Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit (Photo by Jim Harrington)

After I finished listening to A field guide to getting lost, by Rebecca Solnit, I was curious to know what she sounded like when not reading her own books.

A couple of online searches later and I ended up downloading one episode of the podcast called “On being” presented by Krista Tippett, where she had Rebecca as a guest. To my complete surprise: they were discussing her new book, which was published last year and that, among other things, explores the question of motherhood and cultural expectations attached to it.

I was about to type the passage where they talk about this topic, when I noticed the transcript was already readily available on the website. How wonderful (and what a fantastic team behind this production!).

I’d listen to the whole thing, if I were you, but if you are short for time, here it goes:

Ms. Tippett: I’d just love to have a conversation with you about this piece that was in Harper’s not that long ago, about about the choice not to have children.

Ms. Solnit: Oh, yeah. It’s called “The Mother of All Questions.”

Ms. Tippett: “The Mother of All Questions.” And part of what you were reflecting on, or a jumping-off point for your reflection, was the fact that people are so curious about that and, in fact, so presumptuous about it. And I think you make the case very quickly that it’s a valid and life-giving choice, not to have children. But in fact, the piece, like so much of what you write, becomes a reflection on the vast expanse of what it is to be alive. And so there’s this: you said, “People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfill your capacity to love, even though the list of monstrous, ice-hearted mothers is extensive. But there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.”

Ms. Solnit: Yeah, exactly.

Ms. Tippett: And you say: “There’s so much other work love has to do in the world.” I just feel like that’s so worth just putting out in public life and reflecting on.

Ms. Solnit: Yeah, and it’s partly — we overemphasize this very specific zone of love. It’s as though we’ve hyper-mapped it and obsessed about it and shone lights on it and things. And then there’s this whole other territory of relationships, to the larger world in particular and to public life, to — I hang out with a lot of climate activists, and there’s this profound love they have for the natural world, for the future, for justice. And that really shapes lives and gives them tremendous meaning. And it benefits all of us that they have this and that this motivates them, because they’re acting on behalf of all of us. And we should call that love.

Ms. Tippett: And it’s a passionate love, right? It’s a passionate love.

Ms. Solnit: Absolutely. It’s just — it’s ferocious, and it’s protective the way that mother love can be. And if anything’s going to save the planet, it’s that love. But mostly we don’t even acknowledge that it exists, and so we have these blank spots on the map of who we are. And I want to try and fill those in and encourage people to go there, to recognize that actually, their lives can take place or are already taking place there and that this will give them this bigger sense of self.

Source: On being podcast with Rebecca Solnit, in Dec 2017.

 

Audiobooks

I was listening to Anaïs Nin’s essential words uninterruptedly on Audible, while making a cup of coffee and tidying my place, when it hit me. The freedom now available to me, or should I say finally noticed by me?

The mobility, the lack of attachment to a room, a sofa, a bed or a chair. The no longer needed quiet corner, for Anaïs’ voice would muffle the external sounds. From now on, I could not only walk all around the house, but also leave it and take her with me. She would whisper her many adventures in my ears on my way to work, while I wait for the tube or travel somewhere nearby or far away. She would help me sleep by telling me a story or singing me a lullaby, when my arms are too tired to hold the heavy books I keep buying and for which I rarely have time.

It would take adapting and open-mindedness. It would mean leaving behind my conservative view about reading – one that always made me so proud, but that now, I finally understood, was based on ignorance and prejudice about new technologies for readers. Truth is that I, deeming myself a true book lover, held on for too long to the desire to turn and smell paper pages, and was blind to the most recent ways of getting to know new words and revisiting old ones.

Reading books in digital format was the first step I took away from bulks of paper bound together, and The Diary of Anaïs Nin was the first thing I read on my Kindle – at the time, still quite cynical about how natural the reading experience would feel, until I finally surrendered.

So, in a way, it is no surprise – and serendipity comes to mind – that one year after getting acquainted with my electronic reading device, my first audiobook was also by Anaïs. She seems to take me further every time we meet. To guide me into the unknown. Her thirst for new ways of living, of loving, of being. My empty glass getting fuller the more I get to know her, no matter the path through which her words reach me.

 

 

Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall

Fantastic interview with Kim Cattrall by Jane Garvey at BBC Woman’s Hour special program Kim Cattrall takeover. The whole thing is worth-listening to, but I have transcribed the part about not having children here for you, ladies:

– Jane Garvey: You have talked very openly in the past about not having children, which, I have to say, is a subject that I find difficult to raise with people. Particularly the women who appear on Woman’s Hour. In fact, I shy away from addressing the issue unless the person has come on specifically to talk about it. And so it is important to emphasize that you wanted o introduce not having children into the conversation. I haven’t used the term childless or, at least, I don’t think I have because that is offensive isn’t it?

– Kim Cattrall: Well, it is the “less” that is offensive, isn’t it? Child-less, it sounds like you are less because you haven’t had a child. I think that for a lot of people, for my generation, it wasn’t actually a conscious choice. It was a feeling of I am on this road and things are going really well. And I am very happy. And I’ll do it next year. I’ll do it in two years. I’ll do it in five years. And then suddenly you are in your early forties and you think maybe now? And you go to your doctor and she says to you, well, yes we can do it, but you’ll have to become a bit of a science experiment here because we have to find out how you can stay pregnant. We can get you pregnant but you have to stay pregnant now because your body is not producing. So it was a feeling of: well, do I really want to do that now? And I just thought: I don’t know if I want it that much. What also comes with having a child is: is this the partner that I want to spend the rest of my life communicating with in a very intimate, intimate way throughout the child’s life. So, for me, timing-wise it was was never right.  I have been married and I enjoyed very much been married, my two marriages, but we never really got to the point where it seemed a natural progression in our relationship that we would become parents.

Jane Garvey: so you didn’t become a parent and…

Kim Cattrall: not a biological parent. But I am a parent. I have young actors and actress that I mentor. I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to so I think the thing that I find questionable about being childless or childfree: are you really? I mean, there is a way to become a mother in this day and age that doesn’t include your name on a child’s birth certificate. You can express that maternal side of you very very clearly, very strongly. It feels very satisfying (…). There are many different ways to be a mom in the world.