Magical (and giveaway!)

January 14, 2013 § 40 Comments


If your journey brings you to a choice between love and fear, choose love. – from Magical Journey, by Katrina Kenison

I do this weird thing when I find books I love, which is to believe that the writer somehow knows me, and – even more odd – that we are friends. It happens with some writers more than others. For example, I never thought Hemingway and I could be close, but that Mary Oliver and I would have so much to talk about! For years, I have been talking to Judy Blume, Michael Ondaatje, and Charlotte Bronte. Once, my imaginary conversations translated into a real, physical meet and a genuine friendship. And it happened with the writer who might have influenced my life the most.

This is a bold statement to make, but it’s also true. I discovered Katrina Kenison’s first book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, when my first son Oliver was a baby. This was a challenging time in my life, not because of Oliver but because of motherhood itself. When I found out I was pregnant, I had a job I loved at a biotech company in the Bay Area while my boyfriend (now husband) was stationed in Philadelphia. We were in our early thirties and had talked about getting engaged, but we both knew we weren’t close to being ready. I had always hoped that someday I would be a wife and mother, but still, marriage and parenthood caught me off-guard.

One afternoon when Oliver was about 9 months old, we headed to the library, which was always a cool haven for almost any tattered feeling. Mitten Strings for God wasn’t a title I would normally gravitate towards but I picked the book off the shelf anyway. I flipped open the pages and read: We can learn to trust our maternal selves and to have faith in the innate goodness and purity of our children.

Trust our maternal selves? I didn’t even think I had a maternal self. I took the book home and read half of it while Oliver nursed and then napped, folding down almost every page, feeling elated and also deeply at peace for the first time in over a year. If new motherhood was like walking alone through a desert, Mitten Strings was an oasis. Katrina’s words made me see that there was another way to be a mother that neither repressed who I was nor necessitated a reinvention. From her stories, I began to realize all that was really required of me was to be present, to stay.

Katrina’s books are guides for me, roadmaps and talismans, flashlights and food for when the road becomes dark and I find myself utterly alone. As soon as Magical Journey arrived in my mailbox, I dove into it, flipped to a random page and read these words: I am learning how to stay. And just as they did seven years ago, her writing soothed my ragged edges.

As I continued Magical Journey, I was struck by Katrina’s bravery in facing both her feelings and herself during such a challenging and new time in her life: her boys leaving home too early, her best friend dying too soon, the years passing by too quickly.

And yet, this is not a book about wanting to stop the clock or live in the past so much as it’s about how to stay in the present and be grateful. It’s a book on how to be sad or surprised by life, or maybe a little bit lost, and still find our way back to love, to the big kind of love, or maybe even the biggest: a love great enough to hold and welcome all the sadness and shock and terror and confusion in our lives, and still outshine them all.

For me, this is a book on how to love ourselves, even when that very idea seems repulsive. Katrina writes:

So much of my energy these days seems to go into managing disappointment in the way things are, staving off worry about what might be, fearing that who I am, at my core is not really enough. I want things to be one way, and then, when they turn out differently, I struggle, as if desperate not to fail whatever test I’ve constructed out of the moment.

I read these words and came face to face with the part of myself I try to hide from every day, the same way I whip away from a mirror or my reflection in a shop window. But confronting myself through Katrina’s words has a delicious quality to it, the same way peering into a dark closet becomes less scary when your own sweaty fingers are entwined with someone else’s. She continues:

But making the choice to just hang in there with my own rather pathetic self for a while demands a different sort of perseverance altogether, a kind of strength that lays bare all of my weakness … I have to trust that being right where I am is some kind of progress and that there is a reason I’ve been called to visit this lonely darkness.

Magical Journey closely follows the journey Joseph Campbell outlines in Hero With a Thousand Faces, therein honoring the messy, inglorious, and difficult experiences we endure as we age, change, or get hit in the gut with another of life’s unfair punts. As Katrina begins her month of yoga teacher training at Kripalu, her teacher tells her, “You are not here to remake yourself but to remember yourself.”

Just as yoga is not about fixing ourselves but about becoming more of who we already are, for me, Magical Journey is about going to the places inside of us we dread most in order to love ourselves better. Near the end of the book, Katrina realizes:

Now I see that the journey was never meant to lead to some new and improved version of me; that it has always been about coming home to who I already am.

