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Cool Reads to Kickstart the Year

Updated: Feb 26, 2022

February Mantra: Try Something New

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January was the month of “Dream, Plan, Do”. The dreaming will continue of course, and a rough plan is in place for the year. Now it’s off to the doing… As I honor my “try something new” mantra for the month, I’m visiting favorite woodsy spots regularly for meditation, sketching, and *bird watching*! I have terrible eyesight, so finding the birds has never been my strong suit, but I scored a visit with a pileated woodpecker earlier this month, and it was awesome! Of course, he was digging into a snag maybe 10 feet off the trail, so he was very easy to spot… I'm in the final stages of one more Coastal work to finish that series, and also started a new oil & pen mini-works series based on the floral blind contour drawings I started during the pandemic; more on that as it evolves!

Images: A pileated woodpecker and a wetland pond along a misty morning walk.

As I’ve been sketching and journaling about ideas for the next series, I've also been reading a lot! Inspirational reads, forest medicine, something funny, so I thought I'd share what's on my "active" shelf right now. During the early stages of the pandemic, I shared a Spring book list for my year-long eco art curation project, The Art of Sustainability (Instagram @the_art_of_sustainability), and folks seemed to enjoy it. So, here is a short list of the books that have helped me weather the weather this winter, relax after the flurry of planning and creating, and inspire me to dive into my creative practice with gusto.

by Jen Sincero
Non-fiction | Motivational & Inspirational, Personal Growth - Success

This is the book that really helped me kickstart my year. It’d been sitting by my bedside for months, daring me to open it. January was the perfect time for me to delve in, as I was mapping the months ahead. The overwhelm was already flitting at the corner of my mind, yet the affirmation, “I got this” helped me keep going. Reminders to both follow my fantasies and listen to my intuition continue to inspire me, and I’m adding the meditation tips into my exploration of personal wellness and nature as healer. One of my favorite take-aways so far (I’m still reading this one) is that we often hold ourselves back with the stories we tell ourselves, and yet we have control over our own story. So, if you want a new ending, tell a new tale! For example, I’ve been wanting another venue in my neighborhood, and telling myself it was too competitive. But flipping the narrative, I asked myself, had I really reached out to every venue? No. Had I tried again recently? No. So the new story is, I will fill my year with new venues and events. I’m going to ask whenever I see art hanging in a shop, and apply to some new events, and see what happens. The results are still unfolding, but I do have one new venue booked already! I’ll update the events page soon… So, I’m going to keep on reading this little self-helper, and gleaning timely guidance for making 2022 a great year!

by Andrea Wulf
Non-fiction | Environmentalists and Naturalists, Adventurers and Explorers, Science and Technology

Somehow, I was a sustainable building consultant for 20+ years and have been creating landscape and nature theme art for 10, and didn’t learn who Alexander Humboldt was until 2021… I came across this book, at Elliott Bay Books one afternoon while browsing their staff book picks wall. (Elliott Bay Books is one of my all-time favorite bookstores, particularly their original but no-longer-there Pioneer Square location.) Humboldt was a fascinating man who was fascinated by almost everything from natural science and geology to anthropology, sociology, and history, and forged connections between them never previously considered. He’s considered the founder of modern scientific approaches which see nature as connected ecological zones, rather than individual categories of plants or animals. The interconnectedness of ecology (and human-nature links) has been such a given in my life and artwork, that following along with the story of the person who initiated that concept for the western world was almost like reading about a personal mentor. In his research, Humboldt traveled extensively, including throughout South America at a time when Spain strictly controlled access to their territories. Particularly as the pandemic has kept me close to home, this filled a travel urge vicariously. At points this flowed like non-fiction, and I couldn’t wait to read what this every curious explorer would get into next. If you’ve ever wondered why there’s a Humbodlt city/county/park in about every state, pick up this book and explore the world through this super scholar-adventurer’s adventures.

by Hannah Fries, with Foreword by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Non-fiction | Inspiration & Personal Growth, Ecosystems & Habitats, Motivational & Inspirational

