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.
Here in the basement of the Espresso Royale on Sixth Street in this land grant university town, amid English Fog lattes and keypad-clatter, in the afternoon before the all-hallows-eve in which Katie, a great-great-et-cetera granddaughter of the townswoman they hanged for the crime of witchcraft, will play a game—homo ludens— of volleyball against the maize-and-blue Michigan Wolverines I draft a missive to the good citizenry of Dorchester as though they might yet happen upon these words, as though their revivified selves were a short gallop from this latitude and longitude, as though their sins of omission and commission might still be forgiven— not just forgotten—by an act of penance that includes a pilgrimage to tonight’s venue and a maniacal cheering for this descendent as she executes (I didn’t invent the language) a perfect play that culminates in (really, I didn’t) a kill. Full stop because I don’t know how to end this letter. So I do what I always do: continue breaking lines and staggering down the page until it’s time to witness more volleyball and cheer like nothing else ever happens or matters.
Researchers at Yale University School of Public Health have discovered a link between longevity and reading books. People who spend up to 3.5 hours each week engrossed in a book were 17 percent less likely to die in the 12 years following the study, and those who read more than 3.5 hours are 23 percent less likely to die in the same period. The longevity advantage remained even after adjusting the data for education, wealth, cognitive ability, and other variables, although no cause-and-effect relationship was established (Tech Times, August 8).