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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Living My Reading

Before my trip to Portland I read the Penguin Lives biography of Charles Dickens, by Jane Smiley. It's a fascinating book about a fascinating man. Of the strangely wonderful qualities of Dickens's character, the one that puzzles me the most is his enormous energy for writing. Every month during the years when he published his serialized novels he wrote thousands of words a day, and not any kind of words, not rough drafts, but rich and bubbling with life. Serendipitously, the Portland Central Library has an exhibit that contains the real, flesh-and-blood (so to speak), installments (nineteen, total) of "David Copperfield." I noticed them by accident on the third floor of the library as I paused for breath after climbing the stairs. Seeing the thin blue notebooks with the title inside a wreath-like border printed in black ink made my day. What curious ways real life and books have of intersecting.

I had another moment like this when I went to a Planetarium show at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. I felt like I had stepped, as a invisible marginal character, into Alice Munro's story "The Moons of Jupiter." Even the story's spoiled kids squirming in their seats and asking for snacks were there. I had a profound moment of fear during the show. The Milky Way galaxy appeared above my head, with a tiny arrow pointing towards its edge where our solar system is; then the galaxy grew larger and larger on the screen and rushed at me in all its awful glory before fading to make room for the next display. I felt so crushable, so small, less than a speck on the face of all that exists. That was a moment when I wished I believed in God. Faith would have been a comfort, a way to explain me sitting there in a dark theater feeling terrified by the infinity of space.

And now a contrast, calm and comfort that don't require the divine. I spent hours at the Classical Chinese Garden today; I was so happy inside that I never wanted to leave. Nooks and crannies with stones and bonsai trees; the water lilies; the reflection of pavilion roofs in the pond; the carved gingko wood screens; the waterfall -- I couldn't get enough of them. But no more words; here's a picture.


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