On Receiving an Impersonal Text…But I Digress…

After reading Dominique Browning’s “I’m Too Old for This” in the New York Times Style section, I cheered.

“Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior too: the pining, yearning, longing, and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves that could be spent on Sudoku, or at least a jigsaw puzzle.”  (In my case, online Scrabble with the computer and Spider solitaire.)

I’m too old for this…

Reading for High Fliers

What do you read on those long flights or while waiting for your next connection? Dominique Browning in her article for the New York Times – High-Brow Lit for High Fliers? Not Me – suggests you forget about catching up on the heavy classics of great literature or “back issues of sobering magazines.”

Instead, she recommends riveting best selling authors like Scott Turow and John Grisham; plot driven mysteries by P.D. James; thrillers by Ruth Rendell. Browning advises…

Next time you are facing a long flight (and predictable delays) swap out those classics for these entertaining paperbacks. At least your trip will feel shorter.”

I still catch up on my pile of New Yorker magazines on my trips, but some of my favorite flying companions are Roald Dahl’s BFG, teen vampires from the Twilight series, and handsome dukes from romances by Catherine Coulter (but I usually hide the steamy cover).

What do you read en route?

Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz

The first time I saw an exhibit of Annie Leibovitz’s photography in Washington, D.C., I felt I knew her subjects intimately.  Leibovitz’s art captures her famous targets as posed but vulnerable.  When I found her book with Susan Sontag – Women – the images amazed me for their familiarity and honesty.

Her new book – Pilgrimage – reviewed by Dominique Browning for the New York Times in her article A Pilgrim’s Progress, comes out today – with no people in it.   The book opens with shots of Emily Dickinson’s house “that Ms. Leibovitz took, casually…on a family visit.”  Even on her off days, Leibovitz takes amazing pictures.

“She took her camera to Virginia Woolf’s house, photographing the surface of her writing table, and into the garden, capturing the wide, rolling water of the River Ouse, in which Woolf drowned herself.  She photographed Dr. Freud’s sumptuously carpeted patient’s couch in London, and Darwin’s odd specimen collection.  Eleanor Roosevelt’s bedroom with its simple white coverlets, in her cozy cottage, Val-Kill, stands in contrast to a silver serving dish, its rich patina rippling with light.  Abraham Lincoln’s elegant top hat and white kid gloves…Louisa May Alcott’s house…the view from Emerson’s bedroom window…”

More than another coffee table book, Leibovitz offers…”something about integrity, staying true to a vision…”

Her ad for Sears with the Kardashian sisters – not so much…but photographers have to pay their bills too.

Paths of Desire – The Passions of a Suburban Gardener

Her garden was a refuge, a place to experiment, the plants and flowers offering stability in her suburban life – until the old garden wall came tumbling down after a storm, crushing all the old rooted pieces of her work, and awakening her to new possibilities.  In a gentle rambling style, Dominique Browning tells the story of her garden and her life in Westchester, New York in Paths of Desire – The Passions of a Suburban Gardener.

Mixing poignant memories, quiet meditation, and humorous negotiations with neighbors and the “Helpful Men” who work to restore the wall, improve the drainage, and repair the roof, Browning writes in a comforting tone to connect philosophical observations to the work of gardening.

“It can certainly take a long time to know what you want…there are times when you cannot really know what you can do… until you begin to act. And it was only until I began to transform my own garden that I truly understood what it meant…”

Browning, the former editor of House and Garden magazine, has written four gardening books under the House and Garden brand, and three that connect life’s challenges to the love of gardening.  Paths of Desire is the second in that series.

Whether you are a devoted weeder or a nonchalant seeder, Browning’s candid revelations about restoring her life after a divorce through her garden reads like a mix of romance (her on/off again relationship with “True Love”), social networking (every woman needs a crew of “Helpful Men”), and talk of aluminum lawn chairs and flowering plants – the azaleas, wisteria, hosta, rose of sharon…

As you follow her plans and decisions, and finally realize the resolution in a garden party, you may be motivated to go out and plant something.