Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Can you make your own sandwiches, kids? Mom is reading right now.

I'm in an antsy, restless, transformational phase in my life right now.  I know the signs.  I've done this before.  Many times.  

Sometimes it looks like a disconnect.  Staring out the window, and one of my children has to tap me to get my attention.  Forgetting the pasta water is boiling. Lying awake at night, with an almost aerobic sense of wondering.  Anticipation, but not sure exactly what I'm anticipating.

These are the times in life that are most brightly-colored.  Almost shimmery in my mind.  Heightened awareness.  Looking for clues or messages about where I'm heading next. 

Sometimes it's about geography.  Wanting to travel, explore. Right now, it's just about figuring out my new life here in Richmond.  What I'm going to do, who I'm going to be.

Transformational period or not, if Gil mentions a book to me, I read it.  Maybe it's because I respect his writing so much, and reading is so closely tied.  Maybe it's because, years ago, he passed me Milan Kundera after shaking his head in stunned wonder: "You're going to Prague? And haven't read Unbearable Lightness of Being?" He introduced my younger-self to great writing and songs that opened entirely new sections of my life.  

He was a writer like me, but better at it.  He was a reader like me, but better at it.  Knew more books, more poems, more authors.

So when he mentioned to me last week that he's always re-reading A Moveable Feast, I sent it to my Kindle. 

I don't always know what the catalyst will be in these transformational times.  But for this moment in time, that book did something to me.  I've read that book....er, maybe it was more like "skimmed it"...years ago and didn't feel the power in it.  But it was an event in my life this time, reading Hemingway's thoughts -- how he created sentences using the same words I use, but in ways I could never have imagined.

I couldn't put it down, until I was almost at the end...and then I turned off my Kindle, because I didn't want the book to be over.  When I told him I loved the book, he said that Just Kids was the best book he'd read last year.  Another Kindle download.

I have always thought I loved reading.  And I do.  But I learned something in the juxtaposition of these two books, in this "shimmery" period of my life.  

I love words.  I love new words. Foreign words, that capture something specific for which we have no English counterpart.  How someone brilliant puts words together to create an entirely unique idea or moment. 

I told Gil I felt like a literary-zombie, carnivorous and starving for words that resonated with my deepest layers.   I've been reading non-fiction, because that is a part of me too.  I adore immunology, and could talk about gut flora and IgG reactions all day.  Economics, of course. Biographies, yes, and I thought the Steve Jobs one was fascinating. 

Those, though, speak to my logical brain.  My thinking side.  I love learning and absorbing facts. 

But this last week, I learned just having a book to read isn't who I am.  I want the artistry of words, not just the content.  That there's an important part of me that wants to just feel a book.  To find a sentence or a word pairing that ignites me...connects with me.

After I finished those 2 books, I downloaded Great Gatsby to re-read.  I liked it before...a lot...but thought there was a chance I could fall in love with it an entirely new way.  Hemingway talked about what a great book it was.  

Steve said I'd like Dostoyevsky, that Crime and Punishment was a complex, philosophical book about morality vs. the law.  He said he'd re-read it with me, so I could talk about it with someone.

Remember that period of French cooking, when my children were getting elaborate dinners?  Now, they're getting pancakes and scrambled eggs or "whatever you can find in the fridge, kids" while their mother walks down the hall while reading her book. 

I know this is not a sustainable reality.  This devouring of the written word at the expense of doing actual life-tasks.  But I think these periods of extremes teach something important that does sustain.

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