But rather than a paradox, this process is simple if we remember what Katrina’s friend Margaret told her as she set out for Kripalu. “I forgot to tell you the most important thing,” Margaret says in a low voice, as if what she has to say is top-secret information. “Just remember: It’s all about the love.”

To celebrate this amazing book, leave a comment and I will randomly choose one winner to receive a copy of this book on Friday, January 18th. Don’t miss Katrina’s other books: Mitten Strings for God, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, and Meditations from the Mat. 


§ 40 Responses to Magical (and giveaway!)

  • Kate says:

    Hi Pamela,
    I still haven’t ordered Katrina’s book, though I’ve been meaning to do so for months… Great review, sounds like it’s just what I need to read right now! I’d love to win it.

  • ¨a book on how to be sad and still find our way back to love, to the big kind of love, a love great enough to hold and welcome all the sadness¨
    Thanks for your lovely review, I d love to win the book.

  • Kerry says:

    Thanks for sharing the book and your personal journey! I miss seeing your beautiful face! Hope you are well

  • jillsalahub says:

    I am clearly meant to read this book, because it keeps coming up, keeps finding me. It makes me think of this quote, “All that you are seeking is also seeking you. If you sit still, it will find you. It has been waiting for you a long time,” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes). Your post about it communicates what it’s about so perfectly, I’ll certainly be ordering it, if I don’t win. 🙂

  • Elizabeth says:

    Oh I want to read so badly and I cannot allow myself to buy another book. I hope I win it!!

  • Flashlight an food for when the road grows dark and lonely. I could not have put it better myself. What a beautiful review of a book I too adored. xoxoxox

  • Loving the book! Almost finished…

    Your review is terrific!

  • Sarah says:

    Pam, I’ve heard you mention thus author before. She sounds like she writes with such beauty about common struggles, as do you. I’ll enter my name in your drawing :). Thanks!

  • Wylie says:

    I am half-way through this wonderful book, and it thoroughly resonates with me. It is a beautiful story. I would love to give a copy to a friend who is also my yoga teacher.

  • Jena says:

    Beautiful review! If you pick my name, I have plenty of people I’d love to pass Katrina’s book onto.

  • Jane says:

    Thank you – I was touched by Ordinary Day….can’t wait to read this book!

  • Jeanne says:

    Thank-you for the review. Would love to win the book!

  • Susan T. says:

    Can’t wait to read!

  • Shannon W. says:

    Can’t wait to read this book…I love how personal Katrina’s writings are…it seems as if she is writing about how I feel at times. I loved her book, Gift of an Ordinary Day, and recommended it to a lot of people.

  • Karen Tandy says:

    I love her writings and have read them all. Thank you for the chance to win her new book. She talks to my heart.

  • Elaine says:

    Pamela – Cindy Rupert mentioned this book (and the book talk coming up in DC) and she kept talking about Mitten Strings from God and I kept trying to remember what person I really respected had encouraged me to read the book. And now I remember, it was you! So…now I really need to read the book – and this one as well, it sounds like.

  • Colleen says:

    Great review, love your writing and Katrina’s, too. Loved Gift of the Ordinary Day. I know I would love any book that you would write, too, because every time your blog shows up in my inbox I get through all the rest of the emails and savor your words and insights.

  • Carrie Eklund says:

    Katrina’s books always seem to appear just when I need them. Mitten Strings for God, when I was a young mother and struggling, The Gift of an Ordinary Day, as I was preparing for my oldest child to leave and go off to college, and now looking forward to reading Magical Journey as I prepare for a new phase of my life with children almost grown. Thank you for this opportunity.

  • melissa says:

    thank you for this generous and exquisite offering. katrina’s writing is truly healing balm for the soul.

  • You write about motherhood’s beginnings in such a familiar way. You sound the way I felt. Can I use the word “adrift?” It sounds like her book anchored you and allowed motherhood itself to provide gravity.

    This was my experience. I remember floating along until the moment when the nurse said, “OK you can push.” And, in those honest bursts when only exhaustion allows honesty, i said, “But I’m not ready to be a mother.” A bit late I think.

    My daughter taught me. So it was all well.

  • Brenda says:

    Thanks for opening my eyes to this wonderful writer. I loved “Mitten Strings for God” (thanks again!). I have also been following her blog. I think her message is one that I need to hear right now. Your words also affect me deeply and I check often to see if you have a new blog post. Keep writing. You are helping more than you know!

