BOOK REVIEW: Costanzo Gives Life Lessons for Peace, Tranquility

by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen

Charlene Costanzo follows up on her well-received book, Welcome to the World: The Twelve Gifts of Birth.

Here, she utilizes her frequent trips to Sanibel Island as a springboard to her collection of essays on what she identifies as the many gifts that we have inherent in each of us—intangible, sometimes inchoate virtues, that each individual, and by extension, each living thing, has some part in.

Beauty, Strength, Flexibility, Courage, Compassion, Joy, Hope, Talent, Imagination, Reverence, Wisdom, Love, and Faith—at least some of these qualities can be found wherever you look, whether in the mindfulness of the moment, the spiritual journey of self, the beauty and resilience of nature.

Each, in Ms. Costanzo’s musings, can be meaningful, and influential in the way we see, the way we behave, and the way we treat ourselves and the world about us.

In the author’s frequent visits to Sanibel Island, her walks along the beaches, and through the botanical gardens, create frequent encounters with plants, both familiar and unknown. These encounters lead her to musings: sometimes about mindfulness in the present, but often about a memory from the past.

Occasionally, these meanderings devolve into stream of consciousness thinking that may be hard for the reader to follow. On the other hand, which of us does not have this experience of one thought triggering a story, or a memory, often from childhood, that leads to a realization of how we have come to the place where we currently exist?

Reading of Ms. Costanzo’s journeys in spirit, philosophy, and mindfulness perhaps may help readers guide themselves along a positive path through all or our would-have, could-have, should-have moments.

Each essay is preceded by a quote from some other creative or positive force. Her extensive knowledge of inspirational sources is demonstrated by the wide variety of sources, from Mother Teresa, to Walt Disney, to Richard Wagner, to Robert Fulghum, and to many others along the spectrum. Most I recognized; some I had to look up. For me, one of the gifts this book has given me is an entrée to sources of thoughts I had not previously explored.

She also accompanies much of the collection with delicate pen and ink drawings of the plants to which she refers, enhancing her meticulously crafted descriptive sentences of the places in which they can be found.

For this reader, the whole of the book cannot be consumed in one or two sittings. Reading a few of the essays, and taking time to think about them, is enlightening. Admittedly, some spark recognition of my life and experiences more than others. I suspect though, that I will return to many of them more than once, as life, flora, and fauna change daily.

Especially in 2020, this is a resource for mind, character, spirit, and love. We can all use life lessons for peace and tranquility.

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