As daily news of violence unfolds, the question of what we're doing and what we leave behind seems to loom ever larger. I'm hungry for order, logic, beauty, looking for understanding. Poet Mary Ruefle writes, "Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world." Exploring other voices and wanting to stay based in reality, my own reading choices have veered to non-fiction. My reading lunchbox this summer has a mixed bag of author goodies selected, arranged and presented like a book bento.
There was gasoline to set a house on fire, a wronged wife, a dead husband and a sister in danger, with suspected crooked law enforcement agents and politicos galore, so nobody could be trusted. At this critical point in the story, my audiobook loan inconveniently expired. My book was deleted from my app's bookshelf, leaving me waiting in suspense while several people behind me with holds finished their borrowing and my turn came up again.
In the same way that reading the last chapter first can make you want to start a book from the beginning, looking at a photograph can leave you wanting to know the story behind the image. Sometimes a photograph can even inspire you to invent a back story.
If you happened to look up into the second floor windows of the Library on a recent Friday evening, you'd have seen figures moving in dim light. You might have seen the figures dancing. You might have seen them hugging. You wouldn't have seen the tears. Or the boots kicked off on the floor and the heels shed. Inside, library staff bid their fond farewells to our departing Executive Director, Leslie Burger.
As daylight hours shrink and the news expands our worries, perhaps we're all looking for spiritual and inspirational light more often these days. When fear's giant shadow blocks our view, we're left wondering what we have to hope for. When the unknown and the unthinkable preoccupy our minds, we yearn to invest our energy carving out safe and known refuges, gathering with cherished friends and family, and shoring up our strength with familiar beliefs, traditions and rituals. We need big magic now.
We all crave an escape from our everyday concerns and routines - some experience or adventure to energize us or tilt our perspective away from the ordinary. I recently read an account of a friend’s unusual experience early one foggy morning. As she walked alone in her yard through the mist, she “felt comforted by unseen hands.” When she returned later, as the fog lifted, she found “thousands of glittering threads, a multitude of intricate webs… a message for me created by hundreds of baby spiders.”
Our connected world can be bittersweet, with daily reminders of time passing, momentous occasions celebrated, vacations spent, meals enjoyed, companions met and partings taken. This past month, I lost a beloved teacher, Alan Cheuse. Here I want to pay a small tribute to his spirit and life's work.
Now, more than ever, I find myself in a love-hate relationship with my smartphone. I love the convenience of reading a magazine, listening to an audiobook, playing a podcast, plugging in my headphones and enjoying music, or reading an ebook from the small electronic device I carry everywhere. At the touch of a fingertip I have available the world at large, together with the smaller universe of my own personal contacts. My camera is always with me. So useful. So many possibilities. So much potential for connected burnout.
Crossing Witherspoon Street from the library, the shiny blue tiled Arts Council of Princeton building beckons, a Graves design. Scattered in rooms throughout my home, there’s a small but mighty collection of beautiful everyday objects, practical to use, pleasing to view and to handle. I live with the gift of Michael Graves’ creativity every day. Not a day goes by without my taking a moment to appreciate this man’s work.
Mark your calendars. The Princeton Environmental Film Festival is being held this year from March 19 through March 29. You can keep up with news about, and find official selections for, the ninth annual festival on our PEFF website and the PEFF Facebook page. Our planning committee is a real community effort, with enthused and dedicated people from all walks of Princeton life shaping an exciting series of films and presentations.