  • Jan says:

    Thank you for all of your writing. I read and re-read your posts, finding more each time through. I’ve been thinking about the buy-vs-library decision regarding Katrina’s book; you add a third option!

  • Katrina’s books are guides for me, roadmaps and talismans, flashlights and food for when the road becomes dark and I find myself utterly alone— this is what your writing is for me.

  • Laura says:

    I’m sitting here on my yoga mat, “supposed” to be doing yoga, heart racing, mind racing even faster trying to catch up with all the things on my to-do list, time just tick-tick-ticking by TOO FAST (!), seeing if I can fit in some semblance of reconnection with my *self* before a) the toddler wakes from his (all too short) nap and needs me again and b) we both pile into the car to pick up the 7 y.o from school and return home to the whirlwind of homework, feeding people, soothing upsets, tantrums (usually mine) and the yoga and the breath and the reconnection get all lost again. And here I am, laptop teetering on the edge of the yoga mat, drawn to read your review of this book which sounds like it was written for me. I know exactly what you mean – becoming friends with an author who speaks right to your heart. And I long to stop holding on so tight to fear, uncertainty, expectation. As a yogi and a Mum for whom time just seems to be slipping through my fingers – thank you for switching on this particular source of light.

  • Kate says:

    oh, motherbooks. how i love and loathe them. sounds like this one might be my cup of tea. nice, quiet, tea.

  • Penny says:

    I too am thankful for the “arrival” of some perfectly timed books during the last six years of motherhood, books I too randomly picked up in library or read a review of and just ” knew” it was exactly what I needed at that moment in time. One of the definite joys and perks of being a bookworm !!!

  • Sandy Gluck says:

    I remember the feelings you describe; they’re very close to what I felt after reading Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” Some instructions on writing and life several years ago. It’s rare to be so impacted, but I was. I’m looking forward to reading Magical Journey-thanks for the wonderful review.

  • Jackie Borland says:

    Just recently discovered the “world of blogs”. How wonderful!!! Glad to have found yours now. I just recently discoverd Katrina’s and have enjoyed reading hers and Lindsey’s. Would love to win this book!!!

  • […] Magical (and giveaway!), a good review of a book that I clearly need to read on Walking on My Hands. This single line makes […]

  • shawley says:

    What a read this would be. I’m in that weird space of feeling old here (not really old, but old-er-ish for this place that we share). Still enjoying your blog, hope you are well on your side of the pond! 🙂

  • Alana says:

    You are magical (clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so). As always, your words touch my heart. xoxo

  • “…it’s always been about coming home to who I already am.” That’s the line that captures exactly what life is teaching me daily. I would love to read about Katrina’s journey to that place. I’ve learned about her through you and then have been following her on FB. To my delight, she resides in New Hampshire and has one of those names that reminds me of the small New Hampshire town I grew up in. It was loaded with Kenisons – reading about her pulls me home that much more.

  • Cathy says:

    A friend sent your post to me…knowing it would speak to me and it has. Whether I get selected or not, I will definitely be ordering her books to “soothe the ragged edges.” Thank you.

  • Kathy says:

    I have read The Gift of an Ordinary Day and would love to read Magical Journey. Sometimes I wonder if you will ever write a book.

  • Hi Pamela,

    I’m reading, and loving, Katrina’s book now. Yes it is absolutely all about the love, the love suffused through “Magical Journey” so compassionate and like a friend, the love in your own words, and in the mysterious flux of space and time and the mystery of how it is we all relate to each other as we return to gratitude and love through the dappled struggles of loneliness, loss and intermittent dread and despair. Love falls nonetheless like snow and sunlight on all our myriad feelings, adventures and revelations and when I wonder about the point of writing I find words falling like petals upon my soul and I am revived.


  • Wolf Pascoe says:

    Well, that settles it. I have to read this author.

  • Laura Plumb says:

    Thanks for always restoring the poetry to our daily lives. You are an immense treasure, Pamela.

  • What a pleasure to read you, as always.

    I have not yet picked up this book; time presents its challenges, constantly.

    Managing disappointment. How clearly that resonates.

  • […] This takes courage.  Courage rests upon love, safety, and trust.  It’s all about the love says Pamela. […]

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