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The Church of Thoreau

All day I’ve been writing about Henry David Thoreau, whose 200th birthday would have been July 12th. I am shocked by how much I have to say about him and the other Transcendentalists. It’s as if, growing up within miles of Walden Pond, I picked up their combination of puritanism and unadorned joy through sheer osmosis. “Something in the water,” indeed. But more than that, Thoreau’s less-is-more” self-reliance and environmental philosophy is so, so precious in this moment in which we’re being held hostage by more-is-more maniacs.

Love and Light, Love and Night

I can’t decide if I’m up early or late but it is 4:15 am and the moon is singing too loud a siren song for me to sleep. This is the view from my kitchen window–poetry and manmade nature, the ultimate New York story if you add in childhood rage. I’m reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology Of Water, which may have something to do with all this awakery. I don’t even like the memoir but I love it. It summons my latent misogyny–everyone harbors latent misogyny; resentment of the womb’s great power comes hand in hand with the trauma of being ejected from it–and it rouses my literary and erotic ambitions. I can’t resist a book that feels like it’s been (meta)blogged by the thirstiest of pussies, even as I roll my eyes and clear my throat and rearrange my crotch. So here I sit, parked by my window, reading and watching and sniffing the still-sweet air, thinking of sex, thinking of jealousy, thinking of how to mount this whole freaking city. I light a candle honoring the Santería spirit Changó–he’s very much on my brain, no coincidence there–and pray that this thunder and lightening god will help me channel my own big weather when the sun rises again.

Mercy, Mercy and ‘Hallelujah Anyway’

Anne Lamott may be one of the most high-profile progressive Christians in America today, but she’s better known as the author of such bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction as Imperfect Birds and Some Assembly Required, not to mention the beloved writing guide Bird by Bird. This may change with her newest book, Hallelujah Anyway. Though all her essay collections have centered on themes of faith and compassion, this one is her most explicitly Christian. In it, she wrangles with biblical stories, and not just the ones that make everyone comfortable. Ruth, Mary, Martha, Jesus, and controversial Paul dance through this book about mercy and self-reckoning. It’s wonderful, and not just because her combination of leftist politics and Christian beliefs bridges a looming gap in our country.

Lamott acknowledges that her sources of strength may put some people off. “Where do I look for answers when I’m afraid, or confused, or numb?” she writes. “A dream-dancing Sioux grandmother with a tinkling laugh? No, more often than not, the North Star that guides me through the darkness is the Old Testament prophet Micah [who said] ‘What doth God require of thee but to do justice and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ Oh, is that all?” Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy