Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Consolations of Good Books and the Natural World

We are back from one of our great southeast driving trips.  We went to westernmost Georgia, to a newer Lutheran church camp, Lutheranch.  It was great to get away to such a different part of the country.  We walked in the country, petted horses, listened to geese:  all sorts of things we don't do in South Florida.  The moon rising over the lake was so bright that it woke us up at night.

On Sunday morning, I stood on a small dock to take pictures of the sunrise.  I heard no noise generated by humans or machines.  How rare is that?

For me, it's very rare.  Even right now, when it's very early in the morning, I still hear all sorts of humming from household appliances.  And I fill the silence with NPR shows that I've missed when I've been away.

In the sky, I could see planes flying away from the Atlanta airport.  We were only 60 minutes away from the airport, so I wasn't surprised.  We were far enough away that we didn't hear the noise.  Interesting to be so close to Atlanta, but still no human noise.

I got a lot of reading done, since I have no smartphone and there was Internet connection.  Even if there had been, I'd have tried to stay unplugged.  I get so little time to read.

I read Jodi Picoult's Lone Wolf, which I enjoyed thoroughly, in all the familiar ways I enjoy Picoult's work.  I devoured Nathan Englander's What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank--also a great read.  But the best book of the week-end?  Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, which was so wonderful I'll likely write a separate blog post about it.  I needed hope and uplift, which I wasn't getting from the Englander book.  So I switched to L'Engle, and spent a day enchanted, just as I have been every time I read that book, just as I have been every time I pick up anything written by L'Engle.

Last week was an extremely tough work week:  more lay-offs announced and this time we're losing some department members.  The comforts of good books and nature do not reverse those losses, but it was good to remember their consolations.

I like that L'Engle takes an unblinking look at the world.  Her characters have much to oppress them, from high school to a disembodied brain that keeps everyone under fascist control.  But to read L'Engle is to come away with hope that hard battles can be won, and so few authors can pull off that delicate balance.

Soon I will lace up my running shoes and head out to enjoy a different aspect of nature:  the ocean, a different consolation.  And then I will head back to work and try to stitch together the fragments.  I will keep the lessons of L'Engle front and center in my mind.

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