The end of the year naturally evokes nostalgia, reminders of memorable moments from the past 12 months and thoughts of resolutions for the coming year. I thought I might set a few of these wishes for the new year to literature that has crossed my path in 2011…
Live in the moment. Lesson learned from Hemingway’s A Movable Feast.
It’s a simple concept that constantly eludes me. It encompassed an entire semester of my Master’s program at St. Mary’s College, in our first class titled simply, “Time.” I think about living in the moment frequently, but that seems to defeat the whole purpose. It happens only when you completely and subconsciously surrender to the flow of the moment, and once you realize you’re doing it, it’s over. I think often of a book we read in that class titled Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. She writes about viewing a perfectly illuminated tree while standing at a gas station. The tree absorbed her every sense at that moment and allowed her to experience the essence of the moment. Likewise, Hemingway wrote about his golden days of living in Paris in A Movable Feast, days during which he surrendered to the moments and undoubtedly found the greatest fulfillment of his life. The book inspired me to grasp onto my own moments that keep me most fulfilled. Moments like dancing under the stars at a summer backyard party, a candlelight meal on a rainy evening in a wine cave, grilling hot dogs and sharing a bottle of wine with a good friend in my backyard on the 4th of July, kayaking in still ocean waters, watching in solitude a passing hailstorm cover the surrounding rooftops in a sheer blanket of white. Whether at a party surrounded by music, friends and wine or sitting quietly on my patio watching the sun hit the trees, I resolve to live more in the moment.
Observe and appreciate the details. Lesson learned from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
My book club devoted one of its summer meetings to a classic by the unwitting mother of all romantic comedies, Jane Austen. What I will always love about Austen is her attention to detail, her ability to capture the weight of a moment with a single glance or movement of a hand. She is a master of observation and an expert at interpreting the subtle nuances that can change the course of an entire relationship. Experience has provided me with my own insight into such details, but I resolve to appreciate them more and listen to what they might be trying to communicate.
Let go of the past. Lesson learned from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
I just re-read The Great Gatsby, long-claimed as my favorite book, after giving one of my copies to a good friend as a Christmas gift and realizing that I couldn’t recall some of the details of the story. The poetry of the writing reminded me why I fell in love with it so long ago. And reading it now, with more of life’s experience behind me, the lessons of the book were much more vivid. Gatsby was the ultimate romantic. He held on to the dream of his ideal goal (in his case, Daisy Buchanan), until it finally killed him. The book is, in essence, a cautionary tale about not obsessing over a single goal in one’s life. I resolve to keep moving forward, to respect the flow of the current, and to explore the paths that emerge before me.
- Blame Keats. Lesson learned.
It became vividly clear to me this year that Keats is my Kryptonite when it comes to romance. I resolve simply to use much caution when approached by a man spouting the odes of my favorite romantic poet.
- That being said, I also resolve to hold tight to my romantic nature (Austen), to attempt to live more simply (Thoreau), embrace my creativity (Bronte), continue to throw great parties (again, Austen), treat everyone fairly and without prejudice (Steinbeck), and cultivate deep and meaningful relationships (all of the above). Here’s to an inspired 2012!