Arranging the Pieces… Find ways to enjoy relaxing

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By Tabitha Bozeman

Each spring, I take my creative writing class on a field trip to Birmingham. We go to Reed Books and the Museum of Fond Memories, owned by Jim and Liz Reed, who also edit and produce the Birmingham Arts Journal.

Reed Books is one of my absolute favorite places to visit. If you’ve never been there, you need to go. It is part used and antique bookstore, part museum of ephemera. There are posters, postcards, political pins, plastic wall hangings, dolls, paper dolls, folios, vintage comics, paper airplanes, mobiles and so much more. The bookstore is a little nook in downtown Birmingham that holds space for yesteryear and allows patrons to browse for newish books alongside antiques. I always look for the miniature books at Reed and have found several that are smaller than an index card.

My students really enjoy these trips, and many of them have never been to a bookstore of this kind. Seeing much-loved books and items that tell stories by their inscriptions and scrap paper bookmarks is often a new experience. Sitting in the floor while flipping through an old comic, chatting with the owner about publishing poetry or photography and what books to read, sorting through old posters and laughing at The Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story is a marvelous way to spend a morning. I hope we get to make the trip many more times.

It is that time of year. The pollen is starting to cause headaches and sinus issues. Spring break is two weeks away, midterms are just barely behind us and everyone I know has Spring Fever.

We are all ready for a break, for a change and for a rest. It’s as if all the anxiety and stress from the end of last year has finally caught up with us. Finding ways to de-stress can be challenging when the weather is as crazy as it is in Alabama this time of year, especially if you really just want to relax.

My go-to is usually reading a new collection of stories or re-reading a favorite book or even writing some stories of my own. Research shows that just six minutes of reading can lower stress by up to 60 percent.

Reading a good story, being swept away by the characters and plot, learning about something new, and exploring the life of an historical figure can lower your stress and anxiety 68 percent more than listening to music, up to 300 times more than just taking a walk, and 600 times more than gaming.

Lately I’ve been on the lookout for other de-stressors and feeling a little stir-crazy, so making art, going for a walk and taking a drive to Birmingham has been relaxing.

Last week, I had the opportunity to combine crafting and nature at a workshop for the Cardinal Arts Journal hosted by the Windy Van Hooten Teaching Garden in Whorton Bend. I had not been there before, and it is an incredible space. About a dozen of us enjoyed the rainy fresh air under the outdoor pavilion, complete with a fire in the giant fireplace. We gathered sticks and leaves and painted and taped and crafted together. It was one of the best days I’ve had recently, and I left feeling refreshed and relaxed.

This past week, I enjoyed another refreshing day when I took students back to the bookstore in Birmingham. We walked downtown, admired the jasmine and redbuds blooming everywhere, found some books, ate delicious food together and listened to music. It was a lovely day and did a lot to decrease my cabin fever.

Tonight I think I’ll curl up and read a few of the Doris Lessing short stories Mr. Reed sold me from his Museum of Fond Memories.

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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