When perusing bookstore shelves have you ever skimmed over the same book many times, maybe edged it out to take a glance but then edged it back in thinking it wasn't for you? Return trips and you do the same thing. Edge out and edge it back in. Oh yeah, that book. Nope. Then much later you see it again, maybe facing out, and take a closer look and think . . . maybe.
I say it all the time, and I guess I'm right. Timing is everything. Used books would have been a no-no when I was working in an indie bookshop. Now I buy almost more used books than new and have a soft spot for them (especially when I find some little piece of ephemera inside). And stories? Books with older protagonists for example, I would have never given a second thought about reading. Now I seek them out. As a matter of fact, while I still don't really feel my age (not mentally but maybe just sometimes a tad bit physically), I find myself being more open to books about getting older.
So I cannot tell you how many times my eyes have slipped over Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor's travelogue/memoir Traveling with Pomegranates. Subtitled "A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacre Places of Greece, Turkey, and France." I think what was off putting, maybe aside from a coauthored work, was the idea of the idea of a midlife quest. To be honest, now, that is why I so eagerly revisited the thought of actually pulling the book from the shelf. And sacred paces probably did nothing to really endear me to the subject matter (not being 'religious'), that appealed even more.
Aside from the fact that I definitely need a good nonfiction to get me back on track with my nonfiction reading (and someone, please, help me with a good classic--why can't I Finish any of the classics I pick up and start?), all of a sudden I am feeling drawn to books about how to deal with getting older, about getting rid of all the extraneous and unimportant details and finding the important things that matter, about possibly reinventing myself, about getting back on the right path in life (but then wondering if I ever had found it to begin with). I know that is a lot to ask for in a book, but if someone has already been asking and writing about these questions, I am happy to explore their answers. Maybe it will give me some inspiration.
Last weekend when I was at the bookstore, once again my eyes flicked past this book and then returned and I snapped it up. I started reading the first pages and they resonated with me so it was an easy sell after all that. All those many other times I had not even considered it.
Sue and her daughter Ann have written the book together but in alternating chapters. I bought it more for Sue's voice, as a woman nearing fifty who decides to travel to sacred places in Greece, Turkey and France. It is her story I want to know. At first when I got to Ann's chapter, I felt a little disappointed. A mother-daughter book, I thought. That's fine, but I am not a mother. And it has been a long time since I was a not much over twenty-year-old student with my life ahead of me. My own path diverges so much from what is expected of women, or what so many women want and/or choose. But I am a daughter even now. And the more I read the more I appreciate Ann's voice as much as Sue's. It may well have been a long time ago, but I still understand and remember some of those youthful worries that she is encountering.
There is all kinds of interesting things in this book--not least the references to mythology, which I love. And if these stories, these myths do not go a long way to explaining emotions and feelings and expectations, nothing else does either. But this is one of the excerpts which made want to keep reading. Sue begins by writing about a journal she bought that would describe the bucket list that so many subscribe to.
" . . . I began to write about becoming an older woman and the trepidation it stirred. The small, telling 'betrayals' of my body. The stalled, eerie stillness in my writing, accompanied by an ache for some unlived destiny. I wrote about the raw, unsettled feelings coursing through me, the need to divest and relocate, the urge to radically simplify and distill life into a new, unknown meaning . And why, I asked myself, had I begun to think for the first time about my own mortality? Some days, the thought of dying gouged into my heart to the point I filled up with tears at the sight of the small, ordinary things I would miss."
"Finally, I wrote a series of questions: Is there an odyssey the female longs to make at the approach of fifty--one has been blurred and lost within a culture awesomely alienated from soul? If so, what sort of journey would that be? Where would it take me?"
"The impulse to go to Greece emerged out of those questions. It seized me before I got back to the minuscule apartment. Greece. That would be the portal. I would make a pilgrimage in search of an initiation."
I'm intrigued by her questions and her journey. I wish I could make such a pilgrimage, but maybe I can find some inspiration in the pages of this book, reading about her own quest. I might not find answers to my own questions, but at least I can see I am not alone in the search.