Small Wonder - Barbara Kingsolver

Where was this book read? On the couch while ignoring a football game and in the "in-betweens." A chapter squeezed in before bed, pages devoured while waiting for the bus, and snippets sneaked during quiet moments.

Where did this book come from? A serendipitous encounter with a Little Free Library on a foggy October day.

Barbara Kingsolver is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She is an incredible story teller who delicately weaves the natural world into our human narrative. This posts focuses on the first essay in this book, sharing the title Small Wonder. This essay is inspired by a news article that Kingsolver found roughly one month after 9/11 in 2001. The headline reads "Iran toddler found safe in bear's den." What a wonder to find this snippet of news a month after such a tragedy. In light of recent events, I reread this essay, desperately praying that we all may find our greatest weapon in the "ultimately defiant act of loving one thing and then another, loving our way back to life," even in the most unexpected of places; between a bear and a baby. 


"Roosters gave milk here, bears lay eggs. The lion lay down with the lamb. A frozen groundswell just beyond our senses heaves and buckles, daring the world to dismantle these walls on enmity and use the stones to build ovens for baking bread. It would be the death of something, and the life of something. Somewhere there must be a door through. The alternative is only to construct higher walls, and the higher they grow, the harder they will fall." 

"We see so much, understand so little, and are simultaneously told so much about What We Think, as a populace polled minute by minute, that it begins to feel like an extraneous effort to listen at all to our hearts... I try with all my might to duck under this wire, not to believe in polls or allow the TV bluster anywhere near my face. At moments I have to stop taking in more news so I can consider what I've gathered so far and pay attention to my own community, since that is the only place where I can muster a posse to take on our local disasters of the day."

"Some forms of enemy are made more deadly by killing. It would require the deepest possible shift of our hearts to live in a world of fundamental animosity and devote ourselves not to the escalating exertion to kill, but rather, to lulling animosity to sleep. Modern humanity may not be up to the challenge. Modern humanity may not have a choice." 

"The changes we dread most may contain our salvation." 

"It's the same struggle for each of us, and the same path out: the utterly simple, infinitely wise, ultimately defiant act of loving one thing and then another, loving our way back to life... However much I've lost, what remains to me is that I can still speak to name the things I love."

"Small change, small wonders - these are the currency of my endurance and ultimately of my life... I have stories of things I believe in: a persistent river, a forest on the edge of night, the religion inside a seed, the startle of wingbeats when a spark of red life flies against all reason out of the darkness."

Here is a link to a good portion of Kingsolver's essay. I would highly suggest reading this book of essays, it is full of words that desperately need to be heard in this world today. 

Let Your Life Speak - Parker J. Palmer

Where was this book read? Over the course of many months, usually in the morning accompanied by a pen and a cup of coffee. 

Where did this book come from? Amazon. I know. Don't hate me. I try not to buy from the big "A" very often. I was told with great urgency that I needed to read this book and I couldn't find it in a few local bookstores so alas, Amazon it was. 

The Specs: Essays, vocation, wholeness, Quaker faith, personal truth, depression, and a definition of "leadership" that doesn't make you roll your eyes. 


On embracing reality and our multi-dimensional selves: 

"One dwells with God by being faithful to one's nature. One crosses God by trying to be something one is not. Reality - including one's own - is divine, to be not defied but honored."

"The God I know does not ask us to conform to some abstract norm for the ideal self. God asks us only to honor our created nature, which means our limits as well as our potentials... The God I know is the source of reality rather than morality, the source of what is than what ought to be."

"An inevitable though often ignored dimension on the quest for 'wholeness' is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident about."

How our inner consciousness has more power to ignite change than our external realities: 

"Consciousness precedes being: consciousness, yours and mine can form, deform, or reform our world. Our complicity in world making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility - and a source of profound hope for change." 

Palmer's refreshing definition of leadership:

"Good leadership comes from people who have penetrated their own inner darkness and arrived at the place where we are at one with one another, people who can lead the rest of us to a place of 'hidden wholeness' because they have been there and know the way."

A thoughtful critique on how we view individual development today:

"But the master metaphor of our era does not come from agriculture - it comes from manufacturing. We do not believe that we 'grow' out lives - we believe that we 'make' them."

On finding instruction in the natural world:

"...abundance is a communal act, the joint creation of an incredibly complex ecology in which each part functions on behalf of the whole and, in return, is sustained by the whole. Community doesn't just create abundance - community is abundance. If we could learn that equation from the world of nature, the human world might be transformed." 

How important is it that I read this book? I dub this book required reading, especially to those who are 25 and under.

Buy it or borrow it? I'm glad that I bought this book because I made lots of notes inside it. It is small, inexpensive, and worth having in your personal library.