"I am alone in the dark, turning the world around in my head as I struggle through another bout of insomnia, another white night in the great American wilderness. Upstairs, my daughter and granddaughter are asleep in their bedrooms, each one alone as well, the forty-seven-year-old Miriam, my only child, who has slept alone for the past five years, and the twenty-three-year-old Katya, Miriam's only child, who used to sleep with a young man named Titus Small, but Titus is dead now, and Katya sleeps alone with her broken heart."
And THAT, my friend, is how to write an opening paragraph of a book!
Yesterday, I finished reading a different book, one that I had started speed reading and scanning through the last third because I was only curious if anything was really going to happen or if my suspicions that it would ultimately disappoint me were true. It went no where leaving a bad taste in my mouth. So much potential of story that fell flat.
Just before bedtime, I picked up this book from my to-read pile from the library.
It is cleansing my palate with beautifully crafted words that make me insanely curious about the characters written within one long sentence. A sentence that, in school, I would have received marks off as a run-on sentence. A sentence that invites all the questions.
Who is telling this story? Why is he ( or she ... we don't know at this time) alone? Why is his daughter alone? How did Titus die? How did the three of them come to live in the same house?
I turn the pages, reading more, sinking deeply into words that cradle my thoughts and more questions. I re-read certain sentences because the words are achingly beautiful and I love the way they make me feel.
Why do you love one book and not another? What makes you clutch a book to your chest, close your eyes, and sigh deeply with satisfaction? How do you qualify and quantify your reading choices?
For that matter, why does any one of us prefer one thing over another? If one thing is liked or loved by more people than another, does that really increase its worth or value? If someone else does or does not like something, does that mean that I will or will not?
Why all these questions and is this post really about why we like the things that we do?
The questions come to me when I am churning and exploring something undefinable. I've been keeping track of my reading list on Goodreads and once I finish a book, I then go and rate it. I like to remind myself later if I liked a book and why but also with the ratings comes recommendations. Can they really know though? My taste is peculiar. I don't always go for plot or setting or character. Sometimes it is about the crafting of the sentences. Always, it is about how I feel when I close the book.
What if I only read books that were recommended to me? Then I probably wouldn't be reading A Man in the Dark right now. This one made it to the book bag at the library simply because I allowed myself to wander and get lost in the stacks of books, running my hands along the spines, wondering if I could be like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and aspire to read my way through the library, beginning with the A authors. That day, I chose this book by Paul Auster. How glad I am but it may not have been so. It could have been a book that I couldn't get pass the first fifty pages. It's the risk you take by blindly choosing to try something. It's exploration and discovery.
Ah. Exploration. According to Personality Hacker (my FAVORITE source for all things personality), exploration is the way that I learn things. It's the way that I experience the world. When I try to do things or experience things based simply on the reasoning that this is how it is done or based on recommendation, I feel stuck. I have to explore.
All these words today have really been my exploration about why I have been feeling stuck lately. Exploration is missing. The reason for some of that absence is temporarily unavoidable. The move has upended systems and routines. I haven't quite gotten myself back into a flow of exploration. Ah, but now that I know, now that I see clearly the missing piece, I can begin today. I can begin to build exploration back into my life. It doesn't have to be HUGE. It doesn't have to be limited to painting at the easel. ( OH, how I have missed it. Soon, soon ... the studio is almost ready) Exploration can begin right outside my door or inside the cover of the next book.
Here is another layer to peel and understand. I HAVE been exploring ... in a different way. Maybe I am discovering that, "every experience is a form of exploration" (Ansel Adams said that).
Spending these moments, writing for myself but posting for others, clears my head. It wipes away the dust and the scum. I feel more settled with where life is right now, what is possible, what direction I am moving.
What about you?
How are you exploring today?