South Dakota, 2010.

I am trying to gravitate towards the quiet, recently. Certain things are resonating with me. In particular, this beautiful film (thank you, Liane) and also this quiet piece on Wolfgang Liab and his pollen pieces. I am trying to focus on the slow, and the meaningful. The mystic, even.

I stopped in my favorite local bookstore on the way home. I bought an armload. I barely held myself back. I tried to photograph my bounty for you, but it is getting late, and the light is low in here already. Maybe tomorrow?

They are, in no particular order:

The Speedboat, by Renata Adler
The North China Lover, by Marguerite Duras
The War, by Marguerite Duras
The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
Go Down, Moses, by William Faulkner
Light in August, by William Faulkner

And oh, so many I didn't bring home! I lie when I say I didn't hold myself back, of course, or I wouldn't be able to carry them all. I would have bought The Sailor from Gibraltar but it wasn't on the shelves. I want a copy of that book all my own, and one to send my sister.

Books are sacred objects to me. I am not interested in the marvels of electronic reading - though that's not an argument I want to start here. Books are visceral, and weighty. They age. They smell. They hold the memories not only of their stories but of what I felt, where I was, who I was when I read them the first time, or the tenth. I have two copies of Anne Sexton's Complete Poems. One is almost unreadable. It was destroyed by the leaking water container jostling in the back of our Jeep as we roamed through the middle of the country, moving to California, taking our sweet time, weeks and weeks, living out of the car, camping in the dry heat. This book was so important to me it couldn't be shipped or stored, it had to be in the car with us; I had to have it near me. And it suffered a fatal blow. Somewhere in South Dakota I think, when we were camped 15 miles off the nearest paved road with only the water we brought in with us and our water was leaking. But despite the fact that I have since bought a second copy, a replica, the same cover and edition... the two of them still sit on the shelf, side by side. I can't bring myself to part with that first copy. Its battle wounds only seem to make it that much more important.

A few months back I combed through our titles and made stacks. I decided that only the real gems got to stay (as contradictory as that sounds given my two Sexton tomes). For years I held onto any book that I had read, especially during a certain period of my life, even though those books were certainly not treasures in any literary sense. Some were downright embarrassing. But as I move toward a new philosophy - on life as a whole, on materialism as a whole - I have decided my library shouldn't have different rules than the rest of my life. If it's not important, it's clutter. My bookshelves should hold titles I would read again and again and again, or eagerly urge someone I loved to read. Or those that I might glance at occasionally, in the midst of another thought or action, and feel comforted by their presence on the shelf.

And so tonight, the least physically beautiful book I brought home is the one I am the most excited and daunted by: Mindfulness in Plain English, by Bhante Gunaratana. This book is not pure personal indulgence, but is going to be work. And likely hard work, at that. But mindfulness is possible, attainable, available. I deeply believe this is true. Meditation, my darlings - the final frontier. And we've come full circle now, you see? Back to the beginning of this post, and the focus on the quiet, and the slow.

The mystic, even.


  1. I have that last book you mention, and I am often grateful for it :)

    1. Oh! I am not very far yet, trying to sit with it when I have only complete concentration for it. And a cup of tea.

      Do you have a regular practice for sitting? I want so badly to make this a part of my life, it will be hard - I am not the most organized and not a routine person. Any tips??

  2. Liz in Missouri, USASeptember 23, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    I've only just found your blog and yet I feel so connected somehow. I've been on this same journey - to find the quiet and the purposeful and the things that you are saying just ring true to me. I smiled at your discussion of the books, since I've gone through the same process in the last couple of years. Hundreds of books have gone to fine other homes. The choices between the books that have become a part of me and the books that were simply being stored was not always a clear line, I have to say. I also love the serenity of your photos. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. Yes, the book decisions are... very personal? There was another criteria for me, too - I thought, if you came to my house and looked at my books, it should tell you who I am, so that helped make some choices. Maybe silly, but seemed like a very serious thing to me.

      I'm so happy to read that you find a connection here - I am very new to blogging, just a few months, and I struggle with how to use this space, and what to share. But I have met so many incredible people this way, and also gotten so much out of what others do with their blogs, I wanted to be a part of this community. Thank you for commenting! It is lovely to meet you :)

  3. I just realized I meant to comment on this post and didn't. When I read it the first time, it just made sense to me. Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey with us. Through your lovely words and amazing images, it just makes sense. :)

  4. Thank you for sharing your book/reading philosophy with us. Books, music and also some itsems like bowls (for me) can hold memories and define a part of our identity, eBooks are something I have never tried. Like you I want to feel, touch and smell my books. I also want to be able to use real bookmarks :)
    Thank you dear Elizabeth for your lovely comment in my blog. Sunny California sounded so wonderful. Today we have a sunny day here too an I am off to the city.
    I hope my little parcel arrives soon and that you like that tea selection. I sure have enjoyed the one you put together for me and I enjoyed putting together the little ensemble for you. I can sometimes be slow with things and you are so right that life gets hectic too easily. It is still important to try to live each day fully and without haste.
    I wish you a good week end, Elizabeth.

  5. I am originally from South Dakota...your landscape photo reminds me of home.

    1. I was so surprised at how in love I fell with South Dakota. What an incredibly beautiful, wild place. I so, so hope to go back there and spend more time.