If “new age” is about spiritual consciousness-raising, then Alphatudes by Michele Wahlder is definitely a new-agey experience. Wahlder was inspired to write this book after a bout of insomnia which she cured by counting her “blessings instead of sheep,” which sounds like a good idea for a song. She defines “alphatudes” as “a person, place, or thing for which one alphabetically expresses gratitude.” This is how it works: you go through the alphabet naming things for which you are grateful and you meditate a bit on their meaning in your life.
The idea is that everyone will have a different set of alphatudes, and they may change. My set would start out “accordions, books” then quickly degenerate to “candy, donuts, egg nog, fudge…” at which point I would be so distracted by cravings that I’d lose interest in the theory of being blessed, and indulge in the ritual. For those who are gratitude-impaired, Alphatudes includes 26 things for which we can be grateful, such as choices, kindness, and music. The reader should look at these as suggestions, since one might not be particularly grateful for some of the things included on the list. Are you grateful for your “eXes”? I would go more for “x’s and o’s” (tic-tac-toe, hugs and kisses) or x-rays, both of which play a larger part in my life than ex- friends and lovers. I guess that means I would substitute “letting go” for “laughter,” but I’m pretty grateful for laughter, aren’t you? Okay, I admit it, I think that “new age” is code for “new things to annoy Bob.”
If I put aside my new age prejudice, though, I will admit that Alphatudes is a beautifully assembled book. The illustrations are enchanting, a mix of nature and fantasy that one finds in dreams. Each chapter corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and is comprised of illustrations highlighting the appropriate letter, a quotation about the appreciated item, the author’s reflection on the object of gratitude, and a prayer. The prayers assume that you believe in a creator or responsible entity, but instead of thanking God for bagpipes, one could say, “I hope that I will always know and understand the difference between bagpipe music and geese being strangled. One is good; the other is bad.” Self-talk can be spiritual.