A Walk In The Woods By Bill Bryson – A Book Review

One of the things I find most enjoyable over the Christmas break, is the time to sit back and read. Just for fun. For the pure, unadulterated pleasure of it. Just to feel a book in my hands, a soft pillow behind my head, and not care what the time is, or how much of it has passed – until my tummy rumbles or I feel it’s time for a cup of tea.

When you run a business, you find most of your reading is, in some way, chosen to support improving your business. It could be new studies released, new business concepts, new psychologies, new processes, new ideas. But all of your reading is focused on providing a better service to your clients.

But in Australia (where I live) Christmas, New Year (and my birthday!) are all in summer. Lazy, hot, kick back your shoes and chillax summer. Sleep in, swim, entertain, catch up with family and friends – it’s a wonderful time of year.

And, as I said, the chance to read – just for fun.

So I51avHY1QAfL._AA160_ read one book this Christmas break – and it was A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson.

It charts his walk, with his friend Stephen Katz, along the Appalachian Trail (AT) on the east coast of the United States.

It’s usual Bryson, laugh-out-loud funny, witty, observant, honest, packed with facts and figures in a way that makes them enjoyable to read. And with Bryson, I learn stuff, really interesting stuff, about another country.

I had no idea that AT was such a monumental undertaking. Traversing 2,150 miles (the exact length keeps changing  because the AT route keeps changing), across seven states, is a serious undertaking. And not everyone achieves it.

First there are the weather conditions to deal with, snow, sun, rain, stinking hot, freezing cold. There is the trail itself, which is often difficult, in one place they have to swim to reach the rest of the trail! Then you have the dangers, natural such as bears, cougars, rattle snakes and other nasties big and small. And then, sadly, there are dangers of the human kind.

It’s also not a cheap, as good quality hiking equipment is expensive.

And a choice of travelling companion could make or break your trip – or at the very least, the enjoyment of it. (That reminds me of my first trip to Europe with a poorly chosen companion – but more of that another time. Let’s just say it has given me stories to dine out on for two decades!)

And when talking to my husband Henri about it,  it occurred to me that what Bryson was doing – taking time out to walk the AT (and I won’t tell you what happens because that would just spoil it for when you read it!) mirrored what I was doing. Taking time out – in my case, reading about his taking time out.

And I think I’ll write about that for my first post in February – because taking time out and recharging your batteries is absolutely vital to living a healthy life.

Until next week!

cheer Meredith

PS. I’m so pleased I bought Bill Bryson’s latest book, The Road to Little Dribbling, for my husband Henri for Christmas. I might even let him read it first!

Me in August 2015

BIG MAGIC, Elizabeth Gilbert – A Review

 

I’ll ‘fess up straight away – I just love Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing. I feel like I’m having a chat with a really good friend.

I loved Eat Pray Love (which I’ve read three times, and listened to twice – she narrates it and it is just so real), and Committed (which came along just as I was making the preparations for my second marriage).

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And then, to my delight, her book BIG MAGIC came along.


Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear
just struck a chord for me. It’s all about living the passion you want, specifically living a creative life. I love Elizabeth’s honesty and openness.

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I found her stories about how she coped with rejections early in her
writing career uplifting (it’s worth reading just for that!). It always helps to find out you’re not on your own, in anything really.

 

I really enjoyed her take on where the responsibility begins and ends for the creator and the audience. It frees me from worrying about what I write, as I cannot possibly second guess how every reader of my work will interpret it (even if there are only three!)

I REALLY love how she argues passionately and cogently about EVERYONE being creative – and explores the paradox of what being creative is – meaningful and meaningless. She writes “My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it also must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).

I have struggled all my life, thinking that being artistic was for other people, that I could never make a living from my art, and that for some reason I had to choose between art and being ‘responsible’, ‘serious’, ‘financially secure’.

I don’t.

I can write, cook, colour in, knit, sew,  – and I don’t have to give up any other income producing work. I can revel in creative fun; I can meet others who enjoy it too.

Elizabeth’s take on ideas is compelling – and I’ve experienced it. So I am now pulling my ideas together, and following them through – the ones that are really mine will stick.

I found encouragement in every page. “Take an honest inventory of the education you already have – the years you have lived, the trials you have endured, the skills you have learned along the way….You already know so much more than you think you know.” How true is that! We are all graduates of the university of life – and we have so much inside us to share.

Elizabeth writes about a woman who inspired her – an 80 year old whose life changed at 70 when she discovered …. well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Suffice to say that the lesson Elizabeth learned, and passed on to the reader, is that life is fabulous, and can change at any age, just like it did for her 80 year old friend a decade ago!

“You do not need a permission slip from the Principal’s office to live a creative life” she writes.

And you don’t. So off you go, read the book, and make those small changes that will help you live creatively, and without fear.

Thank you Elizabeth – can’t wait for your next book! But until then, I’ll read Big Magic for a third time, and then a fourth. In fact, I think it will become a permanent fixture by my bed, complete with highlights all the way through to help me to remember to be true to me.

“A creative life is an amplified life,” so  live loud!

cheers

Meredith