I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been reading very much lately. I have three library books out and I’ve already had to renew them once. That gives me four more weeks to finish them before they’re due. I have also borrowed two books that I need to read and return. I hope to get all five done in a month’s time. It’s my Return to Reading challenge.
Reading is a habit, but, unfortunately, it’s one that is easily broken. I forget for a few days and suddenly it’s two weeks later and I haven’t read a thing. It’s bad for my brain and it’s especially bad for my writing. No one writes well who doesn’t read well. Fortunately for me I have chosen two spectacular books to read first. I don’t usually start one book before I’m done with another, but it was by happy accident that I discovered a book while at my in-laws’ house. My extremely well-read father-in-law had checked a book out and I was intrigued by the title and picked it up. I was hooked by the end of 10 pages. So, it’s two books this week.
The book I picked up is Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Jannise Ray. Ray is a Georgia gal from the small town of Baxley, located about 78 miles from where I live. The book is about her quest to save the longleaf pine ecosystem. The subject hits close to home. In the last month I’ve seen acres of pine trees cut down around my home for, I assume, another neighborhood of houses no one can afford to buy. I normally wouldn’t read an “environmental” book because, quite frankly, they’re preachy, elitist, and dry as dust. Ray is different. It’s a book about conservation, yes, but it’s so much more. It’s about her hard childhood and her effort to escape the embarrassment of living in a junkyard in the poor South. It’s about her family and her connection to the land. The story of her life and the history of the longleaf pine are woven together in a beautiful tale of loss and hope.
The creation ends in south Georgia, at the very edge of the sweet earth. Only the sky, widest of the wide, goes on, flatness against flatness. The sky appears so close that, with a long-enough extension ladder, you think you could touch it, and sometimes you do, when clouds descend in the night to set a fine pelt of dew on the grasses, leaving behind white trails of fog and mist.
At night the stars are thick and bright as a pint jar of fireflies, the moon at full a pearly orb, sailing through them like an egret. By day the sun, close in a paper sky, laps moisture from the land, then gives it back, always an exchange. Even in drought, when each dawn a parched sun cracks against the horizon’s griddle, the air is thick with water. (pg.3, Introduction to Ecology of a Cracker Childhood)
The other book I’m reading is The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I’m only halfway through this one but I absolutely love it so far. I have a feeling it might end tragically but it will be a pleasurable pain. With writing this sublime, how could it not be? It was translated from French, and I can only imagine how much better it would be read in its original language. The story is told by super-intelligent 12-year-old Paloma and Renee, a concierge in an elegant Parisian hotel. I’m not going to go into the plot. I’d rather you discover that for yourself.
So, we mustn’t forget any of this, absolutely not. We have to live with the certainty that we’ll get old and that it won’t look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that it’s now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. Always remember that there’s a retirement home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity.
That’s what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people. (pg. 129, final paragraph of Profound Thought No. 8 )
Note: Both these books are available at thriftbooks.com