Barbara Kingsolver Amazes Me. Every. Time.
For several years, I have devoured each monthly issue of The Sun Magazine as soon as it arrives in my mailbox. I do not always enjoy every page, but even so, what is good in each issue is really, really good, and nourishes me for days on end. After I read it from page to page in a matter of a few cumulative hours, I think about it as I go about my activities. Little sound bites from the stories, interviews, and poems seep into my life and my interpretation of the lives of those around me. I even ponder the criticisms and frustrations I have of it as if they were as important to me as the inspirations.
Yesterday, the March issue arrived. Each issue starts with an interview with a noteworthy person. Lo and behold, the interview this month was with Barbara Kingsolver. I swear, everything this woman has ever written has spoken to me so personally and specifically, that I have literally thought about writing to her to tell her that we must be cosmically connected. To ask if she is my long lost big sister. I feel self conscious saying this out loud. It is so corny. But, truth be told, I can’t think of anything or anyone else who has continued to speak to me for the duration of time that she continues to speak to me. I think I read Prodigal Summer 4 times, and I usually never read books more than once. I reference Animal, Vegetable, Miracle every spring before I start my garden.
The way I imagine some people feel about their god, I feel about Barbara Kingsolver.
I freaked out when I saw her photo at the start of the interview. And so I set aside time, precious silent uninterrupted solitude, to devour it this morning.
I’d like to quote a section of it here in reference to how I’ve been thinking about my project of staying near by neighborhood for a year:
“[One] year I decided to avoid air travel, and that also unexpectedly enriched my life. to be still, to focus on home, to find more economical ways to meet colleagues, to enjoy travels of the mind via books — these are not deprivations. That year I learned how to get to New York City by train. It’s not easy or fast, but the route winds through the New River Valley of West Virginia, and that is a glory no sensible person would regret seeing.
This isn’t about “paper or plastic” or some vision of self-congratulatory parsimony. It’s about replacing material gratifications with spiritual ones. I don’t know how much carbon I’m offsetting with my choices. I just prefer to be a good animal rather than one that fouls its nest.”
I decided to formally take a year to intentionally use the services and resources in my neighborhood and the two surrounding neighborhoods in order to replace material gratifications with spiritual ones. I am happier when I do not drive across town for something that I could get nearby, even if it is more expensive, even if it comes with fewer choices, even if I have to wait for it longer. I am less stressed and strung out when I just go for a walk in my own park instead of drive to see another park. I am more likely to strengthen the relationships with my neighbors when I go to the corner store instead of drive to a big box store somewhere else. I REALLY LOVE that my employment is less than a 5 minute drive away now, whereas in the past I drove up to an hour to get to work. It feels so good to live locally. And the effort that it took? Being more conscientious and mindful about making choices. Choosing this instead of that, over and over again, until it just became a habit.
It’s become a habit by now. (Which is part of why I have a hard time knowing what to blog about, actually.)
So, thank you again, Barbara Kingsolver, for putting words to your own life that help me articulate my own life.
This post is a part of a series where I chronicle my efforts at staying near my neighborhood for one year.