A moment in the sun – reading and writing when the sun is shining

Yesterday, I took some time out.

When I packed up my laptop and headed out the door in the morning, my plan was find somewhere to write. It was a beautiful day and I thought it would be good to be in the fresh air.

I can’t begin to describe how much I like fresh air. Or, at the very least, air to be moving across my face. I think of a walk in a bracing wind is one of life’s pleasures. I need a fan on my desk while I work.

There was no bracing wind in Perth yesterday. Well, not the parts of Perth I was in. It’s a sprawling city. It could well be that there was a bracing wind somewhere in the area but I didn’t come across it.

What I did find was sunshine. Beautiful, spring-time sunshine. In a few months the searing heat will make asphalt melt, but this was a gentle warmth that was just right for basking. The sunshine in Perth at this time of the year is delightful, the stuff of rhapsody and odes.

I burn easily, so I wasn’t in the sun for long but I did take the time to sit and feel its warmth on my skin. I enjoyed how different the day was from last weekend’s storm. I watched the gentle movement of the flowers in the garden outside a shopping complex. I sat and was still.

Random flowers from a sunny morning
A moment in the sun

Just thinking

I didn’t end up writing very much. Some days are like that. Yesterday, I was in a reflective mode.

Even when I was looking at the shelves at New Edition I was thinking about other books. There were titles I was looking out for but I couldn’t see, authors who reminded me of other authors. It was one of those free-wheeling episodes that bookshops offer up. I found it really hard to work out what I wanted to buy.

I was trying a new approach to book buying and reading: select one book and commit to reading that book over the week to come.

I was on my way to an appointment and only had half an hour or so to spare. That in mind, I’d parked in a fifteen minute bay. As I tried to find a book … the book … I became aware that I must have been in the shop longer than the fifteen minutes. Perhaps not. I find bookshops are places where time can be particularly elastic.

I thought the ‘one book experiment’  would be helpful.  Just the one book on the, frankly overwhelming, to be read pile has its enticements. I was backing up last week’s successful enterprise of reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog.* Repeating the experiment seemed a good idea.

It turned out to be quite pressuring.

I eventually settled on A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro because I’d been thinking about how much I like Never Let Me Go in the light of my previous ‘top ten’. Faced with all the possible choices it made sense to settle on an author whose work I’ve previously enjoyed.

Later, when I went to enter my purchase into my Goodreads list I found out I already had a copy. The annoying thing about it was that I had been flicking through Goodreads while I was scanning the shelves. Clearly, I hadn’t been paying attention. There had also been the over-time in the parking bay issue to consider.

I walked back to Henry Street to exchange the duplicate copy. I still had plenty of time to spare in my new parking bay. Staying with my initial decision seemed the best (and most time-efficient) option so I picked up an alternative Ishiguro. This time it was When We Were Orphans. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

Ishiguro's When We Were Orphans and stamping material
Accessioned and ready to read

In the meantime, I can’t find the copy of A Pale View of Hills that I gather I should have on my book shelves. Perhaps it is lurking somewhere unexpected – waiting to ambush me? A sentinel gone AWOL?

There is a substantial pile of books waiting for a new bookcase. I guess it must be in there – buried deep in the middle.

Paying attention

Although there wasn’t any actual writing done I did make some progress. I walked away from the day – and the week – with more fodder for the (recently disciplined scrawl of notebooks. I’m not a fan of lifting people and their habits or situations from their daily lives and dumping them into stories. I’ve never been able to work like that.

That said, I do find it useful to pay attention. I’m happy to make a note of tiny things that catch my eye and might be useful, ideas especially from images and phrases. They can sometimes be assembled at a later point. Mostly, however, I springboard from a note into something that has no obvious relation to the original observation.

I like how that works for me in my writing.

There are images that stay with me for ages before I work out how to use them.

I’m not ready to do anything with yesterday’s but I have been thinking about one from quite some time ago: as I reversed out of my driveway I looked out of the window – to check for traffic. I remember the morning was already hot and my eye was caught by a crow. He was black and glossy. In his beak he carried three coloured chocolate balls (the type with the glossy sugar crust on the outside…the logo was still clear on one). There was a blue, a red and a yellow. They were vibrant against the blackness of his beak.

This happened years ago and I think that – finally – I might have a way to use it. I’m still not sure whether it will be whole image or just a shadow. I hope I’ll be able to resolve it soon, though. Perhaps I’ll be ready to share the ‘final’ (things are never really final) product next time I post.

Patience

I can be impatient for the weekend to come. The two days loom as opportunities to do everything that I didn’t get done in the week. Sometimes I try to schedule too much in. I always have high hopes of getting a good amount of reading and writing done.

The promise of sunshine and fresh air lured me out of my study and I didn’t quite do what I planned but that’s ok. It is probably more than ok.

Instead of the planned writing, I

  • solved a problem (well, worked out how to use an idea that wasn’t really troubling me, but … let’s go with the concept of a problem solved)
  • thought about my response to The Elegance of the Hedgehog (not that I’ve decided whether I like it or I don’t – I have some issues with the penultimate chapter and I’ve been thinking about that, and how my attitude fits in with my own approaches to structuring stories – since I finished it last weekend)
  • felt the sun at my back and a gentle breeze in my hair.

Not a bad day to end the week at all. Looking at the day ahead of me now, I have plenty to be going on with.

Here’s to a fruitful week of reading, writing, thinking and mooching.

 

*I’m not sure I would have finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog if it hadn’t been my book for the week.

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Book addict ahead – the joy of book shopping

It is a beautiful morning. There is a fair bit of cloud but, at the moment, the sun is streaming in through the window. When it gets too bright, I find myself typing  with my eyes shut. (Thank you, dad, for making me do that touch typing course during my honours year!)

When I was thinking about what to write today my first thought was my haul from the Save the Children Book Sale that has just finished at UWA. I posted a  picture on Sunday to Facebook with the comment ‘A picture of restraint’.

Secondhand books on coffee table
Last Sunday’s effort

Books v shoes

Have I mentioned before that I live in the midst of a bookshelf crisis? There are worse things. Much worse.

That said, I am aware that I need to deal with the books I have before adding too much more. My ambition for the day was to be restrained.

So, I walked into the sale at the Undercroft of Winthrop Hall with a plan. I was going to be restrained. I was going to just look out for something special.

I had limited time: I was parked in a 30 minute bay, I was meeting a friend for a writing date in 45 minutes.

I didn’t bring a carry bag and I promised myself I would only purchase what I could carry comfortably in one trip back to the car.

I set a budget. A modest one.

It was nominal.

Who knew what I might find and whether such a bargain would mean that the budget would need… NEED…to be revised?

It is lucky I don’t enjoy shopping for shoes. Imagine how that could play out. That said, I often wander around in the morning thinking I’d like to have more/different shoes. I just don’t want to go shopping for them.

And where would I put them?

Accessioning

It is only a couple of weeks since I posted a different picture of books picked up on a whim.

The thing is, they don’t just need to be housed. They need to be accessioned. They are lined up and waiting.

Stack of books with bookplates ready for labelling
Books stacked, ready for the next step

Perhaps I should have been a librarian. It was tempting. That whole must-be-quiet and must-share-books-with-anyone was a concern.

I’m not the only person who checks  with a friend – a friend, not a stranger – that they will take care of the volume they are about to take into their custody, am I?

I don’t know about how other people handle their home-libraries. I have a spread sheet that I try to maintain. I use an online service that helps me to not double up on purchases when mooching turns serious.

Helps, but doesn’t always prevent…

At the moment, the spread sheet and the book list don’t match up. There’s a discrepancy of probably about a 100 books between them at the moment. The only way to know where the problem is would be to do a full stocktake.

That won’t be happening this weekend, or next.

To be honest, it’s the sort of dusty chore that I like to take care of over the summer holidays with fans cranked to high and the promise of a swim at the end of the day’s work. Bring on the summer break!

Moderate, and not

As I welcomed the latest additions into the family by adding them to the spread sheet and the online service I discovered that I had doubled up on a volume, the 2006 edition of Best Australian Essays. My first copy is one of those books that hadn’t made it into the online list. Not to worry, I think I have a friend who will like the spare copy.

I already knew that I had a copy of The Faerie Queene. The copy already on my shelf is battered and does need replacing. Well, not replacing as such. It has my notes as an undergrad. Along with someone else’s. I can’t jettison those. The scruffy and much-better-looked-after will need to reside companionably on the shelf. Once I figure out how to fit them in.

There are a couple of books that I brought home that I have been looking for for ages. Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer is one of those. I am looking forward to reading that!

Some of the others I picked up specifically for friends and family. I can’t wait to see the reaction to the edition of Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets illustrated by Caitlin Keegan when I hand it over.

I must hand it over.

I must.

Perhaps I should write that out a hundred times…

Bibliophilia and logophilia

So here I am, loving books and words. I’ve thought about this a bit over the years. I even started to sketch out a play called Logos years ago. (I was living in the Pilbara. The days were long and, often, hot…)

There is the material aspect of the books. The layout and design. The bookplates and stamps that I use for labelling. There is the flow of words through the pen or keyboard, under the eye, on the tongue.

Any time spent with them is a joy. Even when they don’t come easily. Even when they threaten to cascade over the desk and knock teacups to the floor.

I have to go out for the usual Saturday things-to-be-done reasons.

It is a bit of a wrench today. I look forward to coming back to my desk to finish this latest round of accessioning and working on the scrawl.

Of course, I’ll probably add to both while I’m out and about.