The first time I heard of Anne Lamott was eight or so years ago, back in Michigan, when I read the “secret of life” which she had found on a xeroxed photo of Koko the gorilla. It was my email signature for a long time and I still find it one of the best pieces of advice out there: “The law of the American jungle: Remain calm and share your bananas.” Though she did not conceive of that Universal guidance, it resonated with her and she dropped that same smooth pebble into the collective consciousness to ripple outward and help many more of us smile and “get it” a little bit more. And that, I’ve learned in the years past, is a true gift of Anne’s.
She was at Book Passage the other night, the last night of her book tour for ‘Imperfect Birds’. This is the third in the series which started with ‘Rosie’, which I stumbled upon at the library last fall and adored. It reminded me of how a good novel can be like a supportive companion on the winding path of life. The depth and soul of characters like Rosie, her Mom, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s best friend, Ray, help me feel less alone in my complexity and nuance. In my hunger for wisdom and guidance, I’d left fiction behind, with rare exceptions, more than a few years ago. I am so thankful for the renewed love of fictional worlds. They kept me warm and rooted during the cold stormy days of this winter just past (hooray Spring!)
Anne is about as down-to-earth as it gets. The kind of woman you immediately feel like you’ve known for years. Yes, partly from reading her words, knowing pieces of her story, but also because her energy is just so damn Real. I know she’s beloved throughout Marin, her lifelong home, and now I understand more vividly why. At Spirit Rock just before Thanksgiving, Jack Kornfield quoted “his dear friend Anne Lamott” on the challenge of going Deep Within. It was something like this,
“My mind is a scary place to be. I try not to go there alone too often…”
Of course, she does go there (and through to the Spirit) alone on a regular basis. That’s the source of her beautiful characters and her kind and generous spirit.
Like any smart writer, I own ‘Bird by Bird’ now, which I fittingly picked up here in Marin. I’m savoring it, bit by bit, picking it up when I need a new dose of Anne’s medicine for the trials of life, which she reminds us, with wit and mirth, are a necessary part of the journey. My favorite dose so far is for coping with those in our life who do not see/feel how their abundance and success can sometimes, when we are going through one of those trials, make us feel a little less worthy. I haven’t had use for the phrase yet, but have almost pulled it out a few times and smile whenever I think of it.
“I had been around someone from the South that summer who was always exclaiming “Isn’t that great?” – only she made it almost rhyme with “bright.” So when my friend would call with her latest good news, always presented humbly like some born-again-Christian Miss America contestant, I’d say, “Isn’t that gright, huh? Isn’t that gright?”
Thank-you, Anne, for sharing your truths so freely. I have benefited from them and they are tucked away in my mind/heart/spirit so it’s not such a scary place to be; companions on
that…”lifelong search for shards of light.”