Tag Archives: Karen Walrond

2: The Beauty of Different

The Beauty of DifferentThe Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I’ve been reading Karen Walrond’s blog, Chookooloonks, for a long time. If I remember correctly, I found it via BlogHer when she was writing for them and I was researching blogs. I searched my archives and this was the earliest post I found that mentions her. (It’s a long post; the quote’s at the very bottom.) And, aha! that quote is from BlogHer, not Chookooloonks, so there you go.

Anyway, no remainder table this time around. I found myself with an Amazon gift certificate so I decided to use it to pick up a few of the books by writers whose blogs I read and whose books I haven’t been able to find locally. (I wrote about this topic a couple years ago.)

New Books

So, The Beauty of Different. It’s a coffee table book, so let’s talk about the format first. It’s a squarish hardcover with a dust jacket. The size is nice—big enough to show off the photographs, but small enough to hold in your lap. And the quality is good–thick pages, with a shiny-matte finish. Hmm, that sounds like an oxymoron, but nope. Not glossy (that would show fingerprints) and not rough-matte (textured). Shiny-matte. The photographs are clear and bright and the typeface is easy to read. There’s more than the usual amount of text for this type of book, so that’s important.

Onto the content. Like I said, I’ve been reading Chookooloonks for a long time, so I knew what to expect. If you want negativity, you’ve come to the wrong place. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. No, really. Karen has addressed this issue, noting that while her life isn’t perfect, on her blog (etc.) she chooses to focus on good things. I understand this. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve come to realize that when I’m feeling sad/angry/[insert negative emotion here], doing something nice for someone or being grateful for something makes me feel hella better than stomping around ranting about whatever’s pissed me off. Anger is overrated. (Which is not to say you should bottle it up but, you know, let it out, then move on.)


Chookooloonks showcases a wide range of photographs: nature (flowers and leaves and rocks and things), places/travel, still-lifes (shots at home, at cafes, etc.), people (in action), portraits (self and otherwise). One of her ongoing projects is to photograph 1000 faces. These are very up-close (face only) portrait shots. Many of the photographs in the book are this type of photograph. In the book format, many of the faces are larger than life-size.

I enjoy the variety of the photography on her blog and would’ve liked to see that reflected more in the book. The up-close portraits are not my favorite. This is not a comment on the quality; they’re lovely photographs. But– well, there are a couple things. With so many portraits, it’s a bit like looking at someone else’s photo album—if people kept albums of 8×10 head shots. I do understand that the portraits fit with the book’s theme, but I prefer the shots that are pulled back a bit, that show a bit more of the person and their surroundings and aren’t just FACE! While I think the just-face shots are probably very meaningful for readers who know the individuals, pulling back a bit lets those of us who don’t in.

For example, one of the extended profiles is of Patrick (on page 54ff.). His portrait shot is pulled back a bit further than most, showing his neck and shoulders and some trees and sky in the background. I think this was probably done to show his collar (he’s a priest), but this photograph seems more approachable to me than some of the others because his face doesn’t take up the entire shot. But even better are the additional shots that accompany his profile: an action shot of him boxing, a close-up of his hands in boxing gloves, and a shot of the items on his desk (I assume). There is more of a story in these photographs than the just-face shots and I think that’s why I like them better. They give me more reason to linger.

Despite the format and number of photographs, I think the focus of The Beauty of Different is really the text. The book is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on a different quality (individuality, spirituality, imperfection, anxiety, heartbreak, language, adventure, agelessness). Each chapter includes an introductory personal essay, several portraits of different people (each with a quote starting “I’m different because…”), and an extended profile of one person that takes the form of an interview/conversation. There are also a few briefer ruminations at the end of each chapter.

On p. 118, there’s a list (Eight Things I’m Afraid of, but Other People Probably Aren’t). Number 2 is clowns—because they’re horrifying. Indeed. Number 7 is geese. Because one tried to attack her car. I can best that: I was actually attacked by geese and had to beat them off with a magazine. I managed to escape to the car, but not before one bit me. So yeah. Geese = evil. I also liked the bartender-generated list of things to do on a Really Bad Day (p. 150), because it sounds like a list I’d make. The book is like that. It’s like… an affirmation rather than a revelation.


Wonderful Secrets

When I think about the things in my life that have given me the greatest sense of accomplishment, in each case, I told very few people what I was attempting to do — I would just privately start taking the first steps, and then slowly work toward it, before letting anyone know (for example, I didn’t tell most people, including my parents, that I was thinking about going to law school until after I got accepted).

I think there’s something delicious about taking baby steps toward something that you dare yourself to do, all-hush-hush-like, with only yourself or, at the most, a few confidants knowing.  I love the feeling of “if they only knew!” that happens when you start to make progress.  I think there’s something to be said to having wonderful secrets about what you’re capable of doing, only to be revealed in due course (or, never to be spoken of again, if that works, too).

Karen Walrond

omg, yes. This! I also didn’t tell anyone about law school until I was accepted. I love having secret projects, like running or school or writing or whatever. Outside pressure, regardless of how well-intentioned (soooo, how’s that Big Project of yours coming?) doesn’t do anything for me; it just stresses me out (makes me feel like I haven’t done enough, I’m going to fail, etc.). It’s so good to know I’m not alone in feeling that way.

On the other hand, I sometimes think that people interpret keeping quiet about a project to mean that it must not be a big deal—when in fact it’s the opposite. Just because I like to quietly work at my goals doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate once they’ve been achieved. If anything, I want to celebrate more. After all, I’ve been saving up. Not counting my chickens until they’ve actually hatched. So when I share my achievement? Break out the party hats and noisemakers!

The need to be perfect

If we treated ourselves as if we were someone we really truly loved, the need to be perfect would fly right out the godforsaken window.

I mean, think about it:  do we require perfection out of the people who we really love?  The people who simply light us up — if they make a mistake or are less than perfect, do we stop loving them, or love them a little less?  I’ll strongly wager we don’t.  So why don’t we do this for ourselves?  Our imperfect, awesome, worthy selves?

Karen Walrond

A certain number of miles that we needed to cover

When I was a kid, my parents were huge fans of The Road Trip. … In [my and my sister’s] view, there was nothing quite so boring as looking out the window of a speeding car, just to see a blur.  The worst part was that my father never took meandering trips anywhere, or trips filled with plentiful stops to do child-friendly activities in quaint local towns that my sister and I might find entertaining.  Oh no, there was a certain number of miles that we needed to cover each day, and by God, come hell or high water, Dad was going to make that number. “Look, kids!  Sea World!” he’d exclaim, as we sped by.  And then, when we’d get to our destination to spend a day or so, the main point of interest on our itinerary, the place where he’d want us to spend hours of our time, was usually somewhere like … Yale University.

Karen Walrond

omg, hilarious! This had to be the quote of the day. We never went to Yale, mind you, but we did once go to the University of Saskatchewan. (To be fair, we also went to Sea World. 😉 But there were always miles to go before we slept…)