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Hiding in Public

It is only recently that I have learned that I am an introvert.  More precisely, I am an extroverted introvert.  I don’t not like being around other people and do not have trouble in crowds or social situations.  I can introduce myself to strangers and make friends with relative ease.  But, being with other people doesn’t nourish me the way that being alone is soothing and refreshing.  I don’t just LIKE being by myself……I NEED to be by myself, probably a lot more than many other people do.  I have no fear of loneliness as the idea of being all by myself is rather enticing.  But, as an extroverted introvert (or is it introverted extrovert?), my favorite place to be all by myself is the library.  It’s how I go and be all alone with others.  Perhaps it is because I grew up in an urban environment, but I like to have people “around”, but not engaging with them.  Combine being alone in public with unlimited access to books?  Heaven.  Perfection!  And so,  every Tuesday I give myself the gift of bibliotherapy in heaven…..the Carnegie Public Library in Oakland.  I’m here to meet Chinese students in Oakland who might want some help with language and culture issues, so don’t be shy if you see me and want to chat…….but in between, I’m enjoying all the nourishment that hiding in public has to offer a book lover like me.

So, what’s on the bibliotherapy pile today?

Crochet Taxidermy: 30 Quirky Animal Projects, from Mouse to Moose
By Taylor Hart

Ok, how could I resist this cutie pie of a book?  While I may never actually crochet the sweet cuttlefish, adorable crocodile head, or magnificent hen and rooster duo, it kind of made my day to look at these little projects.  Because, it’s just too easy to get too serious about things sometimes.  This book reminded me today that it’s good to play, that having a crocheted squid dangling from your wall might not be such a bad thing, and that taking the time to imagine the possibilities is as good an investment of time as anything.  Don’t take my word for it.  The next time you are feeling like a stuck in the mud cranky pants, go ahead and browse in the craft section of your library and either find this lovely little book or grab another and just allow yourself to enjoy the colors, the silly things you can make, and imagine what it would be like to have your living room walls transformed into a collection of colorful crocheted animal heads.  Sure, your kids would come home from school and know for certain that you had finally truly lost your marbles, but…..uhmmm….so what?  Sure beats coming home to find you in your cranky pants (another word for yoga pants that you’ve never actually done yoga in) with that crease across your brow and bad attitude.  Make a purple elephant head and staple it to a board and hang it on your wall instead!  Then, invite some other people over to have chips and salsa and enjoy your elephant.  That sounds like fun!

Cats I’ve Known: On Love, Loss, and Being Graciously Ignored
By Katie Haegele

If you’ve known me from the years when I was, oh, say, 23-43, then you know that I had two cats that I “rescued” in Philadelphia that were my constant companions—Mushuk and Guzel.  If you can do math and know anything about cats, you know that 20-years is a long time to be blessed with two magical and unique cats and you also know that they are no longer alive.  Through some strange twists of fate, having lived in Philly, Seattle, and Brooklyn….they are both burried in a backyard in Pittsburgh, PA.  Knowing this about me, then you know that I couldn’t NOT read this book by Haegele about the Philadelphia cats that she has known and cared for.  If you are a cat lover, then you will appreciate how these stories highlight the different personalities, behaviors, and presence of the many cats that Haegele has related to in her life.  I especially like the story of the cat that belonged to the nun that was the librarian at Haegele’s elementary school.  But, all the stories are a reflection on how we are inspired and connected to many living beings and that we can allow ourselves to be enriched and nourished by the animals that we come to know in surprising and significant ways.  If you like cats, then this is a gem that will bring you into the world of another cat loving kindred spirit.

I Hate Everyone Except You
By Clinton Kelly

I scooped this one up because it has a colorful bird on the cover and the title made me laugh when I read it.  I had no idea who Clinton Kelly was, but it turns out that he is the former cohost of the makeover show What Not to Wear.  His bio says that the show is “wildly popular”, but I’ve never heard of it.  This likely says more about me than it does about this television program, but maybe not. For the most part, I didn’t find anything particularly unique here and thought for the first 100-pages or so that the best part of this book was the title and cover image.  But, there was one part that was so insightful, almost painfully so, that I did read the whole book and it seems my initial feeling that it wasn’t unique diminished the view of life that Kelly quite artfully reveals in his personal stories.  It happens on page 103, at the start of a chapter called “The Switch”.  In this chapter, Kelly talks about how there are times in our lives when we recognize that nothing is the same, that something significant has changed, but that it is impossible to put our finger on exactly when the switch happened.

