Friday, October 12, 2012

Itinerary: this year's course

I'm good at planning travel itineraries. 

People ask me to do it for them,  staging a narrative for them to play out in real time.  Though there's nothing difficult about it -- just grouping stuff together that needs to happen together, in the order that's going to make the most sense and result in the fewest emotional breakdowns.  This isn't a skill or a gift.  Though my daughters have listed it among my particular virtues.  Maybe other people just have better things to do than bothering with all the searches and communications and small considerations for lodgings and meals and transportation.

But I like it.  I like all of it.  I feel I'm stealing half their pleasure.  So much of my enjoyment in travel comes beforehand in the planning:  surveying possible futures, making selections, schedules,setting up the rhythm of running and rest, the alternation from ridiculous to sublime that my psyche, anyway, needs in order to keep its beat.

It's not just my enjoyment beforehand.  So much of my enjoyment traveling in actu, in media res, in extremis, and even in memoriam comes from the successful playing out, or revelatory interruptions of my wonderful plans.

LONG RIDES | imaginary

The pleasure of shaping travel plans is like the kind of pleasure I get jotting down syllabi for Courses I Will Never Teach.  For example, Home, House & the Poetics of Space:  
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robison 
Colcorton by Edith Pope
Howard's End by E.M. Forster
The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard
A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction by Christopher Alexander
plus extracts from
Home Comforts: the Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Wise Child by Monica Furlong
 also poems:
"Housewife" by Sylvia Plath
various Emily Dickinson
"Lord: it is time" by Rilke
 "An Old Woman of the Road" by Yeats
also picture books:   
"A House is the House for Me"
 several by Margaret Wise Brown . . . 

I don't know when I'll ever teach that class and hear the fabulous discussions that would arise. But meantime I get a secret pleasure from planning journeys no one ever takes. Like going to Budapest -- the cakes I would eat, the ancient baths, the buildings, the bridge walks, the towers I would sleep in.  Or impossible biking trips from Maine to Virginia with stop-offs at  historic inns. Or a hiking tour of Northern California.  Or walking the Ancient Ridgeway, that prehistoric drover's path along the spine of England -- the farms I'd set up tent, the cozy inns, the wildflowers and butterflies I'd see along the way.

But recently I've been thinking I need a syllabus to live through.  Or maybe I mean an itinerary.  There's somewhere I want to go.  I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to end up but I'm calling my destination Renewal.  And to keep my magpie mind from flapping after any glittery thing I've decided I need a touchstone text for each month

So here is my Renewable Resource Reading List for the fifth year of my ride here, the itinerary for this year's course:

Getting to Renewal 
  • (oct) Keeping Time - The Sabbath World: glimpses into a different order of time by Judith Shulevitz  (incredibly intelligent and witty and heartfelt survey of the history and meaning and inner architecture to keeping/not-quite-keeping Sabbath)
  • (nov) Binding up Loose Pages  - "Meditation XVII" by John Donne and "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges (two short pieces I've loved since high school:  Elizabethan poet and preacher thinking about "No man is an island" and Argentine poet and essayist's fantastic short story about infinity)
  • (dec) Learning to Dance  - The Dancing Bear by Peter Dickinson (wonderful children's book about the fall of Byzantium -- oh, and courage and compassion, too)
  • (jan) Living in a Nutshell  - Showings by Julian of Norwich (medieval mystic's visions - the measured calm of her perspective, the exquisite detail of her vision, the compassion of her view, the clarity of her intellect, the nurture of her understanding of God )
  • (feb) Allowing Love - Gilead by Marilynne Robison, Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniere, and Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald (lush and lovely novels)
  • (mar) Growing a Garden - Gardening and Beyond by Florence Bellis (Oregonian coast gardening classic)
  • (apr) Being a Bridge - People on a Bridge by Wislawa Szymborska  (sly, clear and very dear Polish poet)
  • (may) Flourishing of the Physical Body - American Primitive by Mary Oliver and The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck (two American poets writing with powerful simplicity)
  • (jun) Honoring the Grandmothers - A New England Town: the first hundred years, Dedham, Massachusetts by Kenneth A. Lockridge and The Perfect Heresy: the revolutionary life and death of the medieval Cathars by Sean O'Shea (eminently readable histories of utopias some ancestors of mine lived in)
  • (july) Open House - The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard and A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, constructions by Christopher Alexander (a classic book about how we experience intimate spaces and a magical analysis of what parts make up the whole of those intimate spaces)
  • (aug) Relearning the Alphabet - alphabet by Ingrid Christensen (incantatory cycle of poems structured on Fibonacci sequence from clear-eyed Danish poet)  or maybe I will call this month Seeing Things
  • (sep) Lighting a Candle - Gaviotas: a village to reinvent the world by Alan Weisman (ongoing history of a remarkable Colombian community)

It's a path, anyway.  I wonder where it'll take me?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Okay! I have copied the list of books. I will try to get them on kindle for now, though that
limits scribbling in the margins. If I do this is the next step going on the trips with you, please,please! Especially the hiking through Britain. Also, loved the bike trip pictures! If you do that again will you need a backup vehicle? Why don't you plan a trip to Alberta that we can take all together?

I love the "magpie mind!" dad is always talking about all my bits of eclectic knowledge. Now I have a name for it!

You are a treasure!

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