(photo by Sarah Whiting)
(photo by Sarah Whiting)

This one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver puts it, does not come with a manual. I read non-fiction to make my own manual, to figure out this body in this world, and how I can create a good life. 

These days, I'm reading to hang onto sanity, and what might be better ways to move forward. 

In search of new rules and new vision, I'm looking to women, healers, and especially journalists. I love their capacity to ask big questions and to question authority.

Didi Pershouse is one of the authors I have found to have fresh ideas. She runs a home-based clinic in her Vermont village. Her book, “Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities,” explores acupuncture, growing food, and the value of cultivating soil. 

A friend spoke aloud about “Vagina: A New Biography” — the most arresting title of my life. I rushed to get a copy. Naomi Wolf's journalistic instincts were revved by a personal loss of libido. She writes about how all of us have unique nerve pathways, explores foreplay and masturbation, and also points out the inadequacy of our masculine history. 

I went on to Wolf's earlier work, “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women.” That book examines how insecurities were increasingly the focus of stories and advertising in many women’s magazines — as more women entered the workplace.

I’ve also been reading about how our brains have been imprinted with the masculine. Barbara Ehrenreich's brief pamphlet, “Witches, Midwives, Nurses,” shows how even women's province in healing was co-opted by men. 

Theologian Mary Daly points to language being so masculine that balance cannot be found without new words. I especially enjoyed her books “Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy” and “Amazon Grace: Re-calling the Courage to Sin Big.” 

Women are now the majority. Ideas that were once separated are now intersecting, thanks to greater capacity for asking big questions and seeing the big picture. Environmentalists are joining with immigration and reparation advocates, alongside other justice seekers, to magnify possibilities. 

This holiday season, meet your mood, massage your mind, delight yourself.