How do you read? I don’t mean sentence by sentence. (Smart aleck.) Nor do I mean that you attempt to out speed-read Evelyn Wood!
Maybe you read one book at a time, can’t put it down. Or maybe once you start a book and find yourself uninterested in it, you feel obligated to finish it. Perhaps you finish the book club book one hour before the meeting.
I have two reading habits: One is that I like to open a book most anywhere just to feel its world again. Maybe I want to be around the bogs of Thomas Hardy or the world I know little of that is Toni Morrison’s or James Welch’s.
I also read several books at a time. right now seven. One of them is The Long River of Song by the heartbreaking and joy-filled Brian Doyle. Here’s a passage that means a lot to me, maybe to you as well as we go through these days. Doyle writes…
Wait. First this–
I imagine you have heard it said, “How can one write about flowers at a time like this?” Or “I understand you love to knit. Don’t you feel you should be out there doing something about . . .” Or “What good is your painting going to do?”
I recall William Stafford being accosted by an audience member who shouted out, “NONE of your poems are political poems!” Stafford quietly responded, “Actually all of my poems are political poems.”
So, back to Brian Doyle —
He is talking with a monk.
“I asked him why he was a monk. How can you think what you do matters in the long scheme of things?” The monk said, “Walking helps greatly, I find. Also birds. We have a resident heron here who has been a great help to me. You could spend a whole life contemplating birds and never come to the end of the amazing things they do. There are many swallows here. They have the loveliest gentle chitter with which they speak to each other in the air. . . I want to be a monk because I think that would be a very good use of me.”
That’s when it started, during a storm
when I started thinking about
collecting the drops. And from there
it just took off into all this other stuff: light
on the underside of leaves, what the rust
peels away, the space between notes.
My brother tells me I’m wasting my time. I
tell my brother he’s right and that I’m saving
that too. Wednesday, I got up earlier than
ever and forgot what time it was and wrote
that down. I try to get out each evening
and sweep it up. When I was a kid I
remember loving plus-signs and the way
all the other kids ran off the ball field
between innings. These jars are filled
with air I collected from between
people’s toes. These boxes are filled
with the last sounds of bird songs.
I have to wait and time those just right.
these are harder to get: the holes in the
air that the birds make when they quit
singing and fly away. Over here,
these are the hardest to get. I have
just a few. These boxes. They hold
what happens just after someone leaves.
Don’t miss subscribing to this podcast. And Then Suddenly is the brainchild of the kind and brilliant Angela Santillo, whose path I’ve crossed once before while working with CavanKerry Press. Her podcast has a brilliant premise… Describe a moment in your life that changed… everything. She’s had that moment, and from it she has made this podcast. Here’s the conversation we had recently. I hope you explore many of the episodes. Because they will change you. In a good way.
We are working at rescheduling the reading at The BookNook & Java Shop in Montague thanks to the kindness of owner Bryan Uecker.
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Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.