and do you still have dreams?

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she asked, and waited

for the answer. i hesitated

before responding, watching clouds burn

above a swath of horizon

i wanted to know too

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What A Bookworm Can Learn

When I find myself feeling lost and as dull as a twig in a woodpile, books and where they go to school help pull me back to reality — a magical reality that opens my eyes to how incredible the world really is if we relax and allow it. Books grow in the womb as their writers squeeze and caress their words onto paper; after being published they join the other children and those who have already been around the block in bookstores: some in bookstores with dull dim/fluorescent lighting and perfectly ordered perfectly new books in corporate chains or in the quieter sections of one-stop-shopping grocery stores, and some in cozy bookshops with the owners’ recommendations displayed happily. They sit and chat and are books with the other novels and memoirs and travel guides until someone picks them up for good and takes them home. They then go to work: expanding the readers’ realms of possibilities: informing, inspiring, questioning, and singing.

Bookstores are extended rooms of my house. I scout out the shops in towns I live and find corners I frequent, scanning the shelves for new and familiar names alike. Powell’s on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Smith Family Bookstore on 13th in Eugene, Bookman’s in Flagstaff. They become cozy when I discover aisles and corners that whisper and shout to me, like the American History and Government sections at Powell’s in seventh grade did when I was enveloped in research about JFK’s assassination, the Government and Philosophy sections when I was on Constitution team in twelfth grade, the Poetry section everywhere since I discovered Allen Ginsberg at 14; the Nature Studies and American West section in Bookman’s during the Grand Canyon Semester when I learned how to love the land and the people who love it too. I was so confused during my two years in Eugene that although I explored I never found any sections that were right for me. Corvallis tells new stories. Continuations of Bookman’s: I have sought out the nature studies sections both times I’ve visited its two bookstores downtown. Upon returning to Portland I discovered that a new corner for me in Powell’s lay in the back section of the shop where I found my friends Rachel Carson, Craig Childs, Colin Fletcher, Barry Lopez and more. No Katie Lee or Ed Abbey there (Abbey hangs out in literature), but I already have works by both in my personal library at home. The shelf below them holds a North American tree guide, Pacific Northwest plant guide (the guide every PNW ecology and botany student must handle at some point), and a foldout bird guide. I want to be like the naturalists and adventurers I read about.

This revelation is a homecoming of sorts: it makes sense. In a time when I lack faith in the rule of law, the social contract, and even humanity (noooo!) sometimes, I still have a love of and hunger for the outdoors. Maybe I don’t know much about my land yet but I will learn. Childs, Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Lee, Lopez, and Meloy will teach me about the West. I’ll read others’ works to learn more about Oregon and the Pacific Northwest until I really begin hiking and sweating and peering at piles of rock, seeps, rapids, and mountains myself. I don’t even have the vocabulary for what I want to do, learn, and see, but I believe I can have a personal relationship with my home too. While I am on this planet I choose to learn as much as I can about it. 

 

 Two Book Recommendations for those looking for a good read:

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg, a terrific American storyteller and

The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild by Craig Childs.

Flagg’s book is a great piece of funny, bittersweet, and uplifting literature for those looking for a piece of fiction. Recommended for anyone struggling with depression or just going through a blue spell…or who just wants a good story!

Childs’ book is a collection of fascinating accounts of his encounters with various animals. Exciting information is included about each animal; I ran around the house telling people about coyotes earlier today.