Monday, 5 May 2014

I bought poetry for my birthday.

I am currently away from home (away from home so often that 'home' is now more loose and displaced than it used to be).

I am busy with active conservation, a group effort, a relationship, people, and rhythms of life that are mostly externally determined : I mean that I am not usually waking when I like, deciding what to do with a morning coffee, and living that luxurious (though penurious) life I am accustomed to.

The details of what I'm actually engaged with are not for here. I do hope to write them up in some way, or make some illustrated record, but it matters little if I don't manage it.

But today. I wasn't sure what to do with my free day: I could have gone to an exhibition and tried to meet people. Instead I walked to a nearby coffeeshop and read a book. It was quite simply the most perfect thing to do, and I feel much the richer for it.

When you've been surrounded by people and a shared project for a while, then your mind attunes to the tasks and interactions that you are seeking to fit in with, to achieve. By stepping away and beginning a good book, you escape from this. All those conversations and unfinished aims are put a certain distance away and the fantasy or different world - the carefully worded ideas and beautiful artifice of a story - lift you up and away. I am so grateful to books for giving us this chance to develop individually: to get an input to our brainmachine that is higher/more heightened than the everyday and the milieu we are usually immersed in.

I last bought a book on my birthday - a collection of poetry. Since then I've only read newspaper articles, online news, facebook posts and sherlock holmes short stories (the rubbish later versions, not the early and quite immaculate ones). That form of shallow & short reading does not do the same magic as a proper book. But now I've had 2 hours of reading pleasure and I am the better - more unique, free, gifted - and more ready to re-attach myself to the normal world because of it. So if you're stressed, read. If you're busy, take time out. If you're unable to concentrate, then do a bit of exercise then sleep well and wake in the morning with a book of fiction to hand.

Today's book was bought for 99p from a bargain shop in Carlisle. It is in translation, which some would see as a shame, missing the original purity, depth and nuance of it. But I am fine with translation: I am happy in fact that it's a reminder of the world's greater diversity - I get a filtered version of a world that I know is richer and more varied in its language, culture, meaning than I will ever make time to access. 

I had no idea what to expect, and in fact I am barely any distance through this book: before I finish I may even learn to dislike it (often I find the final part of a book feels like a sordid 'wrapping-up' and cheapening of the opened box-of-delights and intriguing avenues that the first part reveals to us). But for now, it's a good book, and I am happy.

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