If I die too soon


Notes from “From the Heart” a collection from Women of Letters

26 April 2016

T. —

I’m being productive. Things are getting done. I’m currently going through all of my photos and rooting out the ones I need, the duplicates I can delete, the notes I can jot down, the photos that are unnecessary. I’ve taken a lot of photos of books. Covers of books: to read, to read, to remember to read. Pages of books: this poem. This quote. This photograph. This godly image.

So, today I’ve been a scribe. It’s one of my favourite jobs. Self-appointed, of course. Usually I take a book with post-it flags, flay it open with my bamboo book holder, and discern its inner-most parts. But sometimes I don’t have the luxury of time on my side. Some books need to go back to the library too soon. Some books are actually gifts — like this one. This was a Christmas gift for my aunt in California, and I read it on the plane out to visit her. I didn’t have time to notate the things I wanted to keep. So, snap- snap – click of the shutter, and these quotes end in a stockroom of an iPhoto folder until I remember to transcribe them.

Today, I thought, for the very first time: what am I doing this for? I enjoy keeping the parts of books that made me laugh, that made me think, or made me question. But I don’t often refer back to them. Only if someone I know is reading a book I’ve read, something I have notes on. And today, I thought: if I died, would any of this matter?

I don’t often think about death. That’s a lie I just told you to make you feel better. I think about it frequently, the way a philosopher turns a familiar problem around and around to look at it from new angles. My friend B is moving to Melbourne; he has a prospective new roommate who throws “Death Dinner Parties.” She invites all of her friends around to talk about Death.

I kind of love that. I want to go to one.


I’ve been stockpiling Brain Picking book recommendations to read. In light of what we’re talking about today, I really want to read this one:


Cry, Heart, But Never Break. Maria Popova describes it thus:

Now comes a fine addition to the most intelligent and imaginative children’s books about making sense of death — the crowning jewel of them all, even, and not only because it bears what might be the most beautiful children’s book title ever conceived: Cry, Heart, But Never Break (public library) by beloved Danish children’s book author Glenn Ringtved and illustrator Charlotte Pardi, translated into English by Robert Moulthrop.

Although Ringtved is celebrated for his humorous and mischievous stories, this contemplative tale sprang from the depths of his own experience — when his mother was dying and he struggled to explain what was happening to his young children, she offered some words of comfort: “Cry, Heart, but never break.” It was the grandmother’s way of assuring the children that the profound sadness of loss is to be allowed rather than resisted, then folded into the wholeness of life, which continues to unfold. — Brain Pickings.


I’ve been thinking about starting a blog series to document my attempt to read the whole way through my 1000+ to-read bookshelf on Goodreads. Some questions I have for myself: am I being fair to the books I live with, the ones sitting on my shelves that are asking for attention? Why do I only have two eyes and one brain? Why can’t I have four eyes and as many brains? If I die too soon, will this have been a life well-read? If I take notes and no one ever reads them, are they still a worthy cause?

The answer is: yes, yes, always yes.

Today I wrote postcards instead of buying new books. I mean, I bought new books, too. But they were for writing workshops. So, employment. I didn’t buy new books for myself today. I wrote instead. Just to clarify.


One thought on “If I die too soon

  1. Have been exploring books about travel ever since I get back. Mostly journals and poetry. I think you have mentioned a lot of these in our old letters, so I plan on rereading old entries here, too, for reference.


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