Monday, September 20, 2010

"You can never find a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." - C.S. Lewis

How right he was. Yesterday afternoon after a delicious meal at the White Tiger Indian Restaurant (Sunday buffet until 2:30pm), I hauled myself and my three chapters of energy security reading down to Port City Java, a coffeeshop on 7th St., SE. My apartment Jaclyn and one of the guys from across the hall came with me, and we sat in the afternoon sun reading about geopolitical threats and the need to diversify energy supply and suppliers in order to achieve greater energy security.

After 45 minutes or so, I had finished the readings and felt the distant call of Capitol Hill Books stir in the pit of my apricot tea-soaked mind. "Hilaryyyyyyy" it seemed to say. "Don't you really need some more poetry? Don't you need to spend an hour browsing through old, war-torn, dog-eared pages of Shakespeare's Love's Labors Lost and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath? I tried valiantly to resist the call, because neither my small Peruvian over the shoulder bag (a gift from my friend Lillie two summers ago) or my checking account would appreciate a foray into the world of books.

But it is September, the sun is shining, and there is nothing more restful or more Sabbath than to browse in the most incredible used bookstore I've ever encountered. There are more nooks and crannies in the store than there are actual shelves, more stacks of books on the floor with paper labels "G" and "Salinger starts here", more of the delicious "used-book" smell that fills your nostrils as you hear the door creak behind you. The music plays softly, as if in time with the pace of your thoughts, and your feet move in leaps and bounds from room to room, up the narrow stairs and back down, and your heart feels like it will explode with the joy of words.

So you can tell by now that I went in the bookstore. And I found to my utter joy that there is an entire room of poetry - first editions of Frost and Elizabeth Barrett Browning peeking out from behind Anne Sexton and Pablo Neruda. It was like walking into a new apartment, new office, new school - and realizing that your friends are already there, waiting for you. The words of my favorite poets have accompanied me to DC and I took a few home with me from the bookstore: The Catcher in the Rye, Equus, Notes from a Small Island, a copy of Poetry magazine, some CS Lewis...

There is a call in the pit of my stomach towards words when I am looking to understand the world. There is a call in my head when I hear good words to write them down quick before I forget, because I don't want to lose a moment of their beauty. There is a call in my heart to words when I know they are true. And so, when I left Port City Java and the important (though certainly more technical) words of energy security, and happily ensconced myself in Capitol Hill Books until almost 4:30pm, it was the call of words. It was the elusive largest cup of tea and longest book in the world, the promise that time itself will slow down a little bit so you can turn the next page and read one more paragraph.

And so, readers, I leave you with a short list of books that I saw, and loved, and wanted to buy (but refrained only to probably go back next week):

1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
2. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
3.The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
4. The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton
5. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
6. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
7. Pursuit by Erica Funkhouser

Hilary (the words lover)

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