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Reading in between: Done with winter but not quite ready for spring

Posted on April 24, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Susan Goertz

Winter has never been my favorite season. This one seemed to drag out endlessly—gray clouds heaped on the horizon like immobile lumps of oatmeal. The sun rarely filtered through. At last, with April’s arrival, the light is returning—the dormant season ending. Though I’ve longed for this, there is a chill reticence still in my bones. Sometimes spring flowers dancing in the breeze feel too bright and buoyant, even inappropriate, for those of us not quite ready to emerge from our cocoons. The need to let go, even grieve the passing season, still lingers.

With this in mind, I’ve developed a transitory spring reading list, a chance to let go of winter and all the trials therein. Books to cradle in the grass, under budding tree branches, while grumbling to myself like a hibernating bear, disturbed a bit too soon.

Books have a way of finding us when we need them most with pages that lead us through a painful, shared experience. Afterglow: a dog memoir by Eileen Myles held me up through the recent loss of my cat. Myles recalls life with and without their beloved pit bull, Rosey, in this hilarious and heart-wrenching, absurdly beautiful book. Myles explores the relationship through numerous literary devices, attempting to give Rosey the voice she never had and pondering the answer to the question every animal owner craves to know, “what does my animal think of me?”

April is National Poetry Month, and nothing can balm a frostbitten soul quite like poetry. I Just Hope It’s Lethal: Poems of Sadness, Madness, and Joy is a poetry compilation inspired by the angst-ridden transitional time when one moves from child to adulthood. The poem “Jade’s Iguana’s are Dead” by Gregory Rarzan made me snort with laughter, even as a tear zipped down my cheek. Funny, desperate, hyperbolic, poignant, and inspiring, this is the perfect book to welcome in the possibility of spring.

Elegies are often the only connection left to those of us who remain after a loved one dies, the only tolerable companion through our grief. The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing, edited by Kevin Young, offers us a companion for every shade of grief.

Sometimes we lose someone whose loss makes it feel as though all existence should stop. The Art of Death by Edwidge Danticat maps the author’s journey through her mother’s passing with cancer, navigating a new way through the world, without those we lean on most. Danticat’s experience sheds light on the universality of loss, the comfort of grieving through literature, and the grace in finding acceptance. In so doing, Danticat touches on some of the most famous literary works delving into death: Toni Morrison’s Sula, Alice Seabold’s The Lovely Bones, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality, and more. Danticat proposes that we all need our dark spaces, our shadows. As Tennessee Williams once said, “If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.”

We all need our winters, our moments of mourning and contemplation. Only then are we ready to welcome the spring. Only then will our inspiration bloom.

Susan Goertz

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