Friday, February 4, 2011
A Gem on the Shelf
This afternoon before heading out the door to Bethie's gym class, I grabbed a book from my nightstand. I usually have three or four books going at a time. I like variety. During gymnastics I tend choose a lighter read so I can watch the flips and absorb the syntax simultaneously.
But today I grabbed Annie Dillard. I wouldn't call it heavy reading, but her words are so poetic and intricate and mind-bending that really only a few pages can be absorbed by the human brain at a time. I have picked through her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek before. It's mesmerizing and unusual . . . thoughtful, stark, raw.
The volume I own, given to me by Jamie, is actually a compilation of three of her works. After reading a few pages of Tinker Creek, I flipped to the back to see what The Writing Life had to offer. I was sucked in right away:
When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory . . . .
I know what she's talking about. So often I find myself in new territory as my pen trails ahead of me. I begin with one thought in mind and by the end of the page my words have taken me on an unexpected journey, often with unexpected results and sometimes even with an unexpected change of heart.
As I read, I marveled, "These words have been sitting there on my shelf, waiting to be read. But only now do I discover them. Only now was the time right . . . ."
I had a similar experience a few years ago. I was down with the flu and in desperate need of a diversion. I grabbed the nearest book, which happened to be Heidi. I had never read it and figured I might as well go for it. It was one of the most delightful books I had ever encountered. And there I sat thinking, "This book has been there all along. A gem on the shelf, waiting for just the right moment to make its way into my being, to become a part of who I am." I was thrilled. From that time on, I viewed my book collection differently. What other gems were awaiting discovery?
There are still many unread titles in my home library. I long to someday absorb Anna Karenina and Bleak House, Les Miserables and The Portrait of a Lady. Someday the time will be right. Right now, I'm familiar with their covers. Someday, though, I'll be familiar with their content. Someday those words will make their way into my very self, lines of words digging a path for me to follow, lines of words taking me deep into new territory.