An Abstraction on a Book and A Study of Chains
If you’re like me, you’re surrounded by books like their being there might keep you safe from harm or boredom or from just being dumb-looking, but hopefully you’re really not like me at all. I hope you actually read the books sprinkled throughout your home. One of my special gifts is to read the first 35 pages of about 200 books a year. This alone should explain my love for poetry, how I can drink it all down in one swig. I’ve only got time for sips, not so much in a guzzling stage of life with four sons at my table.
A few weeks ago, I was in a nervous airplane, and I bent a brand new paperback, Anne Lammott’s Grace (Eventually), as much as I could, like you would to the bill of a cap to make it frame the face. A new book is better than a new car, smells better even. I read everything before I start the prelude, the back and inside the cover where a friend wrote a lovely note. After much adoration, I began, and my heart raced with thoughts at first. I interrupted myself thinking how great it is to be still and also that I may even finish a book, and before I knew it, the wheels were skidding across the runway, and two hours had disappeared, and I had read half the book.
As I shut it I realize I had had my hand in my crazy hair, and I felt wild eyed, knew I had been laughing uncontrollably, and at one point I had cried and used my sleeve for my dripping nose. I had completely loss self awareness. It was just me and Anne, my very best girlfriend by now, and we’d been on a trip together. When I flew back to Arkansas, it happened again, and I did finish the entire book. If you want to borrow it, you must give it back. I’ll need it sitting right here next to me with all these other books, right by my planner and Bible as a reminder.
The concrete things in our lives are what gives our stories weight. What separates my story from yours is the difference between our experiences and memories made around these objects. The same books may be sitting right next you. What book doesn’t invoke certain connotations?
Like the Bible. Does it make you shiver like a cut-throat side laser-beam from your mother’s eyeballs during church? Does it fill you with such dull dread that even the thought of wiping dust from it wears you out? If you were to let it slip open, where would it land from that last time you had bent the spine back and held it open on itself, front touching back? Was there ever a circumstance that made you hold the pages up over your mouth and try to wring it out, pour it in?
Right now mine is newish with paper that sounds like tin tissue. The entire scene is rote, tame, with its coffee. The pages are stark, missing the ink and desperate underlining of my young twenties.
Today is Day 2 of A Study on Chains, and my first challenge is my overwhelming self-awareness, my habit of self-judgement, wondering what I look like or if I’m being disruptive. Part of this is maturity, but a great deal of it is my withholding affection toward God and not accepting Grace. A great deal of it is unbelief.
This is a heavy one, so I’ll spend some time slipping out from under it, the chain that holds me far in worship: self-awareness.
On Mondays I write on writing, which means that mostly I’ll write out spirit by practicing a little with the concrete things in my life and maybe in a fictional life. We’ll see. If you want to mess around with these little prompts, send your readers this way, and link up below. At any point this week, link below to any concrete post you’ve written about a book. Practice writing, the craft; share it with us. Next week’s topic is on A BOY. Make sure to use #concretewords on twitter. Thank you always for coming here.