Kathy Donchak

Sunday Letter: Summer Reading

Published 10 months ago • 1 min read

What does it mean to have a voice?
~ When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams

There is a little free library in my neighborhood. It tells us so much about the people we live nearby but may never know. The sustainable home design book, the nature novels, the cookbooks, and the books on faith all give us insight into the people that walk and drive our streets. Anything goes, and no one is offended. It is the perfect antidote to the challenges to free thought and expression.

I have friends from all walks of life. Longtime childhood friends with vastly different adult worldviews who can somehow still meet for a weekend, share dinner and listen without breaking these bonds. It’s a special discovery that after over thirty years of friendship, with long breaks in-between raising families and following careers, we can remember what it felt like to laugh as teenagers and young adults before the world narrowed our definition of community.

Getting to know each other again as adults is illuminating, but in a way that is as much self-reflection as anything else. Sharing books with friends helps me remember the girl I was before work and culture.

Sharing books is a way to say, I see you.

Summer is for reading and listening, in a hammock under a tree, on a beach chair, or wherever you can put your feet up and escape the world for a little bit. Enjoy time to yourself in a book this week.

Be well,


P.S. My summer reading is women nature writers. What are you reading?

Terry Tempest Williams's mother told her: "I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won't look at them until after I'm gone."

They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books.... "I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It too was empty.... Shelf after shelf after shelf, all of my mother's journals were blank."

What did Williams's mother mean by that? In 54 chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother's journals. When Women Were Birds is a kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question "What does it mean to have a voice?"

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Kathy Donchak

I write about nature, family, creativity, and wellbeing.

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