It’s been almost four years since I moved to this small town in Bruce County. I’ll never forget that first month, and how quiet and still it was. Despite having a busy eight-month-old baby to care for, the days felt long and empty, and I struggled to find things to do. Holed up in a two-room cottage with no Internet or laundry, there wasn’t much to do other than cook meals, read books, take naps, and go for long walks. The boredom made me wild, especially having left a busy student life downtown Toronto, but I remember telling myself it was a temporary lull in my life, a brief respite of solitude that would eventually end, and that I should try to enjoy it.
Well, I can now say with total confidence that it has ended. Four years later, my days are jam-packed from dawn till dusk. I forget what it’s like to face an empty morning with nothing to do. Still, I managed to get some reading done in February, though it felt I didn’t stop moving all day, every day!
1. “Season of Storms” by Susanna Kearsley
My second Kearsley novel of the year, I quite like her writing style. It’s so straightforward and approachable, and I love the mix of history, exotic settings, and mystery/drama. This one was set in the lake district of northern Italy, in the mansion of an old poet and playwright whose final work is finally being put on the stage by a company of actors. The only problem is that no previously attempted production of this play has ever succeeded, due to various creepy factors. It was a quick read, one that I polished off in a few days. I’d love to write books like this — fun, interesting, and feel-good novels.
2. “Sideways on a Scooter: Life and Love in India” by Miranda Kennedy
Kennedy is an American foreign correspondent who moved to India in the early 2000s in search of adventure, and ended up spending 5 years in Delhi. This non-fiction account of those years focused mostly on her relationships with Indian women friends, and the complex cultural differences that exist between North American and Indian cultures.
What I found most fascinating was learning how old-fashioned the supposedly modern India still is in regards to marriage (mostly all arranged), premarital sex, dating, and divorce. For example, Kennedy found it impossible to find anyone who’d rent her an apartment as a single woman, until she lied about having a husband overseas. It was a good book, though admittedly it made me less inclined to go back, which is something I always vowed to do since my trip there in 2001.
3. “tiny beautiful things: advice on life and love from Dear Sugar” by Cheryl Strayed
I think everyone should read this book. Written by the same woman who published “Wild” (which I read and loved last summer), this book is a collection of advice columns that Strayed wrote anonymously for an online literary magazine. They’re not your typical columns; these go on for pages, go into tremendous depth, and touch personal chords. People wrote to her with heartbreaking, real-life problems, and she answered them as if they were her best friends.
I’ll never forget some of the words she said, such as her advice to one young man whose parents were threatening to shun him if he didn’t make the life decisions they wanted him to make. Any parental love based on such conditions is “ugly, skimpy, diseased love,” she wrote. I keep thinking about that, since Jason and I have personal experience with someone who thinks like that. Strayed is bang on. That kind of “love” isn’t real love at all. It’s ugly; it’s skimpy; and it’s diseased. Reading that letter several times over made me feel a lot better.
4. “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash” by Edward Humes
Sometimes a book deeply affects me, and this one did. It was depressing on a visceral level that makes me feel sick every time I think about it. The book looks at the state of garbage and landfills in the United States, and the rate at which North Americans consume and generate trash daily, yearly, and over the course of their lifetime. Each of us is on track to generate 102 tons of trash over the course of a lifetime. Humes also discussed plastic in depth, and the “plastic chowder” that our oceans have now become. I’m determined to eliminate plastic as much as possible from my family’s life, though how to accomplish such a goal in today’s plastic-saturated society is absolutely daunting.
I continue to trudge forward with my Zero Waste quest, still as committed as ever, but definitely more terrified about the immensity of the problems facing our whole world as I learn more each day. As soon as I finished “Garbology,” I ordered a big package of items from a neat Canadian website called Life without Plastic — biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, organic cotton mesh produce bags, stainless steel food storage containers, etc. The plastic’s gotta go, and it won’t be easy.