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Meditations for a New Century

About this book

Winner of the Wandering Aengus Book Award


Meditations on fire, on pain, on a rat, on needlepoint, on stamps, on hair, on Gandara . . . where do they take us? Ever wider and deeper; sometimes to laughter, sometimes to tears, sometimes both. We move from the physical to the metaphysical, from the personal to the political, from the specific to the intangible and ineluctable.



From Lucy

The impulse for these essays was born in meditation. For decades I resisted the Western trend toward Buddhist sitting. The mind seemed to me designed for thought. The notion of emptying it of thought felt pointless. I would try plunking myself down, my legs in a clumsy half-lotus, shutting my eyes and counting five breaths over and over for ten or twenty minutes. Nothing in my life changed, and I let the practice go. Only when blood-pressure concerns prompted me to explore routes toward calming my overactive heart did I give meditation another try. I have since found myself drawn, each day, toward spending a period of time dwelling within its given moment.


Some pieces were conceived and originally published as meditations. Others were published as essays, and it is only in looking back that I realized I was beginning to adopt the habit of dwelling that identifies them, to me, as meditative. Thus there is a range from more to less linear, from narrative to impressionistic; a range in the essays' ability to answer, or interest in answering, a question like "What is the point?" Some essays require more of the reader than others. In my experience, the more salient a narrative or persuasive arc, the more a reader can put herself in the writer's hands. When the point is not to make a point, but to gather and concentrate one's attention until the thing blooms in the mind, the reader's active participation becomes an essential ingredient. We have to meet each other halfway.


What people are saying

"Lucy Ferriss's meditations reveal an agile and curious mind at play, as one thought leads effortlessly to another. She can leap from a single musical note to ideas about mediocrity, code-switching, funambulism, and the Quakers, choreographing it all into a coherent and luminous whole." --Carolyn Kuebler, Editor, New England Review


"Lucy Ferriss's modern-day meditations are harrowing, whimsical, elegant, and probing. These beautifully composed pieces are small miracles of the essayist's art, and few writers at work today are as deft as Ferriss at finding wonder and meaning in the ordinary, the overlooked, the unusual, and the familiar. This is a writer you want to spend hour upon hour with, reveling in the cadences of her prose." --Sudip Bose, Interim Editor, The American Scholar


"These splendid, wide-ranging essays are filled with moments of hard-earned wisdom and deep realization: with each of Lucy Ferriss's experiences, I found myself admiring the thoughts and questions from where her writing so intelligently takes us. This collection should be savored and widely read." --Allen Gee, author of My Chinese America


"'Meditation on Hair' probes its subject, pushing here and there, turning it on its side this way and that, to catch, in James Merrill's words, 'a steadily more revealing light.'" --Marcia Aldrich, author of Companion to an Untold Story