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Naked as a tree (05/16/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Splashed across pages of their written work, writers and poets bare their hearts and sensuous sentiments, manifested by readers who absorb their creative images, each one unique and mysterious by virtue of their intrinsic endowments.

It was as if I was putting the harsh season to rest, book by book. After a winter of heavy reading, my mind is stalled on hold, longing for the old, familiar words slumbering between colorful bindings, row on row. Treasured writers exposed, biographers, poets, and authors of the classics wink at me through splintered rays of May’s awakening, as I unfurl the mauve flowered curtains that had sheathed our library window for months.

As we drive through the countryside, I note fresh green pastures and ditches, transitions not allowed the naked eye, where matted, brown death had been absorbed. My tradition is to revisit Robert Frost’s “calving time” every spring. I take down the weathered paperback of Frost’s poems and open to the page with its worn, rounded corner. “An Invitation” speaks of the pasture, where the little calf, standing by its mother, totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I want to share the names of some of the delicious novels I’ve savored this past winter...just in case you might be willing to give yourself the green light to get lost in heady wordplay and let go of some needless chore or guilt-driven duty, to allow time to get inspired. Go naked!

I extended my Kent Nerburn collection with “The Wolf at Twilight – an Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows.” Lakota culture and endurance, intertwined with endearing Native American story- telling, make for a captivating adventure.

Anne Lamott’s “Plan B - Further Thoughts on Faith” is boldly captivating! Vintage Lamott, she candidly dives into stories of daily life and raising a son as a single mother, in her wise, amusing fashion.

“The Shadow Catcher” is an extraordinary, literary, action novel by Marianne Wiggins, based on the real life of Plains Indian photographer from the 20th century, Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952.) The book was a great find for me, since I have a publication of many of Curtis’ Native American photos.

Rick Bass writes hypnotic prose, often set in the natural world. Ten graphic, inventive stories, told in “The Lives of Rocks,” entice and give one a craving for more. I could not put down “The Glass Castle,” by Jeannette Walls! A memoir of a dysfunctional family, led by a bizarre eccentric and his tempestuous artist wife, is a provocative portrayal of poverty.

This is a classic! I read Pulitzer Prize winning fiction so incredibly human that it arouses every sort of emotion! So potently contrived, the small town characters become eerily familiar, chapter by chapter. Elizabeth Strout won me over with “Olivia Kitteridge!” Her style and down-to earth insight are brilliant!

“Sarah’s Key,” by Tatiana De Rosnay, is a haunting, mesmerizing story. Though her vivid, Jewish characters are fictitious, some events occurred in Occupied France during the summer of 1942. A suspenseful page-turner, centering on the survival of the human spirit, it will break your heart. A sucker for romance woven with mystery would be enthralled with “The Lucky One” by Nicholas Sparks. The world’s best-selling author of love stories, Sparks has well over 50 million copies of his books in print. Sweet!

It is through reading that one discovers the many facets of human nature. Also, all that contradicts life’s normal(?) flow of things becomes a sought after diversion, the more mysterious, grisly, sexy, sinister, adventuresome, and bizarre, the more desired.

Who doesn’t yearn for an invitation of escape, to lay down winter’s heavy burdens at nature’s pedestal, as Frost beckoned, “You come too”...naked as a tree!

Janet Burns is a collector of the abundant gift of words. She can be reached at



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