My life is essentially a collection of piles – piles of paperwork, stacks of coasters, mounds of laundry, bowls full of jewelry – tiny collections of the tools and trinkets that I use to carry out my everyday life.
Most recently I have accumulated a great number of books. Used books, borrowed books, new books, ebay books; books for pleasure, books for school, books that I’ve read, books that I want people to believe I’ve read, books I’d like to believe I’m going to read one of these days. And for the first time in a long time I’m actually reading through the piles of books that surround me. I take them to church, bring them on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport), haul them to school, keep them in my car. The books and their stories have begun to take over my life. (This afternoon I was looking for a collection of essays and found it lying underneath my hair dryer). And for the moment, I’m okay with that. Despite all of my best intentions as a reader and writer and lover of words, I really do a terrible time of establishing regular reading habits. But it is reading that brings me new ideas, causes me to think, and broadens my perspective.
I recently finished a book called “Letters to a Young Scientist.” It was not for class. It is not a page-turner. It is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. But the stories contained therein let me learn about a world I don’t really belong to and introduced a way of thinking I don’t usually consider.
I’ve read stories about things I don’t want to consider – like AIDS and pedophiles and lynching and betrayal. Stories that make me uncomfortable and squeamish. Stories that let me learn about worlds I wish didn’t exist.
And I’ve read stories about lives that I wish I could live in. Stories about father-daughter tenderness and first-day-of-school butterflies; about slow soft first kisses and French doors opening to azure seas.
In remembering what I hope for and confronting what I fear, I reach this strange sort of tension between real and imagined worlds. And in the middle of it all, I am writing my own stories – stories about worlds I really have experienced; places I’ve lived in and people I’ve loved. And in those stories too I find what I hope for and what I fear, and I am left to balance the tension that drives the story of the life that I live.