Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I am not one for bookmarks. I own them, but I never use them. Whenever I get a new one from the library I insert it cleanly into the vertical lines of my over-desk cubby (the one chock-full of thank-you cards without matching envelopes, expired coupons, un-filed pictures and a small Klutz book on juggling.) This cubby holds just a taste of all that I will never get around to doing. Learning to juggle is at the top of the list, but that's another post.

Bookmarks. I don't think they're for people like me. I think they're for organized people...those who read one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one evening at a time. I think such people borrow one book from the library at a time (and quite possibly return them on time.) I imagine these bookmark people yawning at the close of a particularly exciting chapter, even though the heroine is dangling at the edge of a cliff and the crocodiles in the gorge below are snapping their jaws in anticipation.... I imagine this tidy reader settling the stiff rectangle of card stock neatly into the crease of her book and then snapping it shut with a settled sense of satisfaction that I'll never have.

Her bedside table doesn't have a leaning Tower of Pisa book pile, three water glasses and some wadded Kleenex balls littering it. She doesn't cast around, when stopping for the night, for a scrap of paper or an old Reader's Digest open inelegantly on the floor. I do. I rip off the back cover, the one with the drawing of American Life on it. And I place it in my book. And I put the book in a pile of other books, all half-read, with jagged pieces of postage-paid postcards, magazine ads and thank-you note envelopes sticking out of them.

Then I collapse into a deep sleep. Because I could never stop at the end of a chapter. Never. I always stop somewhere mid-way through a chapter, a strategy I adopted from my habit of reading until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Midway through a chapter, I've found, there is quite predictably a lull in the action, or a long, descriptive paragraph. On these small safe islands I can rest before plunging onward with the crocodiles the next evening.

I love to read. I love the smell of libraries. I love books and people who love books. And honestly I love the idea of bookmarks. They suggest, kindly, that one might want to stop reading sometimes, to go to sleep, or to eat dinner, or to feed the cat. They stand, poker straight, in the free pile at the library, or slip quietly into the paper bag along with a new book purchase, or lie, forgotten, in my vertical file of things that I will never do.


Momma played Bass.... said...

You've released me. I felt like I could stop mid-chapter in my book last night. What a relief! I've always finished a chapter before quitting - its all a part of my "follow the rules" mentality.

Woo hoo! I'm free!

Kulio said...


Wow, the power of the word.

Or the power of confession?

(what book are ya reading?)

Don't Tell said...

Sometimes my "bookmark" has chewed-up gum in it. Makes it lumpy.

I never stop mid-chapter... but I don't always read the chapters in order. Is that weird?

Kulio said...

oh beautiful!

yes! I love reading a book in a sort of diagonal fashion, greedily hitting some of the highlights and then the end, the beginning...excellent.

And yes, it's weird. But in a good way.

The gum? That's sort of weird in a weird way (she said kindly and with a gentle smile). peace!

kool kenna said...

nice. lol made me laugh i must get loving to read from you.

cjs said...

and I thought "failure to deliver" was my favorite...

I LOVED's like you read my mind.

Joel just asked me, after glancing at my latest stack from the library, "you're not reading all those at the same time, are you?"

some just don't understand!

I'm glad you do.