Cold Tangerines

Cross Posted From Blogger Arrow:

My friend Ellen recommended a book to me called Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. I didn't admit to her (until now) that I cringe a little at book recommendations. There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with reading a book that someone else really likes. Maybe the book spoke to them in a way that it just won't talk to you; perhaps something in a person's life resonates with the book and they only imagine that you share that sonorous quality. Whenever someone recommends a book I find myself reflecting on the quote that, "In literature, as in love, we are often astonished at what is chosen by others."

However, Ellen is someone that I trust and admire so her recommendation didn't dare go into the "perhaps, maybe before I die" pile of books on my mental shelf. Instead, Cold Tangerines showed up on my library hold queue and jumped quickly to the top. I started it this week, and (as of my train ride home today) I have just a few chapters remaining. It's the kind of book that speaks to a reader - I suppose I mean female readers - and I almost wish I could Xerox off different chapters and press them into the hands of family and friends and say "You need to read this!" or "This is SO what you are going through!"

And, of course, with a book that relevant to my loved ones, there were to be found several passages that seemed to be written directly at me. In a chapter called "Prayer and Yoga" she laments that both are decidedly good for her yet she doesn't stick to either as often as she should. (Sound like anyone you know??) I also really liked her thoughts on writing. As I contemplate another looming November with NaNoWriMo, I find myself pondering if I want to embrace - unleash - my identity as a writer once again. I've wavered and flip-flopped about taking on the chaotic novel-in-a-month challenge this year and then, this afternoon, I read this:

"Sometimes when I'm writing, if I try really hard, I can move more slowly, like a dancer or a mime, and taste things more vividly, and see not just the trees and the grass, but the individual leaves and blades. Things are richer and brighter than I thought, now that I have slowed down enough to see them."
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines p. 137

I don't think NaNoWriMo is quite the atmosphere for slowed down perception that Niequist is speaking of, but I understand her need for the reflective introspection that comes from times of writing. It's where I spent a lot of time in the days when I was a prolific journaler - heck, even when I was a more prolific blogger. I look with some shame on my sparse posting of this year. I see it not as sad because I missed sharing inane thoughts with friends and family but rather, sad that I was living my life without reflection.

There's a famous quote that says "We must live life forward and define it backward," but I think most of us fall into the trap of too much forward motion on that one. Not that it would be good to over-define life to the point of not spending one's time living it. When we can find the place between rushing out to live each day and poignantly reflecting on our journey as a whole, that's where a well paced life will be. Neither hurried nor bored, that will be a balanced life indeed.

2 Response to "Cold Tangerines"

  1. Melody says:
    May 6, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    I love this quote! And I completely agree with the balance between living your life and reflecting on it while you go. What I usually do is find a quiet half hour or so every couple of days and keep my relections in a journal. But the thing I don't agree with is most peoples answers to the question: "If you could go back in time and change something in your life would you?" Most people I have asked have said yes, they would change the death of a loved one, or something that happened in school at some point, etc. But the more I reflected on this question my answer changed. For year I wished I could take back the death of my Great Grandmother who raised me. But now that I am older, and wiser (I hope lol) I realized that if I changed anything in my past I would not be where I am now. I don't know what would have changed but I wouldn't want to jeprodize the wonderful life I have now. I might not have my wonderful boyfriend, my books, my love of reading. There are so many horrible things that happen, but I have learned to focus and reflect on the wonderful little things that a lot of people take for granted.

    Lol Sorry for the long comment!

  2. lisa :) says:
    May 7, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    No worries on the long comment. If something is worth saying, it's worth taking all the words it needs. It's great that you're into journaling. It's a habit I'm trying to get back into. And I really like what you said about do-overs in life. It might be crazy to borrow a quote from country music (my music tastes are as widespread as my reading) but it reminded me of the Garth Brooks song that says, "And now I'm glad I didn't know, the way it all would end, the way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain but I've had had to miss the dance." Thanks for the reminder that every day is a gift filled with precious little moments that we only need to open our eyes to look for!

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