This morning is tranquil and leafy green here in my friend Catharine’s living room on Providence Street in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s 5:32 a.m., and I’m wide awake. Aaron and I arrived back in the States this week for a month long summer stay reconnecting with our friend-family on the East Coast and our extended families in Ohio and Kentucky, and we’re both still jet lagged. It’s been three years since we’ve been back, three summers since packing up the vintage Harlequin dishes and the hundreds of books and the cats and the corgi and moving to The Netherlands, and I’m realizing my internal pendulum that swings mightily from family ties to individual independence has swung back again towards balance. I need to respect both my need to be away and foreign with my very real need to be here and rooted in all my lives, not just my new one in Europe.
Aaron is in the opposite denim IKEA armchair clicking away on his Netbook and I am here in the matching armchair thinking about the episode of The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor we listened to yesterday morning. Coffee mugs steaming, I had jumped when I heard Catharine shout from her bedroom upstairs that The Writer’s Almanac was on, telling me to hit the green button on her Bose radio in the architect-designed kitchen cum living room extension. While I scuttled over to the machine, Catharine’s voice floated behind me saying, “Whenever I hear The Writer’s Almanac, I think of you…in my mind we’re in your kitchen in Ithaca, New York and we all stop to listen to the poetry.” There’s a pleasurable wistfulness there in her voice and in my memory of those exact moments in Upstate New York, and I thought to myself that it is a wonderful thing to have good friends and shared poetry to help remind you who you are and where you have been.
As always, June 24th’s broadcast was full of discoveries and directions for reading, while including a rather incongruent bit about Jack Dempsey the boxer, which must have been thrown in for a further dash of Americana. Catharine agrees that Dempsey was an odd addition to the literary line-up, and now I’m wondering if that kind of willful digression is standard for the program whenever there’s a dearth of writers’ birthdays and I’ve just never noticed before. Other birthdays included St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic and poet from the 1500s, and Ambrose Bierce, the American short story writer who was born in 1842 in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio, our home state, and who at the age of 71, full of heartbreak and cynicism, took off from San Fransisco to Mexico during Pancho Villa’s revolution and was never heard from or seen again. These names are now humming in my brain, so when we head to Daedalus Books later today with our friend Patrick, after a brunch at Miss Shirley’s Cafe in the nearby Hampden neighborhood, I’ll be hoping for book-synchronicity again with the right book showing up in front of me at the right time. Maybe this time, though, I’ll be helped out by a Baltimorian bookseller: “What can I getcha, hon? Some Dark Night of the Soul or The Devil’s Dictionary?”