I was at the Dusty Bookshelf the other week for the first time in many, many years. In retrospect it's all a little silly the way I carried a purse only housing my journal and a planner as I moseyed up and down Mass Street in my bubble tea stained dress that afternoon. Unaware, I found myself staring at the walls of stores I could barely afford to stand inside multiple times before I ever thought to wander into the Dusty Bookshelf.
There's a warm sort of heavy air that immediately softens your skin and hugs you as you step inside the bookstore. I followed the smell of the paper and the creaks in the floor through the store, and to no dismay, I was on the ground with eight books binding my person in the poetry corner within seconds. The letters and words, and words and sentences, and oh god the syntax: I ran my finger over each comma, each colon and semicolon and always found a way around the period because I wasn't ready for it to end - not just yet.
Some time passed before I placed the books I had once hugged back onto the shelf one by one. I stopped when it seemed I had accidentally picked up a book that I had not looked at, nor remembered seeing earlier. I looked around to see if someone else had let it lie there on the ground by mistake but there was no one in sight. The cover was a rustic white, with a dandelion scribbled in black ink. It was titled I Touch the Earth, the Earth Touches Me by Hugh Prather.
My mind was blank but my heart was full. I excitedly flipped the book open to a page, any page. In the margin the previous reader had side noted it as beautiful.
I think the process of "being real" as the shuttling of my attention between a feeling and an appearance, between inside and acting-out. But "being real" does not mean that I am only allowed to shuttle between my behavior and my strongest feeling. My behavior can match whatever in my I wish it to match. "Being real" is simply being aware of what my actions do in fact match. To think that I must always behave in accord with what I feel most is self-reduction, whereas at any moment I am free to act on any dimly felt and long-neglected part of me: to be a ham, to be strong, to flirt, to cry, to be totally silly, to dance, to play peek-a-boo or stick out my tongue. And if this feels phony because it has been so long since I have responded to this in me, still it is not phony; it is me; I am doing it.
I read a few more pages before I turned to the preface, which ultimately led to my purchase of the book. His words made my worries dance in my head, and suddenly they weren't so worrisome.
Tonight at dinner I tried picking up my glass with my left hand instead of my right and didn't feel quite so self-assured. It was a nice feeling.
I was in awe. His writings were a collection of his most random and profound thoughts scribbled in various notebooks. In poetic rhythm, these words captured his discovery that there are no answers in life, and the best he knew to do was to trust his present experience and follow wherever it led him.
Tonight I discovered nature. For the first time I saw it. For the first time I didn't look at it, I listened to it - not with my ears, although I did that too, but with my eyes. Instead of pushing out at it, trying to understand it, I let it speak to me. On my left, some distance away, was the highway. From there I could hear man-man always arriving, never quite there. Then I looked at the stars. They were silent, and powerful beyond all effort. They were stars being stars and therefore brilliantly alive . . . how puny words are about stars.
I wish I could blame Prather and his words for what happened the following week. For the first time since my childhood I attended a family reunion. My, how time stands still as it flies by! That night, I locked my keys in the car, which happened to be okay. I was in no rush to get back to my post-graduate life because I selfishly wanted to stay with my family for as long as I could. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed so hard I cried. It was nice to feel that again.
I was lying in the sandy driveway at my dad's farm, basking in the glow of the stars. It had been so long since I had seen the night sky shine so bright. That is when it everything sort of fell into place. The bushes next to my car were meowing, somewhat in fear and somewhat with desperation for help. That is when I found four abandoned, starving kittens. That also is when I became a new mother of four kittens.
I was a crazy kitten lady, which I suppose requires much more work as opposed to a crazy cat lady, but still less than a real mother of quadruplets. I'm not much of a fan for cats in general, but for a week I nursed the kittens back to health before I returned them to my dad's farm. And, in that week, I felt and saw
a new kind of happiness with every claw scratch and night of exhaustion, and that occasional what the hell am I doing?
, the simple joy of doing what only a small part of me wanted to do was completely evident.
Instead of blaming Prather, I thank him for changing the way I view this obscure world. His book is like the cheat sheet to a simple, happy life with a great reminder that now
is all there is. As a small town girl and a recent college graduate trying to navigate the world at large, I learned that my whole world is in my heart. And this is where my life started, right here on Mass Street.