Monday, July 16, 2018

Wendell Berry's Creative Process in CancerLand

I have a quote from Wendell Berry taped inside my day planner. When he wrote this he was trying to articulate the creative process. But I also believe that his words are equally true for those of us discovering a cancer process.

Caregiving is a deeply creative process, and it has many of the same stages as writing poetry and making art. 

Wendell Berry writes:

“Form serves us best when it works as an obstruction to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and that when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

I love that.

 “The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

But most of the time in making art, and in CancerLand, we don’t want the impediments, the boulders, the rapids.

If he is right, then I am singing. I feel impeded often. Deadlines and doctors. Finding the right words and the right materials. Finding the right prayers and the right moments to pray.

“When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work.”

Going down that river feet first, tumbling, laughing, praying, singing.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Best Books About Caregiving

There are lots of books to tell you how to be a caregiver—books for spouses, siblings and adult children. There are specialized books for caregiving for Alzheimer’s or cancer or MS etc. But sometimes you want or need more than a how-to, and more than the facts—you want to know about the feelings. And for that we have to go to literature.

I teach a class on the Literature of Caregiving, and I have found that these are the books that people crave and that often answer the questions that no one knew they needed to ask. 

So, here are some of my favorite books about caregiving. You’ll have some surprises I’m sure, but caregiving is nothing new to humankind, and great works of literature touch all situations and feelings that make us human.

Caregiving Memoirs:
Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy
Cancer Vixen, Marisa Acocella Marchetto (It’s a graphic novel)
Midstream, Le Anne Schreiber
Landscape Without Gravity, Barbara Lazear Ascher
Truth and Beauty, Anne Patchett
The Story of My Father, Sue Miller
Low Down: Jazz, Junk and Fairy Tales. AJ Albany
The Broken Chord, Michael Dorris 
Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott
Three Dog Life, Abigail Thomas
The Best Day/The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall
The Two Kinds of Decay, Sarah Manguso

Caregiving Fiction:
We are All Welcome Here, Elizabeth Berg
A Patchwork Planet, Anne Tyler
Celestial Navigation, Anne Tyler
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
King Lear, William Shakespeare

Add a few of these to your summer reading. You’ll be in good hands.