A boisterous wind roughly played with the new leaves on the trees today. I heard that it might snow. I’m sitting by the glowing embers of the faux logs in the fireplace at the café. The sun is setting—a magenta sky with a few highlighted orange cumulus clouds. I haven’t seen such a colourful sky in a long while.
I brought a novel to read, but I can’t get into it. What makes a book good? It’s hard to put your finger on it. Voice, vocabulary, style. It’s magical when it all comes together. Earlier in the week, I read ’70s singer Rita Coolidge’s memoir and I found it disappointing. Her recollections meander, creating a choppy writing style that is grating. And although I’m sure it was not her intention, the numerous racial references she makes are often stereotypical and insulting. The reviews for Delta Lady have been positive though, which I find puzzling.
Thanks to Marina at A Beautiful Hue, I had the pleasure of reading The Signature of All Things. Set in the 1800s, this impressive novel was written by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. The novel’s memorable heroine is a passionate and brilliant botanist named Alma Whittaker. Of course, the natural world features prominently in this story, which mainly takes place on a wooded estate in Philadelphia. But like all good epic sagas, there’s adventure and romance, too. Travelling under the guise of a botaniste voyageuse, Alma journeys by ship to lush Tahiti where she hopes to find answers about the sensitive and spiritual man that she loves. Gilbert’s obviously an imaginative and clever writer. Regrettably, not all of her books are worth reading, though. Committed, for instance, was terribly tedious.
Another book I enjoyed recently was Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road. In the first chapter, Steinem ponders the human desire to move and explore as opposed to remaining in one place. “I wonder if seasonal signals might be programmed into the human brain,” she writes. “After all, we’ve been a migratory species for nearly all our time on earth, and the idea of a settled life is very new. If birds will abandon their young rather than miss the moment to begin a flight of thousands of miles, what migratory signals might our own cells still hold?” Because I’ve always had what my friend Lorae refers to as “itchy feet,” Steinem’s words jumped off the page for me. What if my urge for heading west, say, is in my DNA? If so, why should I feel guilty for having this innate desire? (Writing this, I came across an interesting online article about a dopamine-related gene (DRD4-7R). According to this article, approximately 20 per cent of the population have a variation of this gene, which has been linked with restlessness and curiosity. Because of this correlation, this gene is being dubbed the “wanderlust gene.”)
Well, it’s twilight now. My matcha green tea latte has been reduced to foam. I wonder if anyone else has taken note of the vibrant sunset. As I pack up my things, I contemplate a line from a review that I read on The Signature of All Things: “whether a life lived in the shadows, comprising of a million, small, unnoticed actions, is worth any less than a life of big gestures and public recognition.” Before I get in my car and head home, I look up at the now darkened sky. I notice that the clouds—whether they were appreciated or not—have dissipated in the troposphere gracefully and without a sound.