Love of Impermanent Things: A Threshold Ecology

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At midlife, Mary Rose O'Reilley writes, we are called to an "archaeology of memory"-turning over a potsherd here, a fragment there-to assemble something whole out of the messiness of experience. Excavating her own life, she traces the middle-class Irish American background that shaped her, with its mix of antic humor, terror, and mysticism, and finds meaning in the seemingly smallest, most transient encounters. But O'Reilley's purpose is less to recount these moments than it is to find the language for a different kind of story, in which the narrative of daily life opens to admit the holy and its corollary, the comic. Encouraging all of us to contemplate our own deep story, she calls hers a demo-life, in which the facts of personal history ground a narrative of consciousness and perception. Earthy and luminous, unconventional and profoundly illuminating, The Love of Impermanent Things offers a threshold ecology for readers of all ages.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the outset of this quiet, quirky book, O'Reilley (The Barn at the End of the World) declares that she has written neither a memoir nor a collection of essays: rather, she has collected ephemera. In vignettes that recall Barbara Holland's work, O'Reilley discusses the meaning of vocation-her job as a college English professor, she says, would not begin to capture her passion for pottery or her call to the ministry of spiritual direction. Her mother, recently dead, casts a long shadow; some of O'Reilley's strongest prose is about grief. She also pays good attention to nature and animals: dogs, goldfinches, elk and deer meander through her reflections. And this is a deeply spiritual book. O'Reilley equivocates about her belief in God, but she wakes up every morning praying and practices walking meditation. She lambastes the kind of Christians who have tamed and domesticated Jesus. The genre of occasional prose invites annoying, if forgivable, repetition-too many uses of the same Sufi phrase "The soul flies in circles," for instance. A Catholic turned Quaker, O'Reilley rebels against tidy religious language. "I want every spiritual word to be new, minted that second. Or else I want silence." Her language is not grandly new every second, but it certainly is lovely. (May 25) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781571312839
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: The World As Home Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 309
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue: Family Recipes 1
Part 1 Bloodroot
How Should I Live the Life That I Am? 15
The Corseteer 23
A Week Until Christmas 37
The House of Memory 44
Mercy 49
Homes and Gardens 58
Sacred Space 67
When I Was a Boy 76
Parallel Universes 84
Part 2 Born Into Time
The Luckiest People 91
The Bardo of Winter 95
The Owl Tree 107
Long Dance in the Sogn Valley 111
Letting In and Letting Out 116
Blue Grass 124
Great Lake 135
Abandoning Control 139
Love Story 146
The Soul Flies in Circles 150
Part 3 Fire Keeps the Memory of Form
Walking Point 161
Pacing 166
The Teabowl of the Heart 170
Passages 179
Boundaries 183
Part 4 Learning the Coast
Echolocating 193
What Are You Doing Here? 200
Winter Coast 205
The Productive Animals 209
Rapture of the Height 214
The Danger of Something Happening 218
Half-Assed 221
The Hermit's Candle 224
Sea Lions 227
Easter 230
Credo 236
The Wager on Rebirth 240
Recessional 244
Going Coyote 248
Part 5 The Red Plush Heart
The Door to the Ocean 255
Transitional Care 258
Care Conference 261
Nausea 266
Being-With 269
The House of Dreams 278
Phases of the Moon 282
Selling 285
Part 6 Controlled Burn
Writing the Wolf 291
Driving Meditation 297
Little Marais 301
Works Cited 304
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