Listen, you cannot hear the small bells rung for mass, or smell the pungent incense. No one is selling tickets at this hour; nothing is open here at the earth’s edge where sheep block the road, and torrents pour from the stony mountain. Above the shrouded dead, tar-soaked timbers with their pitched roofs sky-dive bravely toward the stratosphere. Jet-lagged, we wake to a world spilled open into white and cloudless sky.
Flowers, yellow, purple, white, the one called “stepmother,” crouch like pansies underneath the gallery floor. All day we have been driving near the sound of water, the cry of unfamiliar birds. Now we are tired. Your foot, then mine, tests the sagging steps for rot; your eye, then mine, pries through the worn keyhole. Both of us think we will never be back. Your hand, then mine, refrains from touching the carved lintel with its snakes and dragons out of fear it might dissolve, and like so many things, our faces flushed, our bodies warm from walking, just disappear into thin air.
Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable. –Walter Benjamin, “The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses”
The title of Nora Ephron’s Julie and Julia equalizes its two plots: there is one about how Julia Child came to publish Mastering the Art of French Cooking and thereby alter the American palate, and there is one about Julie Powell’s efforts four decades later to cook her way through Child’s cookbook. But in truth these stories aren’t remotely on the same footing.
The idea of bartering or battling with the devil for one’s soul is an old one. Cold Souls, a low-budget independent film written and directed by Sophie Barthes, is the first tale I have encountered that deals with soul “storage”—the idea that souls can be removed, stored and transplanted.
A morning so still. Rain ended while I slept. Light in the east awakened me. A Carolina wren began his “Teakettle” song. By my study window I drank tea, and read. The first Beatitude spoke to me, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” being everything   I need to know. There was nothing on earth I could not let go. Solitude held and sustained me, Emptiness a companion I walk beside. Looking out, I see the clearing sky.
“Independent bookstores are more than the sum of their books,” says Betsy Burton, cofounder of the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City and president of the American Booksellers Association. Independent bookstores are “safe havens, centers of community where people go to see friends and neighbors—or strangers who are interesting to meet and talk to—but they’re also refuges populated by booksellers who are not just interesting, and interested, but empathetic.” Burton recalls the morning of 9/11 when her bookstore was mobbed by people not buying books but looking for a place of support, empathy, and community. Independent bookstores, says Burton, are more inclusive than churches, more communal than cultural events, and more intimate than bars (Publishers Weekly, July 15).