Saturday, July 19, 2008

Books I've read

I've always felt drawn to the image of Eleanor Roosevelt. (It may be because my Aunt Esther looked just like her.) It may also be because of the mythology of her identity as a strong champion of human rights, and her power and resolve. Knowing nothing about Mrs. Roosevelt I set a goal of reading a biography of the former first lady on my "Books I want to read" list posted conspicuously here on my blog. And I've finally done it (sort of). I just finished listening to No Ordinary Time a biography of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt during the second World War by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What did I learn? Eleanor Roosevelt was indeed a strong champion of human rights. She propelled the social reforms of the New Deal forward throughout WWII. And she did it at a cost to her marriage and her social happiness. It is ironic that one of FDR's iconic phrases was "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," but his wife was socially crippled by her fears of rejection (according to Goodwin).

I re-read a meditation this morning by Mark Belletini, the minister of the UU church in Columbus, Ohio. The full text was printed in the latest issue of the UU World. It starts like this:
Let the sky above me unroll like a scroll,
and let me read upon it today’s text for my life:
“You are alive, here and now.
Love boldly and always tell the truth.”

Let the eyes and hands and faces
of all men and women and children
with whom I share this earth
be chapter and verse in this great scripture text:
“Life is struggle and loss, and also
tenderness and joy.
Live all of your life, not just part of it.”

Live ALL of your life, not just part of it. Eleanor Roosevelt did not live her whole life. I both admire and identify with her crusader parts. She is cited as saying, during the period of national mourning following FDR's death in early 1945, that "when you are a national figure, you easily slip into playing your role, and thus can sublimate your feelings and your true nature with no problem. There isn't room for your true nature when you play a role of such prominence." I totally get that - and I don't need to be First Lady to have the experience of being so firmly set into a role that I'm afraid to let anyone see past the smooth veneer of confidence. This may be because I am aware that there are parts inside of me that want to avoid difficulty, ugliness, discomfort even.


I'm also midway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. (Thanks to The Colonel!) In reading it I'm waking up my love of gardening, and reaffirming my irritation with zealots. BMG told me yesterday I could start a veggie garden in his (our?) backyard. I'm also fundamentally lazy so need to be careful to not bite off more than I can chew. So, I think I'll plant garlic in the fall and then prepare for peas, beans, and maybe hot peppers, green onions, carrots, and chard for next year. And, of course, BMG's precious tomatoes.

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