When I moved here to California, I left behind about half the books I own. I don’t enjoy parting with anything I own — I’m attached to things that way — but I had to do it for space reasons.
One of the books I elected to haul along in our truck was titled The Best American Essays of the Twentieth Century. I remember once opening it when I bought it, years ago, and attempting to read a roughly two-page essay by Robert Frost on poetry.
I didn’t even get through the complete essay, as my lofty aspirations fell victim to my laziness.
The book perched unopened on the shelf but, after failing to find a buyer for it on eBay, I took it along without knowing why.
At my new residence, I don’t have Netflix yet, and now I’ve decided to keep it that way, at least for a while. With all the extra time — classes haven’t started yet, and at the time of this writing, I’ve been here a few days, long enough to be sort of settled in — I began reading copious amounts of written language.
This time, though, I wasn’t merely shifting fickly through online articles, skimming and dismissing half of them. I delved deep into books I’d kept on shelves to shame myself into reading them. I figured I never would, but I finally have.
A book by Stephen Pinker called The Stuff of Thought, which I’d tried to read (and given up on) several years ago when I bought it, has elucidated the mysteries of language and psychology in fascinating ways.
A reread of Rodman Philbrick’s YA novel The Last Book in the Universe recalls feeling as I did a decade ago.
A petite collection of Pablo Neruda — and reading one poem called “El Sueño” again and again — has connected me again with the beauty of my second language and of poetry.
I read several essays in a row, some of them short, funny, pointed, others long and rewarding. They varied as much as did the years in the century.
For the first time since I “discovered” reading — and I know this will sound trite, but it’s true — the thrill of discovering new worlds flowed through me. I lost myself in the language again, and fell in love.
This semester in college, by a stroke of fate I hadn’t planned, I will get to continue my studies of Spanish. I love that fate has brought me there once again.
The essential fact of it is, I have fallen in love with words again, and it is a sweet infatuation. The book of essays will continue to open and close, as once again trusting my intuition, even on a book I had owned for years and never really read, has rewarded me. I will do the same with Spanish.
And I will do the same with this essay, leaving it up to you how you’ll let it effect you. You can navigate away now and find something new to look at— no one’s looking. Or you can let it sit and sink in, let the flavor and richness of the words sit on your tongue for a bit before you hurry off to another page and another stream of thought.