100 Birds Taught Me to Fly: The Art of Seeking God


Our next selection is Ashley Mae Hoiland’s 100 Birds Taught Me to Fly: The Art of Seeking God. Several of you have personal connections to the author as she graduated from BYU’s English department. We will meet next on Tuesday, May 15, 8:30 pm. Below is the synopsis from Amazon.

This book is for restless souls who desire to know God more deeply. Ashley Mae Hoiland bids us follow her down the hallowed and well-trodden path between the heart and mind, where glimpses of godliness are discovered in rainstorms, bus rides, temples, and mountains. As a Latter-day Saint, Hoiland explores the complexities of faith in everyday life where laughter and creativity matter as much as faith, hope, and charity.


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When We Were Orphans


For this month we are reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans.  We will meet next on April 19. Here is the blurb from Amazon.

From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes this stunning work of soaring imagination. 
Born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, Banks was orphaned at the age of nine after the separate disappearances of his parents. Now, more than twenty years later, he is a celebrated figure in London society; yet the investigative expertise that has garnered him fame has done little to illuminate the circumstances of his parents’ alleged kidnappings. Banks travels to the seething, labyrinthine city of his memory in hopes of solving the mystery of his own, painful past, only to find that war is ravaging Shanghai beyond recognition-and that his own recollections are proving as difficult to trust as the people around him. 

Masterful, suspenseful and psychologically acute, When We Were Orphans offers a profound meditation on the shifting quality of memory, and the possibility of avenging one’s past.

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Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies


For this month we are reading Brian Doyles Leaping: Revelations and Epiphanies. We will meet next on Thursday, March 1, 8:30 pm. Here is the summary from Amazon:

In this spirited collection of essays, Brian Doyle employs his wit, wisdom, and gusto for life as he shares with readers his thoughts on Jesus, the Mass, Birds, Bees, and so much more. What would be a good alternative name for Jesus? What does a honeybee at Mass have to tell us about Christ? What is, after all, the real point of saying prayers when someone is suffering?

Through the good and the bad, the serious and the hilarious, Doyle finds just the right story and just the right words to help us better understand life and love—and to help us see our faith in a whole new light.

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Patrick Madden Thursday night

Just a reminder that we are meeting this coming Thursday evening at 8:30 to discuss the book, Sublime Physick by Patrick Madden. He is a professor in the English Department at Brigham Young University. Bring something good to eat as well. And by the way, I just got word that Pat will be coming to join us on Thursday evening, so come with your questions. It should be good (and I can’t take any credit for him coming).


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Patrick Madden: Sublime Physick


We are reading Sublime Physick, a collection of essays by Patrick Madden. We will meet again on January 18, 8:30 pm. Here is the Amazon summary:

A follow-up to Patrick Madden’s award-winning debut, this introspective and exuberant collection of essays is wide-ranging and wild, following bifurcating paths of thought to surprising connections. In Sublime Physick, Madden seeks what is common and ennobling among seemingly disparate, even divisive, subjects, ruminating on midlife, time, family, forgiveness, loss, originality, a Canadian rock band, and much more, discerning the ways in which the natural world (fisica) transcends and joins the realm of ideas (sublime) through the application of a meditative mind.
In twelve essays that straddle the classical and the contemporary, Madden transmutes the ruder world into a finer one, articulating with subtle humor and playfulness how science and experience abut and intersect with spirituality and everyday life.

For teachers who’d like to adopt this book for their classes, Madden has provided a number of helpful teaching resources, including a 40-minute lecture on his writing process and writing prompts for each of the book’s essays.

And a little about the author:
Patrick Madden is an associate professor at Brigham Young University. His first collection of essays, Quotidiana (Nebraska, 2010), won awards from the Association for Mormon Letters and ForeWord magazine and was a finalist for the 2011 PEN Center USA Literary Award. His essays have appeared in a variety of periodicals as well as in The Best Creative Nonfiction and The Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. He is coeditor (with David Lazar) of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays. Visit Madden’s website http://www.quotidana.org.
Here is a link to some of his essays on his website.
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November 30 Poems

This is the last of the daily posts of poetry. I hope you enjoyed them. Until next year.

Sometimes I feel drawn to them,

not really them, but where they

lay quietly, patiently, in that cold place.

Are they calling to me?

Is that their voices I hear

in the treetops?

It’s been so long, I hardly

remember how their

voices sound, and all I have

are old photographs to remind

me what they looked like.

I’m glad for that, and the stories,

but for another, he doesn’t

even have memories,

they were washed clean

when he was still little,

when they went away

and left him alone.

So it’s been a long month of late night poem writing. I think this one explains what those late nights have been doing to me 🙂 Anja

My left eye twitches involuntarily
so foreign to see the eyelid on my face
a part connected to my bodily surface
move of it’s own accord

not even asking the brain
for permission. The muscle
that controls opening and closing
jerks in defiance of wakefulness.

But the muscles cannot override the lid
down toward the dark pools
below. They can only exert a tremor
willing the eye to dip

behind the eyelid, a physical sunset
that won’t take place until
long after my side of the earth
has rolled over in it’s bed of sky.


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November 29 Poems

Nebraska never seemed like much to me,

but when we pulled into North Platte

on a summer evening in ’95 I smiled;

I could smell the mountains.

It seemed like a boundary of sorts,

the humid Midwest trailing behind us,

and the dry mountain air of the West

stretched out before us us, waiting.

Dusk. It was quiet as we pulled into

the motel parking lot. The sun

was setting orange out across

the plains stretching into Colorado.

Seven years in the Midwest and now we

were going back to the mountains,

to that wonderful, dry, mountain air.

I could feel the pull of those mountains

to the West as I walked barefoot

through the grass with a toddler

in my arms. The evening breeze

bent the grass and I closed my eyes

and breathed deeply, content.

We were going home, at least

to a place we would call home.


The decoys were packed
The pond left behind
The sled pulled behind
The man and his children
On foot when the flock
Of swan appeared. With
The twelve gauge cradled
In his arms he looked up
Anticipated their trajectory
Heard them hoot as they flew
Into range. The children cheered
Shoot! A swan dropped
From the air. As he fell,
His heart pumped for the last
Time, giving him one extra surge
Of lingering life. He locked
His wings and began to glide
Away from his shooter.
The man and his children ran
To catch the falling swan.
The littlest child was almost left
Behind, her little legs pumping.
The swan swooped down
Onto another man’s land.
The man and his children
Forced to surrender the swan
To a private property, another man’s
Table, their mouths salted
With the taste of bitter success.


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