I am sitting reading in the giant shadow of Mt. Washington here on its northern side, hundreds of miles away in lockdown, devoted for the moment to the life and thoughts of other people’s characters.
I am rummaging through an author’s mind as if it was my own, as any reader might do, when my granddaughter calls me from Paris to share a coloured sketch she made in class of four macarons stacked, one on top of the other, like a leaning tower, with one to the side ready to be savoured, so real I can taste it.
She will give the sketch, she tells me, to her grandmother as a birthday gift. Our conversational exchange in our respective confinement takes on the typical phrasings and pauses of characters in a book. Hmmm, I say. Uh-huh, she says. Our sentences go back and forth like that.
As we are speaking—I am sitting outdoors in a deck chair by a woodland path that leads to the edge of the water—a deer, small but magnificent, saunters out of the woods and comes down for a drink. We watch, stunned into silence (I’ve flipped the camera on my phone so she can also see it), intent on the beauty before us.
When the deer withdraws with its long, slender legs leaping back into the shadows, my granddaughter tells me, in almost a whisper, of a sketch she recently made of a wolf prowling the woods just behind me. And it’s at that point in the story that I catch my breath and pause before I turn the page.
The best words are those that reveal nothing. José Saramago I spent the summer of 2020 reading and re-reading Charles Wright and a little of Mary Ruefle. There is no mystery to the human soul when the words are right. I look into the far distance and it ends abruptly, on the opposite side of the water’s edge. Clouds rim the deep horizon and dip further beyond where they rest for a while then scatter and shred and fall to the page. But what’s beyond is not meant to be actually seen, at least not until I get there myself. “I hear that the right word will take your breath away.” So says Charles Wright. But which word is it? For this moment, this moment right now? I think it’s murmur. A murmuring coming from afar. Let’s leave it at that.