Well, I have stopped working, and started writing–at least, I’ve ordered my large, single-shot cappuccino with chocolate (always) on top. And I’m sitting next to the window, which is a start.
Do you want to hear a story?
I know you do, and I’ve been longing to tell one: à la Katherine Mansfield. It’s about a Pear Tree. Not a real pear tree, of course–it’s all symbolic. It’s not life, but still-life, awash in moonlight. Like paintings of fruit in bowls, dipped in milk. Grapes that bring the carpet up to the table, or something like that. Sunflowers in the bathroom. The raw throats of open crocuses.
Time is thicker in old libraries. Particles saturated in silence move more slowly; the librarian’s voice is deep and full as a church bell. The well of knowledge is deep, but not dark. As you scale it, the light cascades through the opening and plays softly with the flyleaves. Ancient bindings make love to one another, back to back. Cursive handwriting grows over the walls.
Once Upon A Time, a man in a library told me a story.
A woman came to visit me, inquiring about a letter her grandfather, a missionary, had written. She had searched every library in the world and was told to come here, the last place, the only place they kept the bibles. She came down this staircase, and stood here, where you and I are standing. When I found the paper her grandfather had written and gave it to her–the moment her fingers touched it–she burst into tears. This is the paper his fingers touched, she said, sobbing gently.
It was then that I knew the power of artifacts, the power of words to bring bodies together, to almost, physically touch.
These are the moments that C.S. Lewis called Joy. A feeling of incomparable ecstasy, whose core is silver-white stillness. A green sprout in a glass jar. A fiddle in a velvet case. A childhood memory. Alpine air. The Pear Tree. When everything is slightly brighter, slower, sharper than usual.
And I thought to myself that this man, living in this little room with his books and his moth-eaten sweaters and his mind-a-whirring, this man had found true happiness: a happiness that does not come in the form of champagne, caviar, or cashmere socks; a happiness that permeates the body and expands beyond it to the edge of the forest.
It’s a long way. But with any luck, we’ll find each other there.