A row of books runs along one side of the L-shaped desk in my home office. Among them is Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris, a collection of love-letters posing as essays in which the author confesses her lifelong passion for language and books. My favorite Fadiman essay is "My Odd Shelf," in which she posits that everyone's library contains a small and seemingly incongruous collection of volumes that reveal something telling about the reader. Fadiman's "Odd Shelf" contains sixty-four volumes on polar exploration. Mine contains Ex Libris and seventy-three other books that, in one way or another, inspire me to write.
My "Odd Shelf"
Some of the books on my shelf hold beloved childhood worlds. Jane's Thornfield neighbors Peter's Neverland and Alice's Wonderland. Some are unapologetically imaginative. I strain my ears to eavesdrop on what Buckminster Fuller and Gabriel García Márquez whisper and giggle about back and forth to one another through their book jackets. Some are books on the craft itself. Ray Bradbury opens Zen in the Art of Writing in this way:
"Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer's make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto."
Bradbury should have spent more time bumping elbows at Sitka.
The silent connection I feel to the authors of books I love, and to fellow readers who have treasured the same titles I do, spans geography and generations. These artistic bonds feel more intimate and immediate than any video conference chat room can achieve.
I hope you all feel a sense of connection to Sitka and to our fellow Sitka community members, wherever we are, and whatever we're doing and making. I imagine your bathtubs filled with indigo dye and your field journals overflowing with backyard citizen science experiments.
What are you reading? What are you making? What are you discovering? What are the sources of gusto and zest in your life? These are not rhetorical questions. Send me an essay or a theorem, a song or a sewing project, a doodle or an opus. Share what you're working on and we'll find ways to share what you share.
From my little corner studio to yours, I wish you and your loved ones health and happiness.