Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Becoming One with the World

You may remember that I read several books at a time in addition to magazines and journals. My choice of reading material is determined by several factors: my mood, the book's portability, the amount of time I have to read.

Last month I intended to finish all the books I'd started during my year of unemployment before adding any new ones to the mix. Thought I'd make a fresh start in February.

But then I read about the Gold Rushers using camels in California (from Mark Kurlansky's
Salt: A World History), which reminded me of an ad in Bark magazine that mentioned camels used in the Civil War. Both sounded preposterous, so naturally I checked into the matter. And it's true! (The last of these camels was spotted in Texas in the 1940s.) It ticks me off that throughout every miserable history class I sat through covering the War between the States, this information was never presented. What a great way it would have been to capture a kid's attention.

Then I thought about the other ways my reading has overlapped—that three very different books each taught me something about Italy (
Eat, Pray, Love - language; Mother Tongue - politics; Salt - commerce); that Lawrence Weschler's Everything that Rises converged with a poem about the Sava river by a Serbian poet I know; that when I randomly opened The Big Book of Favorite Dog Stories, I was faced with a John Muir tale, and I'd just watched a television program about him.

My multiple-book approach to reading reminds me that the universe is one magnificent web of interconnectedness. It reminds me that I'm not alone (comforting) and I have much to learn (humbling).

So I started a new book this week, and just as the characters drove into Petaluma, California, so did my sister. There's something calming and meaningful about such happenstance. And who doesn't want a little calm and meaning these days?

[Art courtesy of Madeleine and Picasso.]

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