Thursday, June 4, 2009


Because I knew the line would be long and the wait uninspiring, I grabbed a book on the way out the door to the unemployment insurance office. "Still Life with Woodpecker" by Tom Robbins. It was just the first book I saw on the porch shelf, so, despite the dust it had accumulated, I grabbed it.

Sure enough, the line was long and the waiting stretched out on all sides, so I opened the book and read about 50 pages. I had enjoyed Robbins in the past for his ranging quirkiness, his combining and juxtaposing of apparently unrelated ideas, and I found myself enjoying it again. It was artful, if a bit too artful after a while. It was more up my alley than a lot of other novels I could think of. I liked the mind that had created this stuff, but after 50 pages, I had had enough.

There are several hundred books on the porch shelves here and probably twice as many sitting untouched in the basement. Most of them I have read, some more than once.Novels, history, a little science, biographies, some poetry, and probably more spiritual advisers than any sane man might need. Once, I had read quite a lot. It was a habit -- a couple of novels a week, or maybe one fat history book ... it was part of the landscape of my days.

But sitting in the unemployment office, I realized that I really would rather step outside for a while and watch the grass grow. So I did that. The grass was green and unremarkable and lacked any apparent quirkiness. It was just grass after all, artless as salt.

If asked, in a day and age when reading is in decline, I would say that reading is a good thing. It offers up possibilities the reader might not have encountered before and possibilities enrich anyone's life. Being stupid is pretty stupid assuming you can avoid it. Not everyone can avoid it -- and the bottom line is that we are all stupid in one way or another -- but making some effort is a good idea. Reading opens the mind even as it helps to close the mind off. It's a good thing.

And yet I no longer read much at all. In saying such a thing, I can hear and make up the caterwauling of those devoted to the wonders and wonderfulness of reading. But still, these days I am not much different from the local councilman in (was it?) Kentucky who explained his vote against building a local library by saying he only owned "one book (the Bible was implied)... and that's enough for me." The difference between him and me is, perhaps, that I own more than one book and none of them is enough for me. I'm not against reading, but I guess I am more content with my stupidities. Or maybe just lazy. Reading is just not something I do much of any more.

Make a mistake, correct it ... that seems to be enough.

And here I sit writing words someone else might read. I suppose I would like to think someone might read it and consider it, but in the end, writing is just my style. A plumber is a plumber. An astronaut is an astronaut. It's just the way things turned out. Writing is something I enjoy. It pretty much falls into the category of "how do I know what I think till I see what I say?"

I guess I like to think I'm just growing with the grass.

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