If you follow my work, you know I’m a dendrophile, or someone who loves trees and forests. And I’ll be the first to admit that I learned that term recently! I grew up walking in the woods with my Dad, an avid, amateur naturalist, history buff, and fungi forager. He taught me to fish, whittle, identify Midwest flora and fauna, and fostered a love of being outdoors. He was definitely a dendrophile! I find it interesting that “forest bathing” is such a “thing” these days, because I feel it’s another term for “walking in the woods”, like I have been doing all my life. However, there is now more scientific research into the forest time as medicinal that proves what many of us already felt we knew. This pretty little book is full of poetry, inspirational quotes, and photography that celebrate the beauty and healing power of trees. I enjoy flipping through it while I’m procrastinating working on something I don’t feel like doing, or I mean, while thinking deep, artsy thoughts…

by Yuko Tsushima, translation by Geraldine Harcourt
Fiction | Literary

This little gem follows the everyday happenings of a woman at a crossroads as the recently separated and newly single parent in Tokyo must navigate loss and transition. Her new apartment is chosen by its glow of light, her moods reflect her descriptions of each setting. The luminous and softly powerful descriptions of the locations are almost spiritual. It’s a gentle read, an almost voyeuristic peek into the mundane and the meaningful of finding one’s way during a transition. I can totally relate to that right now! This turned out to be my “snowed out of Seattle” holiday read – a “thank you” for the great book pick goes to Kim at Drink Books, a delightful little gem of a wine + book shop that just opened last Fall on Phinney Ridge. Check it out!

by Susan Hable, photography by Rinne Allen, and foreword from John Derian
Non-fiction | Decorating & Furnishings

We’ve been slowly, like over the last decade, remodeling our Craftsman house. Now that many of the basics have been addressed (new wiring so our house doesn’t burn down, insulation, windows that open), we can get into the fun stuff, like getting rid of the dreary “hospital gown” green paint color in the living room that I can’t believe I’ve endured for so long, figuring out how to hang art on plaster, and repairing, refreshing or replacing our assorted furniture to fit the flow of our house and withstand the claws of our grumpy but loveable cat, Jax. I saw this book at local mercantile and furniture shop, Beehive, and the bright, quirky wall paper on the cover reeled me in right away. I love how the author brings together color, patterns, “wabi sabi” worn finishes, vintage finds, and more modern lines, in what I’d call a “well curated eclectic” style. It definitely got me fire-up and inspired. Right now, I’m working on our cantaloupe and olive green basement rec room. It feels good to finally transform a short and dark space that became storage by default, into a lively and welcoming space for puzzles, crafting, board games, and art of course!

by Mary Roach
Non-fiction | Animals – Wildlife, Animal Rights, Philosophy & Social Aspects

If only I’d known that animal forensics was a bonefide field, I might have fantasized about that career as a kid! Animals vandalize and terrorize, but mostly because we’re often in THEIR habitat. With much the same quirky true tales that accompanied my first Roach read, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, each chapter on “human-wildlife conflict” shares a blend of humor, science, and human nature expose as wild creatures refuse to play by our rules. This is a great “unwind at the end of the day” read, and I like that each chapter is contained, so I don’t wind up reading all night… Think death by macaque attack is too odd to be true? I’ll just say that life is stranger than fiction…

by Frances Moore Lappé
Non-fiction | Health & Healing – General, Vegetarian, Agriculture & Food

Last but not least, is an update on a classic. Of course, I read the original. I’m a child of the 70’s who was an environmental professional for the past 20 years. And, yes, I’ve made some of these recipes, and they’re pretty tasty, although I definitely tend to add a little hot sauce to many of them. The original title hailed from a time before “meatless Mondays” was a thing. The update speaks to now, when climate change is here, and more folks are aware that what goes on our plate impacts the planet. Author Frances shares, “We can’t *not* change the world, we are changing it. And our inaction can be as powerful as our action.” I appreciate Frances’ attitude, though, which she describes in an interview with PCC as “rebel sanity, despite these crazy times”; she still opts to lead a happy life. Strive for change, take action, and don’t let the corporate interests and corruption steal your joy, so you can keep pushing toward a better world. Right on! Plus there’s 85 updated plant-based recipes with more recipes from Indigenous cuisines. Read the full interview in the PCC January newsletter.

Happy reading! Please share your favorite winter reads or your thoughts on any of these books in the comments below.

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