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On this sacred day of choosing–with gratitude to those who entrusted us with this honored task, who struggled and suffered that we might have the power to choose–may we choose well.

May we choose love over fear, wisdom over cleverness, courage over cowardice, life over death, kindness over callousness, faith over cynicism.

May we know that we choose not just for today, but for many generations to come. May we know that we decide not only for ourselves and our own, but on behalf of all the earth, its peoples and creatures, the waters and lands in which they dwell.

We seek the humility to know our own shortcomings and uncertainty even as we accept the responsibility to decide the fate of others.

May we weigh our choices with full awareness of how precious is all we hold in our hands. As we ourselves are weighed and tested by the choices we make, may we be found worthy.

May we choose as leaders those who will strive to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. And, grateful for our differences, may we find in each other qualities worthy of our trust and respect.

By the grace of the internet, I found this poem during a time of grief some years ago. The only consolation at that moment was the hope that the friend who had died, who had been in a lot of emotional pain, “divested himself of despair and fear” upon moving from life to death, and I was so moved and grateful to Jane Kenyon for having put this hope into words. In Mexico, I heard it said another way: the dead are happy because they have no more worries.

Happy Dia de los Muertos to the living and dead!

Notes from the Other Side
Jane Kenyon

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one’s own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

On the nightstand: Zone One, Colson Whitehead, self-assigned as research into the zombie-lit phenomenon. Will definitely have to read more Whitehead soon, especially as he has a novel all about John Henry.

On the nightstand but bumped by the above: I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith. I miss Cassandra, but I’ll get back to her in a few days.

In the car: One of Our Tuesdays is Missing, Jasper Fforde, read by Emily Gray. My first foray into Fforde. Now I understand why other book-devouring friends rave about him. The Bookworld is such an obvious idea I can’t believe I never thought of it myself, and it’s so well executed that I’m starting to believe it’s real. Also, he’s very, very funny.

Daily: one Dickinson poem.

The four make an eclectic collection, even collision, of stimuli.

I was surprised to learn that a friend’s reason for not reading much fiction is that the end is usually predictable. It had never occurred to me that some people might read in order to find out what happens at the end. My desire to know how it all turns out can keep me turning the pages, but the real excitement comes from what happens along the way. And while that definitely feels like a “can’t stop, must find out what happens” impulse, “what happens” is most often about character, not plot per se. So Emma wouldn’t be less compelling if I knew who was going to marry whom in the end; the thrill of revelation is in all the intricate interplay of the characters, how a word placed here puts a weight there, how an encounter at point A presses on a lever at point B. I still don’t know how Austen does that, which is just one reason her writing never gets old.

But then, I also love to reread can’t-forget-who-dunnits like Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, just for the pleasure of watching how the magician does the trick.

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