Two and a half years ago, when I wasn’t paying close attention, my husband sold our house in Maine and bought one in Virginia in less than a week.
To clarify, I knew we were thinking of such a move. I knew he was perusing real estate ads on the internet, but for me it was just an eye twinkle; for Gordon it was a ready-to-hatch plan.
We quit our jobs, tossed half our Maine lives into a dumpster and moved the rest in a U-Haul. It felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. In fact, I had. The rugs unrolled beautifully onto oak floors. The furniture landed and grew comfortable in cozy spaces. I settled, but I’m still on shaky ground. (Mother Nature ‘s not helping: last summer we felt earth move under our feet as an earthquake’s epicenter was a little more than a stone’s throw away.)One way I find my footing is by reaching for and seeking out the things that have given me pleasure: yoga mats, swimming pools, woodland paths, beaches, poetry, books. Some years one predominates; others another, like animals on the Chinese zodiac – only more random and repetitive.
2011 was the year of the book. Books have been my ballast. My joy.
Books and I go back. In my mind’s eye I know the shelf where I might find the entire series of animal tales by Thornton W. Burgess in my hometown library – a stately Victorian brick building built in 1900 which no longer houses books. I recall how at 14 or 15 I got caught reading Leon Uris’s Lust for Life under the covers with a flashlight. How at 16 I stayed home from a school dance so I could finish Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth. One college summer, when I still believed in tans, I covered my limbs in baby oil and worked through all of Tolkien on a lawn chair. English major in college. Ditto, graduate school.So this is an old habit, one I have indulged this year.
I have not done so much reading since I was in graduate school. Luxurious full days of reading. I had a lot to catch up on. I began with books passed my way – The Help, Cutting for Stone and moved on to read books that were making headlines – Freedom, the Millennium Trilogy, then to recommendations -- Paul Harding’s Tinkers, Ron Powers’ The Echo Maker (a favorite), and Generosity (a not-so favorite), Jennifer Egan’s The Keep (another favorite) and A Visit from the Goon Squad. I hit the library and caught up on all the Michael Connelly mysteries (favorite mystery writer) I missed over the years. Paul Doiron, who is also editor of Down East Magazine, where my friend Virginia Wright works, has two Maine mysteries (also favorites). Recently I was enchanted by Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and wowed by Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot and quietly moved by Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table. Other writers I read this year include Geraldine Brooks, Jo Nesbo and Ian Rankin. Oh, and a few Patricia Cornwell (no longer a favorite). The list doesn’t include the not so memorable – because I don’t – remember them. I no longer carefully read or even finish mediocre books that go blah, blah, blah.