I’m reading books about wild women. Here are a few I love.

It’s a theme that found me, rather than the the way around.

I’ve hit my late 40s and realised I live a certain way and I have chosen a particular path that doesn’t fit the standard. And I’ve been doing an investigation to own it most fully and joyously. So that it does not all amount to a succumbing.

It’s mostly involved reading stuff about or by wild female thinkers throughout history who paved their own bumpy-but-true path beyond the conventions and limitations of being a chick.

I’ve realised a few things in the process…and these things have landed me in the right place for me going forward into the second best half of my life. It’s a work in progress, but is much aided by tips and attitudinal shifts that strong, independent, often mentally complex female firebrands who buck the status quo can provide through their often agonised and always generous writing. Here’s a wee list…I’ve put in links to buy.

Five reads to inspire some wildness in your precious life

It started with Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf plays deeply and loosely and cheekily with being the sex who watches and works around the other sex. I’ve outlined what I got from this book here.

Jane Fonda’s latest climate book What Can I Do? woke me up…

…specifically to the idea that female hormones start to drop off in your forties and thus you stop being hamstrung by over-care of others (in that maternal nurturing way). Thusly, a woman can use all that energy to fight for the bigger, wilder stuff. I’ve not read her latest book What Can I Do?  but I listened to her chat on Conversations about writing her own script to her life. My interpretation of her theory (hormones dropping off ) is that see you have less fucks to give about the dull things, more to give about the grand things.

I also read a review of a new biography of poet Adrienne Rich

You can read it here. And I really recommend reading the article. There is so much to learn from Rich’s experiments with the strong female voice. I’m not sure why I pull out this line, written about Rich by a reviewer to his friend:

“Adrienne Rich is having a third baby . . . and is reading Simone de Beauvoir and bursting with benzedrine and emancipation. We like her very much.” 

Rich is friends with a bunch more exploratory firebrands – Audre Lorde, for instance – and writes about the wildness of them and other women in history. In the 1974 poem “Power,” which showcased Rich’s new habit of leaving space between words in the same line, she reflected on the scientist Marie Curie, who never admitted that she “suffered from radiation sickness,” as if doing so would cancel out her scientific achievements. The poem ends with the paradox of Curie’s plight:

She died    a famous woman    denying
her wounds
her wounds    came    from the same source as her power

Right now I’m reading a biography of Martha Gellhorn

It’s Martha Gellhorn: A Life, by Caroline Moorehead. It’s not particularly well written, but it’s super thorough in chronicling every letter Gellhorn wrote and essay she compiled and I have found it invigorating (is that the word?) to learn of (from?) another woman who was driven to give the good fucks about the right thing, but struggled with the seductive pull to be well behaved.

To see a life unfold (Martha died at 89 of suicide) full and lively and full of contribution against this struggle helped me see that it is both a necessary and ultimately rich struggle. I’m starting to think this is enough for me in this life time. As various philosophers have said, we can handle pain, what we can’t handle is feeling necessary. I have more to say on this…I’ll flesh it out and share soon.

I love Mary Oliver talking to Krista Tippett

This is a wonderful podcast, recorded some time back on On Being. I start First We Make the Beast Beautiful with her poem The Journey. I offer a large nod to her poem A Summer’s Day in This One Wild and Precious Life. Oliver bucked many things to journey to truth, the kind that makes our spirits feel recognition and attunement. As Tippett puts it: Amid the harshness of life, Mary Oliver found redemption in the natural world and in beautiful, precise language.

I’d love you to share any life-expanding reads about admirable lives that were lived at the creative edge. Please add in the Facebook comments.

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