“…click–the track you’ve been traveling on is no longer your track.  The old track just disappears behind you, as irrelevant as yesterday’s train schedule.  Click.  You’re going somewhere else now.  Click.  There’s no reverse. Click.  Your reality will never be the same.”

On page 104, Kelly talks about the “switch” in his life when his parents divorced and he became a new kid in a new school.

“My track had changed.  My parents changed it, obviously, but when?  I can’t pinpoint the precise moment–and the moment had to be precise because one person can’t ride on two tracks simultaneously.  At one point, I was a ten-year-old boy in a two-parent family.  At another point, I was not.  The switch occurred, but I missed it.  Perhaps if I had been a little older, more attuned, less sad, less frightened, I would have felt it.  But I didn’t.  I had felt no switch, but I knew I was headed in a different direction.”

This really made me think about transformation in relationship to a yoga breathing practice that has always been my most successful way of bringing complete focus to the in and out quality of my breathing.  Go ahead and try it, it’s impossible, which is why it is such a great technique for full focus.  The idea is that you become aware of the precise moment when an in-breath becomes an out breath and an out breath becomes an in-breath.  It’s not hard to know whether or not you are breathing in (inhale) or breathing out (exhale), but it is very difficult to identify the exact moment when the switch occurs.  Maybe it is because the exhale is inherent in the inhale?  And perhaps this is what is missing from Kelly’s concept of the “switch”….that being a child in a two-parent household is inherent in being a child in a single parent household.  It was there all the time.  His parent’s divorce was there in the marriage, the whole time.

Rants from the Hill: On Packrats, Bobcats, Wildfires, Curmudgeons, A Drunken Mary Kay Lady & Other Encounters with the Wild in the High Desert
By Michael P. Branch

As someone interested in nature, the environment, and who would like to believe I have a relatively good sense of humour on most days, this collection of essays provides some creative reflections on the relationship between humans and their environment.  This includes the complex relationship between humans and other humans in their shared environment.  I randomly opened to a chapter called “Lawn Guilt” (starts on page 63), which I loved because, in my estimation, lawn care related noise polution is pretty much the worst thing about living in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  From spring to late fall, the sound of blowers makes it impossible to enjoy any time with the windows open.  Each person, with their postage stamp sized lawn, hires a landscape company that arrives with enough equipment to manage the lawn at Versailles—and they arrive every week.  The blowers, weed whackers, the lawn mowers made for acres create sound polution so profound that we might as well be living in the New York City Subway  station at 42nd Street at rush hour when the Peruvian wood flute bands compete with the plastic can whacking percussionists as the subway roars in and out of the station and thousands of people yapping on their phones whiz up and down the corridors.  It drives me so crazy that I consider it a good reason not to live in Pittsburgh, even with all the other amazing things about this City.  In this essay, Branch quotes an 1862 essay by Henry David Thoreau that he wrote on his deathbed, called “Walking” and, apparently, in this essay, Thoreau refers to the American lawn as “…a poor apology for a Nature and Art.”  I like these essays.  I like them more for what they aren’t than what they are.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Actually, it’s an amazing skill on the part of the author……he finds a way to tell a relatively short story, but pulls in quotes or references or personal introspection that makes the idea big and dynamic even if he doesn’t use a lot of words to explore it.  Most of the exploration happens in the reader after being “sparked” by the essay.  It’s really a thought-inspiring book and while I’m glad I don’t live in a place where mud season occurs, or I don’t have to worry about my kiddos finding scorpions and rattle snakes while doing cartwheels in the yard……I do see the value in becoming aware of how all the small things and events of our lives are genuinely the big things that make up the quality of our lives.

Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guide to Curiosity, Creativity, & Tomfoolery
by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

These guys are “YouTubers”, which is a profession that was developed while I had my back turned and I’m not really sure what it is.  My son wants to be one.  So, I picked up this book because I thought it might help me understand, but I’m still confused.  It does seem that these two men spend their lives coming up with ideas of things to do on camera, or do off camera and talk about it later, or do on a live web feed and then they wrote a book about their “process”.  I guess the truth is that I don’t find much of what they are doing or thinking amusing or entertaining or even very thought provoking.  I guess you could make the argument that it is art because it has caused me to have a reaction.  All this to say, maybe if you are a twelve year old boy, then this book would be amusing to you or help you understand more about how to become a YouTuber when you grow up, if, in six-years when you are “all grown up” this profession still exists and hasn’t gone the way of Laser Discs.  But, you know, there is something very endearing about these guys…..there is a whole section on how they met their wives, which they did a long time ago, and they did some very sweet things to seal those deals.  The name of this chapter, which is hands down, my favorite in the book (or, the only thing I really liked about this book), is “Say ‘I Love You’ Like It’s Never Been Said”.  Cute.  It’s really CUTE!  It’s so adorable and sweet that it makes me really glad that this otherwise confusing book made it into the bibliotherapy pile today.  I just hope it didn’t give me a cavity.

Checking Out

If I’m not careful, I’ll check out hundreds of books at a time from the library and then no one will ever see me again.  Part of the genuinely therapuetic process for me on library hiding days is that I just enjoy all that I can read while I am there and leave everything at the library.  I allow myself ONE, singular book to check-out each Tuesday.  Lately, they have been science leaning non-fiction that comes home with me, or a cookbook or global fiction gem.  Keep reading to find out what book made the “check-out” cut this week……..

What did I end up checking out?  I checked-out a book titled “Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean” (2017) by Jonathan White.  I started to think more about “waves” while lightly reading through a book about the discovery of “SuperWaves” by Irv Dardik.  Also, I’ve been pulling the “Ocean” oracle card out of my angel deck quite often in the recent past and it seems that my guides would like me to be thinking about water, the ocean, and waves.  I intend to read these books side by side to think about waves, in general, from a physics perspective and tides, of the ocean, specifically.  What I come to understand, I will share with you in a future blog post.  Until then, I will share with you a small tidbit of information that I randomly opened to in White’s “Tides” book (page 152) that was all that I needed to read in order to know that this book was THE ONE I was going to take home from the library for Bibliotherapy Tuesday.

The bottom of the page talks briefly about Pierre-Simon Laplace who called the tides “the throniest problem in astronomy” (White 152):

“In Laplace’s five-volume masterpiece, Mécanique Céleste, he introduced equations to address the complicated interactions of tide waves on the real earth.  He recognized that there was more to the ocean tides than a simple wave progressing around the planet.  Instead, he described how each ocean might have its own response to the tide-generating forces and that that response might be defined by many factors, including the size and shape of the basin, the depth of the water, the ruggedness of the bottom, temperature, and so forth.  Using calculus and trigonometry, he developed several highly sophisticated equations to account for this, equations that turned out to be nearly impossible to solve without modern-day computers, which wouldn’t be in use for another 150 years.  He never fully solved them himself.”

It is nice to be reminded that having questions can be just as important as having answers.  When we think about how our lives can have infinite inspiration into the future, long after our physical bodies have gone to dust and even if no one knows our name, it is interesting to think that it may not be the conclusions we arrived at in this lifetime, but the questions we asked that are our most lasting contribution to humanity.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, MA, E-RYT, RPYT, YACEP
Please note that I am not a therapist of any kind and my  reference to “bibliotherapy” is a  cheeky reference to open stack browsing at the library that I do on a weekly basis as a way to choose joy, relax, and expand my creative boundaries.  If we do work together, I’m likely to suggest that you read a book, because I am constantly reading and can’t help but make recommendations to my clients and friends.  There IS such a thing as Bibliotherapy and I find it fascinating!