weeds, water lillies, and soft-hearted stories

I was sitting beneath a willow tree, taking photographs of the water, when a woman passing by told me I should follow the path around to where I would find water lillies. After a while I did, and was surprised by a large and brightly coloured carpet of them at the edge of the water.

I took a few pictures, but in all honesty I'm not much interested in bright, perfectly beautiful flowers. I like best the wild weed flowers that tangle amongst bushes and through the long grass. No one's going to advise me to follow a path so I can find them, photograph them, but to my eyes they are the loveliest of all flowers.

I like stories that are wild weedy tangles too. I like knotted layers, rambling threads, and things unexplained. Today I read a quote on Facebook - "A comfort read reinforces the readers’ and writer’s mutually agreed-upon ideas of how the world works, and it has its place; it’s entertainment. But literature challenges our fondest beliefs—about the world, about other people, about ourselves." - Dawn Raffel.

I managed not to comment on the Facebook post itself, but the feeling of annoyance stayed with me. Why do we suppose that "literature" is more valuable than "a comfort read"? My heart and thoughts have most often been touched, deepened, changed, by lowbrow fiction books - perhaps because they are so often written from the heart, and furthermore written not to challenge beliefs but to connect with the reader, empathise with her. I know we are a martial civilisation and that we do value most highly things that challenge us, provide conflict, uplift us, tear down our assumptions, and so on. But I personally treasure more the books that embrace me, sing along with me, open the world to me, and draw me in gently, with a welcoming smile. I guess you could say feminine kinds of books, although many of them are written by men (Robert MacFarlane is one example.)

Stories like weed flowers. Growing rich through the broken trees, deep in community, part of the real dirt world, rather than special and bold.


  1. I agree. I tend to drift towards comforts reads. There is something to be said for words that affirm. They feel like personal handshakes or even hugs from the writer. They make me feel understood.

  2. i will find joy
    when our snow cloaked earth
    makes way
    for the weedy flowers

  3. I love both the lilies and the tangled wild flowers as they are both a part of nature and of life.

  4. I spent far too many years reading nothing but non-fiction. I had some kind of youthful urge to fill myself up with all sorts of dire information, as if steeping trouble in my own head might brew solutions. It didn't. I still enjoy non-fiction but steer toward positive books that fill me with science, history, collaborative economies and other fascinations. But I mostly read fiction. Lots of it. My idea of a perfect evening is a good book, a comfy chair (or spot of green grass), and all the time in the world to do nothing but read.