Doug Bruns

A note on schedule and thoughts on re-posts.

In Books, The Examined Life, Travel, Writing on March 22, 2012 at 7:00 am

My intention here,  at …the house I live in… , is to write twice a week. I have settled into a schedule of posting mid-week and weekend.  That is working well. I am a slow writer. Enough said. But I’ve been doing this–this blog–quite a while now, a surprisingly long while. The archive is deep. So, in an effort to keep things rolling, I will periodically be re-posting pieces I think fit the current course of things. I’ll call them out as re-posts, as I’ve done below. You can treat them as old news if you wish and simply wrap the fish up in them.

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RE-POST FROM OCTOBER 2004:

Thoughts from a hammock in Antigua, Guatemala

The sun is out and this day is weather perfect with low humidity and a clean breeze. Going to a place without a car is a good thing. There is something to be said about walking, how it immediately closes you in upon your own efforts. That is refreshing, but likely unremarkable to folks just a few generations ago. I’ve been in this hammock for three hours, reading, dozing off, then reading again, successfully fighting the urge to be doing something more, to get up and about and be busy. I like the lessening of potential this affords me: it forces a question of scope and perspective.

Years ago, I had a college course, a biology class, where we were instructed to find a square yard of campus somewhere, in the woods, on the bluffs, somewhere, anywhere and stake it out. We had to study it for the course semester and our research paper would be written about our square yard. The constraint of vision, loss of depth of field, as it were, gets very limiting until you realize, as the proverb says, that the world is contained in a grain of sand. That is what today in Antigua is like, with nothing to do and nowhere to go, but hang in this hammock. It is wonderfully refreshing.

I’ve only reread a few books in my life, most recently Walden, and now Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I have on this trip. I am reminded of how bad a reader I have been in the past, plowing through a book like a ship crossing the ocean at night. No view of the horizon and little patience for the trip except for making the destination. A common reader needs a life to learn the trick of being a good reader. It is, again, the focus thing. Stake out your square and understand your turf. Derrida died a few days ago, and though I could not comprehend him, I am given to understand he knew this.

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  1. Just today, I staked out a small but deep rectangle of richly-laden turf. It was packed in a duffel bag where it was waiting to head south, to a setting not unlike the one you describe in Antigua. I was impatient; thought I would just read the first page and admire its heft.

    There are so many masterfully-crafted sentences on page 3 (the first page of the physical book) that I find it difficult to turn to page 4 without wallowing in them a while…sort of like a dog who finds something especially smelly on a lawn and rolls around in undignified manner, paws flying through the air. I think my favorite is:

    “The Dean at left, a lean yellowish man whose fixed smile nevertheless has the impermanent quality of something stamped into uncooperative material, is a personality-type I’ve come lately to appreciate, the type who delays need of any response from me by relating my side of the story for me, to me.”

    Given that there are more than a thousand pages to follow, I may never leave this turf. Your posting seems to give me permission to do that. Thanks!

    • ..and the journey begins.

    • And speaking of reading. I think I have breached my reading existential terror. Shopping list tomorrow:

      Reading for my life, John Leonard
      Thinking the Twentieth Century, Tony Judt
      Arguably Essays, Christopher Hitchens

      That should take care of summer.

      • Oooo! A nonfiction summer lies ahead for you, with the potential for many blog topics I would guess. Your readers knew you would not languish for long and look forward to hearing about the highlights as you go.

        I have a perfect fictional treat to throw into the mix for you (if you have not read it). Good characters, lovely writing and the story will pull you along quickly, so as not to keep you from your nonfiction for very long. “Stoner” by John Williams. (1965) I found it in the Classics Department at Longfellow and purchased it for my Valentine for reasons which were obvious to him. It is the story of William Stoner, who was actually not what we refer to as a stoner in today’s language. It is a treat and will be waiting for you and yours.

      • Purchased 1500 pages of thick reading today: Leonard, Judt & Hitchens. I worry it’s going to be like eating chowder in summer. These are probably winter books. Read on!

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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