Spring: Novels, Passion, and Thought

me stuck in a rock in joshua tree national park
Oh, I’m SO much fun on a hike. We may not get far, but there will be stories to tell!

It’s spring in the desert, my friends, and that means… distractions from thought! The birds start up at first light, then there are gorgeous sunrises to catch in different stages, I am hard-pressed to find people to go hike the national park with me before summer comes, and then there’s the yard work I need to do as well.


I love spring.

Don’t scream in anguish for me, but I get up around 4am every day. It’s a habit now that I can’t break even on vacation, but I’m happy to have it. Sunrise is my favorite time of day, so I’m here on the couch, book in my lap, coffee in hand, hours before any of dawn’s rosy fingers reach up into the eastern sky.

spring sunrise

My second pot of coffee is brewing just before the sun pokes its head over the horizon and I rush out to grab my daily photo. I’m still posting them on my sunrise Instagram profile. I’m on day 169 today!

I’m about four hours from the end of The Red and The Black by Stendhal this morning. I spent two days out of the house this week and I’m not as far along in the book as I thought I would be by now, but I’m enjoying every page. It doesn’t slow down!

Poor Julien. He’s so naïve and ambitious. I’m afraid he’s really going to get hurt by the end of this. Nothing good can come of his behavior.

I’m still considering reading that history book I have on the French Revolution next. My only concern is that it might prove to be a little boring, and take up quite a bit of my time. I find the whole era very fascinating. I find revolutionary times to be intriguing. I tend to compare them to our current events, wondering if it’s where we are headed, but… I’m not all that sure we are. Even if we (the United States) were, it wouldn’t be us on the rebellion side. But that’s a different post, one I’m not all that sure I’m qualified to write just yet.

quote from the red and the black
"thought is lacking"

I’ve got a few fun quotes for you today. I hope you like them.

Julien, when getting himself set up as tutor to the mayor’s children, innocently advises the mayor how he should avoid looking bad for what he removes from the bookseller by assigning a servant to subscribe to it and bring books home to be studied.

“…you will have to stipulate that the servant should not take out any novels. Those dangerous books, once they got into the house, might corrupt Madame de Rênal’s maids, and even the servant himself.”

One cannot simply read what they want to read, especially when you’re the mayor. I mean, isn’t it best to be completely ignorant of what other people might have done in the past, or what your enemy’s ideas might be? Some things never change, do they?

And watch out for those novels, especially around impressionable women and servants. Honestly, I kind of agree. Read them if you like but be aware that novels can be a lot like porn. They can put ideas into your head about how things are supposed to be, when they aren’t really, like Instagram posts of perfect faces and complicated recipes that come out beautiful every time.

One of the things I love about Stendhal is how he keeps going back to how bad novels can be for relationships, in his novel… about Julien’s relationships.

“…Madame de Rênal thought of passion in the same way in which we think of a lottery: a certain deception, a happiness sought after by fools.”

Not to be “sought after,” I agree. Real, lasting passion is cultivated and honed, not found, like the wild yeast in my sourdough recipe. Yeah… I’m obsessing on bread making lately. Stupid Instagram…

I marked chapter 19 with a large arrow:

“Thinking Produces Suffering”

Ahh, yes. A few years ago, I would have said, “No it doesn’t! It produces a plan and the avoidance of suffering! More people SHOULD be thinking, and I wouldn’t have to so much!” But I’ve changed my mind. Let’s go over to the Buddhist principle of “the second arrow.”

Pain and suffering are two different things. Pain is unavoidable, suffering is not. Strange…I was just listening to a podcast that mentioned this very thing. Pain happens. We run into difficulty, we’re rejected, hurt ourselves, etc. That’s the first arrow. “Ouch! That hurts!” we say.

And then we start to think, and the suffering begins. “Why has this happened to me? The world sucks! How can I avoid ever being hurt again?!” We retreat to our minds, rolling the ideas over and over again in our head. In the effort to avoid pain, we create suffering in ourselves and others, build walls around ourselves, and never fully live again.

You’re right, Stendhal. Thinking does produce suffering.

“The promenade in the garden calmed him a little. ‘No,’ he exclaimed, ‘I shall not deprive myself of my wife, she is too useful to me.’ He imagined with horror what his house would be without his wife.”

Oh, I hope my husband thinks this sometimes when I’m being really annoying. “Sure, she’s a bit loud and she buys books and covers our walls them. Don’t even get me started on the “craft” room! She gets a little bit too angry, fights with her imagination, moves things I’m using in a constant effort to keep things cleaned up. Maybe sometimes he accuses me of indecencies I have not done from time to time. But… I wouldn’t want to deprive myself of her. She’s FAR too useful!”

That’s sarcasm to some extent, but I feel the same way about him. And, you know what? After 25 years, we’re closer than ever. Sure, he drives me nuts, but his positives far outweigh his negatives, and we ALL have negatives we’d like to have ignored by others. I would imagine with horror what my house would be like without him!

There you have it, my dear reader. I’ve set aside the spring distractions, banished them from my thoughts for a whole hour, and written an entire blog post! I shall reward myself with another cup of coffee and maybe a little bit more time in The Red and the Black. Oh! And a piece of homemade bread, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *