housekeeping

by bethanybump

in the past six months i’ve struggled to finish a book. i’ve started a handful, only to put them down later that day. they sit on the shelf under the coffee table or in the little crook of my bedside stand or atop my bookshelf waiting to be returned to their permanent place. i put this off—the returning—on the theory that the longer they sit out the more reminders i’d have to see them through to the end.

that didn’t work.

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a month ago i tilted “housekeeping” by marilynne robinson from out its spot on my bookshelf (i had picked it up used from an annual book sale two seasons ago). i started reading it and knew it was meant to be read slowly, not gobbled in a sitting. good. it’s not like i’d done much gobbling lately anyhow. it was a slow read. halfway through, i put it down for two weeks, thinking it was simply the next in a growing list of books i’d come to abandon. then i picked it up again and carried on, slowly but surely, oftentimes rereading sentences and pages just because. last week, i finished it. i finished a book again.

this is one to be relished. read it slowly. each sentence is a treasure.

a favorite excerpt:

“Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water—peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.”

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