Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Journal of Days

I don't live by the calendar. I don't like planning ahead–not usually anyway, but sometimes you just have to. Even then, often times, the plan needs to be thrown out and you just have to go with it. Life is one big improvisation act when it comes down to it. Your musical score evolves and changes, adapting, playing off off the other musical elements that come your way.


But I do mark certain things on the calendar, things I don't want to forget, like this past Saturday, one of the local library bookstores was having their half off everything sale. I woke up early to avoid potential crowds. It wasn't that bad when I arrived. I only had $10 with me and I had already told myself that I really shouldn't be buying books anyway. I went in and walked over to an empty table and browed through the "trade paperback" titles. Lots of duplicates. Book clubs reads I imagine. Many of these books I could just as well check out at the library, but I picked them up and held onto them. I've been wanting to read Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden for some time now. With the book in my possession, I have no excuse. And then I saw The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne. I loved this book so much. I remember how it touched me deeply as I was immersed in Turkish culture and was fascinated with the weaver, Nurdane. I hadn't forgotten about the book, but the author and title of the book had long escaped me after having read it so many years ago; the characters and the story though never left me. I look forward to rereading this wonderful novel.

There were two women talking over in the children's book section, which I quickly scanned. No children's books today. I then went over to whichever fiction shelf had an open space to browse. There was an older gentlemen in front of me. He would pull out each book. I tried to see if he was looking at the covers and then I saw that he was quickly glancing at the blurbs on the back. I don't know what I was looking for. Familiar titles? New titles? I wanted the books to find me. Next I saw an Elizabeth Berg novel: The Pull of the Moon about a woman who when she turns 50, packs up and goes away, leaving her husband and home behind. It sounded intriguing. 

I continued fingering books, looking at the spines, recognizing books and seeing many unknown to me. How to choose? As I collected the books, I kept my budget in mind, adding up to be sure I wasn't going over my limit. If I saw a book that sounded interesting, on flipping through it, if the print is too small, I put it back wishing the print were larger. My eyes can't handle the fine print–that's too bad. I love looking at books spines, often the first window into an unknown book. What does the title tell me? How does it speak to me? And then artistic side: How is the titled presented? Which font? All caps? Authors name on the top or the bottom? Black letters or white or some other color? The words on the spine: clean or busy spine? And then after taking it all in, I take the book from the shelf, examine the cover, reading every small bit, then flip it over, open to the first pages, flip through. A decision is made.

The next book that made it into my hands was The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber. I've never heard of this one and if I didn't get it today, I would forget. If I wrote it down to remember for later, I might not get around to reading it. 

I was becoming tired of browsing and hungry too. And it was becoming difficult to browse comfortably with someone hanging in each corner. I had to change my position several times so that someone could pass. I heard someone call her father on the phone. "Hi Dad, do you have the Home Depot Home Improvement Book? How sweet. 

I saw a copy of William Zinsser's On Writing Well. I laughed because I bought a copy at The Salvation Army a few month's back. I laughed because I already had a copy. Now I have two; I didn't want a third. I've been reading it in slow spurts again. I like Zinsser's sense of humor and well I like reading books on writing even if I've read them or just peeked at them. It's just something I enjoy.

Earlier there were two people sitting at the writing reference section. I wasn't planning on going in that section on that day, but as I was getting ready to check out, I circled back and it was empty. I looked and looked. Lots of writing books, books on books, literature, education, dictionaries. What did I want? Did I see something that wanted to come home with me?

I saw two books that made it into my small stack: Howard Gardner's The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts and Standardized Tests, the K-12 Education that Every Child Deserves; and How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. I have a vague recollection that I had seen this second book before and made a note to come back to it. I couldn't pass it up for $1 and flipping through, Mr. Foster seems to have a great sense of humor.

A part of me really didn't want to leave, despite my hunger knocking around in my stomach, and the stuffiness pressing down on me. I took one last stroll and the last book I settled on, not knowing if it would end up clicking with me or not, but deciding to get it anyway is Thomas Steinbeck's Down to a Soundless Sea: Stories. I want to love it because it's stories about the history and culture of California. I hope I do.


Sunday was a simple day. We decided to walk into town and get some fresh baked bread from the Farmer's Market. I haven't felt especially inspired in the kitchen lately, so dinners have been a mix of take out and last minute planning. I need to do better.

The highlight of my morning–well, two highlights–one was as we began our walk. The chatter of this one little bird was so rich, such a strong, chattering voice that I could hear as though the little dear were singing into a microphone and the still air were his speakers. I looked up, up, up, into the tree until I set my eyes upon him. I saw his rouge belly. Ah, so it's you, I said. We continued with our walk with birdsong in my head.

The next highlight on our walk was a beautiful tree, stark against the white backdrop of the morning and there in its branches a different bird. I pulled out my phone to take a few photos. Hubby walked on as he said "C'mon, it's just a tree." We don't share the same appreciation for these little things and that's alright. I don't force it on him, although he hears point out this and that and sees me stop often to take photos. He doesn't mind. He jokes with me. I didn't budge of course. I will stop to take in the beauty and take my picture. When I was done I saw that he had made it a ways down the path, so I did a slow jog to catch up and off we went, walking into the beautiful day.


Yesterday I decided I needed a new journal–I needed to get back to "morning pages." I have a journal I've been writing in this year. It still has the last part of December. It didn't feel like a fresh start. The last notebook I got was at the .99 cents store, so when I paid $2.99 for a 90 sheet notebook if felt like a lot. I guess you could say, I really really like a bargain. A few days ago I started going through books to donate. I wish that I could let go of more. I'm not there yet. I also thought it would be a good idea to start going through old notebooks and tossing the ones that served their purpose. The pile isn't that big because a few years ago I went through a similar purge and tossed out a lot. 

Last night I sat down with two of my morning pages journals. I started skimming the pages. Most of it was just what the title of the notebook said and there wasn't much of interest, except a couple of jottings and a few dreams. The dreams are always the most interesting. I tore those pages out and threw out the notebooks with all those scrawling of every little thing that I was thinking or going through. They were memories that I no longer needed to hold onto.

Last night marked the night that I began morning pages, only it became my evening pages and this morning I continued and wrote in my new notebook and then I came here to the computer page, which in a way is a continuation–it was a kick start. I may as well write while I can. There are potential changes in the future...whenever they might happen...and well, it will change our lives and I may only be able to scribble a line here, a line there. Who knows. As I say that, I suppose, it will work out. I'll just have to be careful...time and responsibilities and all. 


Optimistic Existentialist said...

I love spending hours and hours in book stores. I used to do it a lot more frequently than I do now. Good times :)

Rebb said...

And at least if the bookstores continue to dwindle, we still have libraries! : )