Dear Blog Reader
I hope that this finds you doing well. I am fine. I know that I have not posted for a while. That is not the same as I have not written for a while. Around Easter, I started a blog about a complicated subject. I worked it and reworked it and in the end it was not publishable. The work was not a total loss. I got it written about. When a topic climbs into the idea hopper, it has to be the next topic written about. There is no cutting in line. I noodle it around until it is completed. It is one of my basic coping skills to keep me sane. And it works for me. So now I am just like Prince (the purple one). I have a vault of unpublished work to be released posthumously. All the better to increase the value of my estate, and give my children something to fight about at a future date.
There is a paragraph from that other blog that I wanted to share. On Easter morning 2017, I believe that I saw a first in my 54 years. We were getting around, putting on our Easter suits. I had rifled through the easter baskets and traded (swapped) all of the licorice jelly beans for any other kind in the lovely Miss Beverly's basket. Then, I witnessed my very first rainbow to the west. We seldom have the edge of rain move in with the sun low enough in the sky to the east to project the light spectrum someplace over Carmel. I suppose Jim Brainard figured out a way to spend enough money to get it done. It is a bit ironic that Jim, the Carmel mayor, would have "brain" in his name. (A little local humor. I apologize to all of my French fans for the lack of shared context. But there are some central Indiana folks who just blew cereal milk out their nose.)
Rainbows are a bit sneaky like that. They are one of nature's phenomena that help convince us that we are the center of the universe. When I said that the rainbow was somewhere to the West, I meant that it was west of me. I am the pivot point. All of the hundreds of eastern rainbow were simply east of me. For rainbows, I am the center of the universe and all rainbows get their relative positioning base on my center of the universe perspective. Is it any wonder that I never find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? I am simply chasing something conjured up with me as the pivot point for the entire universe. While being the center of the universe is an easy place for my mind to visit, it usually means that the rest of me is rarely doing something that is conducive to actually earning a pot of gold.
I mentioned that I had worked on a blog for several weeks without a successful completion. During this time, another idea was crawling into the hopper. The idea of recommending a book that I was reading to all of my readers in the You Said What Roger? Fan base. I suppose that from the center of the universe I was sure that Amazon would suddenly have a run on this book and not have the cash flow to buy Whole Foods. There is a lot of pressure at the center of the universe. So I am not going to give you the low down on this great little book that I have not only read once but have read multiple times and I simply love.
No, I don’t think that I am going to send hordes of reading barbarians to the storehouses of Amazon. I am reticent because reading a book and finding it incredibly enjoyable is a very personal activity. That is something that the lovely Miss Beverly and I had to learn in our marriage. I would recommend a book and she would barely get through one chapter before setting it aside never releasing the spine glue from the death grip it had on the unturned pages. She would recommend a book to me and it too would go unread. Finally we learned that sharing books is not the same as sharing a life. We do find books that we both like. We even find some that we both like with a great passion. However, mostly I go to the murder aisle and she plumbs the wells of authors who beautifully describe the mysteries of life.
Ten years ago, I stopped organic farming and took a normal job that paid me for my labors every two weeks and provided the opportunity to pursue hobbies like writing a blog. It is a normal job. However the commute was not normal. For 10 years, I have spent two hours a day driving back and forth to work. Books are the only thing that have made this daily trip bearable. Ten hours of listening a week for ten years has made it not only bearable but enjoyable also. Ten hours a week for ten years is a lot of books. Plus, bike riding hours have had stories whispered in my ears through blue tooth also. So I have had the opportunity to listen to lots of books. Mr. Carnegie through his foresight and philanthropy and the ability to compartmentalize his life between union busting and establishing libraries, has provided me with the opportunity to listen to an nearly unlimited supply listening materials.
Some people would say that I have not been reading books for the past 10 years. I have been listening to books for 10 years. You will get no argument from me. I listen to the credits at the end of a book and from time to time the publisher thanks me for being a audiobook reader. Equating listening and reading is playing fast and loose with language. (Yes, I do see the irony.) I don’t mind admitting that reading takes much more concentration and focus than listening. I can listen to all of my mystery novels and describe the plot faithfully at the end. I cannot read a non-fiction book. My mind wanders and I get through a paragraph and think that was important but I did not catch it. I could never teach myself brain surgery by listening to books on tape. I am sure that would get the pre-frontal cortex confused with the brain stem. It seems to me that you don’t want any parts left over when reassembling a brain.
Yes, you readers are superior to us listeners. However, there is one little trick that I as a listener can do that a reader can’t. I can relisten to a book and have memories of the physical space that I was in when I listened the first time. I have three or four authors who have created a story or a character that speaks to me so strongly that I listen to it a second time (maybe one or two authors that I would listen to the third time.) I was doing a revisit this past weekend and I was able to relive five days of bike riding from last year’s summer vacation. It was a week of riding through the back roads of norther Indiana. So, as John pulled his gun to clear the room, I was mowing the yard and turning left down a small hill on a tree lined road. I stopped pedaling and coasting along took a drink from my backpack. That is when listening to a book brings me intense joy and a mental juxtaposition that has never happened to me when reading.
So who are those three or four authors? I made a mistake of answering the favorite question a long time ago. The interviewer wanted to know what my favorite book was. I blurted out The Great Gatsby. It wasn’t my favorite book. It was the most recent book that I had read for a college class. So I was able to stand up to her withering cross examination. I was able to remember the meaning of the stupid red light off the end of the pier. I answered her questions but I don’t think that I convinced her that it was my favorite book. It was a passionless discourse on the technical points of a book filled with characters that had no connection to my life. It was a good review for the test I was to have the next week but it conveyed no passion that would translate into a job.
The favorite books that I would share with you are all ones that are favorite for very familial reasons. The lovely Miss Beverly and I believed Barbara Bush when she told us to read to our children. So we read. We read the Lorax, Good Night Moon. We read the Trilogy of the Rings while Ben and Grace were very young. I have no idea what we were thinking. Grace recently shared that she had never read the trilogy and can’t remember a single plot line from the books. It all ended someplace in the middle of Harry Potter. These are all fine books and we spent hours together reading and listening. Yet the time together was better than the books themselves. Although, I still wonder how Tolkien kept us following the band of rescuers following the orcs that had captured Peregrine and Meridoc mile after mile across that stupid plain. I still wonder how I got across without skipping a few thousand pages.
My favorite book? The greatest of all time? I decline to answer. I think that “favorite book” has more to do with the frequency of your internal tuning fork. The things that make you tick. I have had books that make me cry. I love books that describe courage in dire testing. In fact if you are driving through southern Madison County at 5:00 a.m and I am listening to one of those tests on a bike ride you will hear me sobbing and gasping for breath. I also enjoy listening about people who enjoy themselves and who they are becoming.
The author who wrote the book that I was listening to for the second time last week, wrote in his foreword “The book, in time, found its people.”
So get out there. Expose yourself to books that are looking for their people. See which ones vibrate your inner tuning fork. When you find the ones that cause you to sob at 5:00 a.m on a dark country road, you know that you have a candidate. But for goodness sakes, don’t go telling everybody. You don’t want to spoil the finding for everyone else.