Tis the season to be listing

That time again, lists taking over like dandelions. The best or most important in news, people, books, movies, fashion. Experts summoned for the top picks of whatever they’re experts about.

For the most part I enjoy reading these retrospectives, if only to refresh my memory or compare “their” favorites with mine or be alerted to all that I missed. I often feel somewhat lethargic and retrospective myself just before the new year breaks and find myself paging through the past year’s diary/journal.

For me, less voluminous note-keeping is definitely trending (one of the words I see on lists of words to abandon in 2014), so a year takes less time to review than it used to. 2013, in fact, has been quite nicely contained in one relatively thin Moleskin-knockoff, written on only one side of the page no less. Here’s a bit of a list of what I discovered when paging back.

In 2013, I did a lot of writing and writing-related stuff like reading events but published nothing. Well, yes, there was a review, some blog posts, and my annual week of Rejoice! reflections. But nada of what I’m mainly writing. The novel-in-progress is still in progress, and a longish short story tentatively titled “Mask” which came to me with a flurry of excitement and invitation early in the year is still being added to and subtracted from and wrestled with and revised. That’s just how long it can take.

In 2013, during the intense cold of a Winnipeg winter, I sweated the heat of Paraguay and the past in my father-in-law’s diary and was surprised at the emotional rollercoaster it took me on. His frustrations seemed mine, also his successes, and always I worked with this weird awareness of knowing while in the middle of it something of what was coming in the future. I have not finished processing this experience.

In 2013, we road-tripped to a few places I had not yet seen: Dauphin, Manitoba, for one (a wonderful drive that included close-up bear sightings), and the states of Wyoming and Montana. We camped in some campgrounds we had not previously camped in and I joyously picked a great many saskatoons and H. joyously planted and harvested a great many tomatoes.

In 2013 I got inwardly worked up about the unequivocal Robert Gagnon being keynote speaker at a study conference our church denom held on sexuality, and at the paucity of women’s voices in that public conversation (how can this still be!), but was subsequently encouraged by presentations at said conference by John Neufeld and John Unger. (I did not attend the event, but listened here, session # 4). I was inspired this year by Pope Francis and the life of Nelson Mandela and am mulling Madeleine L’Engle’s provocative assertion “that if we take the Bible literally we don’t have to take it seriously.”

IMG_4271In 2013, my hair grew long enough to twist into a bun. In the larger scheme of things, achieving this is of no consequence, but it was a goal of mine and I reached it. So yay! I’m not sure why the desire to fuss with twisting and pinning has arisen, but maybe it’s a empathetic bow to my female forebears who had decidedly less choice in matters of hair.

In 2013, 56 % of the books I read were written by women and 40 % were written by men. I don’t think that author gender affects what I choose to read (or hope to get around to reading), but since Pasha Malla was ruminating on the topic in today’s Globe and Mail, I decided to count and calculate and this is how it landed this year.

Ah, this is but a snippet list. Not listed, but most significant, really, are what we experienced with friends and family – the notable transitions that happened career-wise for our children this year, the birth of a granddaughter, our being together on various occasions, the affection which sustains us, the extended visit of a brother and sister-in-law from Paraguay. And challenges too, like the continuing decline of my elderly mother. These connections are what carry us into a new year. — And to each one of you, friends and readers, my warmest best wishes for 2014.

14 thoughts on “Tis the season to be listing

  1. I still haven’t taken time to listen to Unger and Neufeld, but I WILL! I will not bother with Gagnon!
    I like what Madeleine L’Engle says about taking the Bible seriously, not literally!
    Beautiful you! it seems women are growing their hair long again, but I do not have the courage or stamina for that! Too much fuss and bother for me!

  2. I’d love to hear more about your reflections on L’Engle’s quotation (and about the context in which she wrote this). Also, what about the 4% of books you read that were not written by men or by women? 🙂

    • Good catch, Andrew! Should have explained! The remaining 4 % was story collections/anthologies (The Best American Stories of a particular year, The Penguin Book of Memoir, that kind of thing), containing writing by both men and women. — As for the L’Engle quote: it’s sitting by itself in my journal, but I think it jumped out at me when I was going through some old Books and Culture magazines, re-reading some articles, then recycling. It may have been an interview with her. It’s one of those comments that may not entirely hold up if pushed to the edges, because of course “literal” and “serious” overlap, but provokes me because it makes me stop and figure out if it’s true. To me she is speaking of the harder work of listening to what Scripture means, and demands. The weightier, more complicated subsequent business of justice and mercy that arises from our engagement with the text, as opposed to proscribing how far to walk on the Sabbath or measuring spices. The hard work of interpretation as opposed to prooftexting. Hard because it requires humility on so many levels, but also a kind of stubborn clinging in the wrestling (an “I will not let you go unless you bless me” stubborness.)

      • Thanks for the 4% explanation (I thought you might have read some books by children).

        And your comments about L’Engle’s words are helpful. I would add, that as well as honouring the work of interpreting and wrestling with Scripture, we also need to be humble about our own tendencies to read what we want to read in scripture (as per the recent blog by Rachel Held Evans, “Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony”).

  3. I always enjoy your blogs. Gagnon did not make me angry because 1) i don’t know who he is and 2) I wasn’t there and 3) I probably don’t want to know him. I have a project to talk to you about. Al

  4. Dora, Thanks very much for your devotionals that were in the Rejoice recently. They gave a different perspective as I moved to the celebration of Christmas. I also read your short story collection earlier this year. I really liked your style with its tight images and compact style. I am a pastor here in Ontario, and will be in Winnipeg in January to be pastor-in-residence at CMU. Blessings to you. Fred Redekop

    • Thank you, Fred, for your very kind words. — I checked the CMU website to see when you will be there, perhaps speaking in chapel, but they seem not to have posted it yet. I think the p-i-r is such a great idea, an important 2-way connection. Blessings to you as well.

  5. Thoughtful blog and interesting title. I, too was wondering about the other 4%. Thanks for the simple explanation. Great hair style! Happy 2014, Dora. May the muse be with you as you wrestle with the revisions. I always love to read what you write.

  6. Dora,
    First things first…your hair is magnificent. I truly mean it. You’ve inspired me, as I continually waver between chopping off my hair or letting it grow. Within the grand scheme of things, it is, of course, a ridiculous thing to ponder. But isn’t life in the details?
    I’m glad to see too, that we are both ‘trending’ with our less-is-more approach to journal keeping. This is the first year that I haven’t ended the year with stacks of spiral-bound notebooks.
    It’s always nice to check in here. Looking forward to more exchanges in 2014.

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