My condo is a ten-minute walk from Powell’s Books. In the Before Times one of my sweet pleasures was attending their author talks. During COVID, Powell's did interviews by Zoom, but it’s nothing like meeting other writers IRL (in real life). Tuesday night I went to hear and chat with a favorite writer of mine, Mary Laura Philpott. I loved her first book of essays, I Miss You When I Blink, and am already loving her new book, Bomb Shelter, which is her take on living in a world that’s out of her personal control—a realization she has after a series of family health scares. It is funny, very human, and also bittersweet.
In my experience, both spring and fall bring life's bittersweetness into sharper focus. In fall, the delights of summer fade with the knowledge that winter is coming. In the spring (this spring in particular) the glorious signs and colors of new life are set against the realization that millions of people are suffering because their human rights are being squashed like so many irrelevant ants underfoot. Top of mind for me: the people of Ukraine, women with unwanted pregnancies and LGBTQ (especially trans) kids in GOP-controlled states. Instead of screaming in rage I started volunteering with Pro-Choice Oregon, and I take lots of photos of spring in my neighborhood. How do you handle the bittersweetness of life?
Bitter and Sweet
The Taoist yin-yang symbol represents the truth that you can’t have light without dark, up without down, sweet without bitter—and yet within each half the seed of the opposite grows. This is the principle that underlies my book, The Cherry Pie Paradox. Within each person who thinks of themselves as “fat"/"not OK as I am," there is the seed of a “thin"/"OK as I am" person waiting for the opportunity to bloom.