Empowering Lessons Revisited (this summer) from Reading – Part 1

Be Watchful of Own Prejudices: a memoir in translation, A Jihad for Love by Mohamed El Bachiri reminded me that what the world needs (and has always) needed is tolerance and love.

Escapism is Wonderful: Get out of the real world for a while, for no sane person can keep up with the ills of this world. The steampunk novelettes, Magical Mechanications by Pip Ballantien and Tee Morris, reminded that one of the purposes of literature is to entertain.

Always Pay Attention: There are books that makes you sit up from the very first sentence. The kind of writing that grabs your attention and works hard at keeping it as you turn pages. I certainly like this kind of writing. But as I read a collection of short stories, The Storyteller Speaks by Annika Perry, I remembered that I actual love slow-paced books. They allow me to pay close attention to their worlds and characters.

A Butterfly

Practice Gratitude: No-one (for me) does it better than Emily Dickinson. Reading and rereading her poems always reminds me to focus on nurturing what sustains and gives me joy by appreciating the little things in life.

Build Your Tribe: History has always been unjust towards women. This injustice is so vividly captured in Cast a Long Shadow by Leena Lander, a historical novel about one of the infamous witch hunts in Northern Europe; women turning against each other as they are falsely accused. The importance of surrounding oneself with people who get you and want the best for you cannot be overstated.

to be continued…

notes: As I wrap my reading, I thought I’d share some of the valuable lessons I revisited this summer, and how each book enriched my experience.

What is a Storm?


It struck me every day
The lightning was as new
As if the cloud that instant slit
And let the fire through.

It burned me in the night
It blistered in my dream;
It sickened fresh upon my sight
With every morning’s beam.

I thought that storm was brief,—
The maddest, quickest by;
But Nature lost the date of this,
And left it in the sky.

~ Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson needs no introduction, and the poem above is from her book Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete.

Poems by Emily Dickson

Last night, I turned to Emily Dickinson again. What is it with this woman? In any case, the book was already turned to the poem above, “The Soul’s Storm”, when I reached for it. Call that a coincidence! Because I don’t know what it is.

But I believe, in this case, I had to revisit the word “storm” and truly learn the meaning of it. You see, the word recently came up in a discussion/conversation, and I think I romanticized the word and gave dignity it doesn’t deserve this time. Because…

“I thought that storm was brief,—”

The line above captures exactly what I had in mind, when I said “the storm doesn’t last…there’s always a rainbow.” How shallow does this sound, when I didn’t know where the storm was blowing from! So, now I say, “Fuck the storm!”

“[For] Nature lost the date of this,
And left it in the sky.”

But, what is a storm? It is a tempest of words rising against pain to paint the sky with rainbows.

special note: Yesterday I heard some shocking news from a friend, and this poem by Emily Dickinson is shared in support. I’m also linking this post to Trinkets and Armor 4: Life Can’t Smack You Powerless, If You Keep Your Self at the Ready

Learning to Weed

”Water is taught by thirst” ~ Emily Dickinson

Sun stands tall and beats my bent back into droplets of water. I pull with fury roots of a stinging nettle infesting the garden.

It seems a futile effort to keep fighting this pest that robs me of joy; walking outdoors barefoot with skirts blown high by gentle breeze, arms outstretched, and laughter competing with songs of summer. I pause.

Rowing boat on the lake

i sit next to water
and think of how delicious
is the taste of freedom

Young and tender no more, leaves of the plant envelope everything it touches and litter seeds to spread the rash. I persevere.

i ponder
the hullabaloo
the trumming sound

Larvae feeding on stinging nettle

Weed keeps flourishing and rubbing people I love the wrong way. I persist, plucking root by root. Sun continues to smirk.

i thirst water from home
a verse to confirm
freedom still tastes as good
for bogus rumours
spread across the ocean

Sun stands tall and beats everything into shape. Birds and mosquitoes alike flee for shelter. I keep on weeding as I try to swallow words, I can’t spit, stuck in my dry throat.

i hear of deliverance
power of salty waters;
sweat and tears

Oh, the metamorphosis! Happy is the larva. Weed has its use. Caterpillar famished feeds, pupa nesting new life starts to dance, and beauty blooms. Fury flaps delicate like wings of a butterfly.

i taste freedom twice.

(not a direct result of the feeding larvae above)

process note: This piece was first inspired by a different piece I wrote for a poetry contest on healthy self-love and self-care.

It was also inspired by the current Finnish summer record temperatures. They say it’s never been this hot since 1976. Luckily, we didn’t go hiking this summer as we normally do. But rather planned a quite time in the countryside.

So, I’ve been courting water (lots of swimming to keep cool) and Emily Dickinson as I weed my garden for butterflies to bloom. And it turns out, water represents cleansing, life and freedom.