own.

Okay, fine, I’ll quote a little:  “Wiping the kitchen counter, putting the last dish away, I’m overcome with melancholy, wishing the phone would ring or, better, that the back door would fly open and the sound of teenage voices erase the quiet.”

I write my words at the kitchen island on a sparkling Saturday morning, and soon my boys and I shall meet Andy at Pete’s for coffee and then we’ll spend time together and Sunday too promises to be a gift… and then on MLK day Nate will be on that plane back to college and his room will be still and empty but for spirits lingering slowly in the warmth of hearth and home before trailing back, just like Lewis and Clark once did, in that pioneer quest for something sacred, true, timeless and new.

Katrina writes about Joseph Campbell and stumbling into the abyss of our dark places to discover our treasure there.  And just as I live in teeming LA to Katrina’s quiet New Hampshire, I am stumbling out of a long time in the dark abyss, the deep dark forest of the endless self; perhaps I shall find my treasure in the marketplace, the golf course, the sports stadium (not as any star but as an ordinary fellow amongst fellows).

Oddly, in my quest for masculine development, it has always been the women who most affirm me, most see me, most make me feel at home and included.  And just as I am raising sons (along with Andy and Agnes) Katrina too mothers boys and evokes the intrepid and brave part of ourselves to venture forth, perhaps to meet at the party of our collective soul.

Maybe we take our mothering where we can, and although I love my mom, she’s more one to ride along with the to séance, a journey always nutty and dark enough, than to teach me how to find my treasure in not my strange dark places but in the light of day and normal fun, in the public water-cooler chat of that great book you’re reading and so you tell your friends.

Read and walk along with me as I walk along with Katrina (as I walk along in my mind, sometimes, with Carl Jung and with the spirits of native Americans who once lived and loved on the land where I now squat between two rivers, albeit lined with LA concrete).

Maybe we’ll talk some more along the walk?  Let us go now, you and I…

Like the story of a man who has fallen on ice and cannot get up, no matter how many people try to pull him up, the old master comes along and lies down next to him on the ice, and then he gets up.  Did you picture the old master as a man?  I do not, and Katrina does not hold herself up as any sort of master, subtitling her book “An Apprenticeship in Contentment,” yet I must say that I find access to the master, in part, thanks to Katrina’s spirit.

Old Joe Campbell, and now Katrina too, urge us to commit to our journey and find that magic happens, friends show up.

I hope to be your friend, for I fully admit that I do not want to be alone and want very much to be included and to have lots of great friends (which I do, and I am blessed with this) but we have to share, and trust that love and friendship are abundant.  Who am I to suggest you be friends with Katrina?  You’re probably already friends with her, but I can second the emotion.  I’ve got that notion.

“Silence fills the house, melting snow drips from the roof like a stream of clear pebbles falling to earth, and my body moves slowly through the familiar sequences.  I am like a swimmer doing laps, steady, in flow, outside of time.”

“… the clock ticks relentlessly now, and I hear it, feel life passing me by…”

“I think about the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s suggestion that we try exchanging our intense desire to be comfortable for a willingness to be curious instead…”

This takes courage.  Courage rests upon love, safety, and trust.  It’s all about the love says Pamela.

KW assures us that we need this book like a soul-warming long walk with a friend.

Say, “yes my mountain flower” to Katrina, to her spirit; accept her offering.  Check out the book:  Magical Journey