I will have to admit it: I am a big-time book junkie who has been on standby for far to long. I don’t know exactly what it is about books that I am most attracted to either—is it their potential for revelation and escape or simply the smell of the pages as they flip slowly beneath my thumb and forefinger.
One of my favorite past times is to browse through a big book store in search of the perfect title—the one that will finally tell me everything I have always wanted to know and then some. I exagerate but just by a little bit. It is exciting to find a book that says “read me” and then follows through on its promise.
Also—it is summertime and the tv is lousy—what with repeats of last season’s stuff or the bottomless pit of song and dance reality shows and superficial summer mini-series broadcasts.
It is book-time in America and that is alright with me.
I am currently surfing between books about re-discovering authentic Christianity and poetry that I am finding on my own and some that have been recomended to me. Like the other day I was in Black Bear Books, a local bookstore/coffee shop/wi-fi stop on one of our town’s main drags. I happened to mention a book of poems I had just read and of course the helpful clerk behind the counter told me of another book that she had read by a relatively unknown poet Darnell Arnoult. Arnoult is a women who currently lives on a small farm outside Nashville, Tennessee—having lived in Virginia and done a stint in my own North Carolina.
I found the book titled What Travels With Us on the shelf and suffice it to say was taken in by her words almost immediately. She writes with a distinct southern drawl and sensibility that I have never encountered except for those few times I have wandered off the beaten path in and around the counties I live closest to in the Appalachian mountains of the same North Carolina. It is a book you could read from cover to cover but often need to pause for a time to refect on the simplicity and shear complexity of her poetic paintings of a world that not many have the fortune to touch or come close to.
In a poem entitled Springhouse she packs a few years into a few well turned sentences that leave you filling in the blanks almost without thinking.
Buck Waller saw a
surveyor marking bounaries
at daybreak. Made Buck
right curious. Come next year ole
Buck jumped to a mill whistle.
Same surveyor begged
a cool drink from Ma at the
springhouse. Then they married.
Fore long he got hired
to drive sixteen penny nails
ground to roof. Retired fixing looms.
Quilters and planters,
milkers and miners, all got
baptized in streams of
eternal cotton spinning
thin and breakneck into yards
and yards of Jacquard white road.
Ma, she spun and spun
till she spun herself white.
She spun herself plumb fuzzy,
a dust mote on the mill floor.
Come one day, she floated off.
And that is just one small poem in a book that turns out to be a little to short but long enough to think about your own life and how it is broken down into little pieces of poems that generally get discarded in the process of getting ready for the next day.
One of those moments came my way as I was sitting in my easy chair in the living room of my house and letting the evening swirl around me like a cool breeze. And I wrote:
As the ceiling fan
stirrred the June air
above our heads, my youngest
daughter asked me how much
money I spent on feeding
An innocent question perhaps
but one that revealed something
in her mind but I really
can’t guess what.
“Why do you ask”, I replied—
thinking that maybe they could
find their own food as I
added up the bird food receipts
in my mind.
It is almost never a nice
thing to think about
the money we spend
on our hobbies
I guess I should maybe think about my own book one day.
In a book I am reading by Donald Miller called Looking For God Knows What, Miller says that, “…poetry is a literary tool that has the power to give a person the feeling he or she isn’t alone in their feelings and emotions, that, though there are no words to describe them, somebody understands.”
And I have to say a hearty Amen to that.
I guess the question which begs to be asked at this point is are we ready to live our lives as if they really count for something—if what we have relegated to the hum drum of life isn’t just a little bit more exciting than we have ever allowed ourselves to imagine.
If, as I believe, God is everywhere and we are currently surrounded by the molecules that make up this earth and our own substance—why can’t we begin to see the poetry and painting and song that lies just beneath the surface of who we claim to be and those we come in contact with.
Enjoy your ride.