Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ezra the Bookfinder

I received a gift from Ezra yesterday. It arrived in a small padded hand addressed envelope emblazoned with a bright orange FRAGILE HANDLE WITH CARE. Inside it is wrapped in bubble wrap and then in a taped layer of padding. It is a small old book, the Arlington Edition of Emersons Essays. A complete surprise, an unsolicited present from Ezra the Bookfinder. Every part of this gift's presentation feels intentional and done with care. A business card with just the word "Circles" written on the back marks the place he wishes to share.

Ezra, known to us as Artemus a half life ago, is a dear friend of Margy's from early1970's Cambridge days. A friendship that stands the test of time, one that picks up where it left off with nary a beat. He and his lovely wife visited us recently, more than a decade from his last visit.

I love the look and feel of this book. It's faded dark blue cloth cover is beautifully embossed. The pages are a faded amber and the typeset like an old typewriter. I love its old book smell. There is no copyright date or preface, just a contents page. The back two pages are an advertisement for Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup for Teething Children and a listing of other offerings in the Arlington Wonder Library, available for 20 cents each. This list has many check marks as though an owner long ago was checking them off.

I pour a small glass of whiskey, find my glasses, turn on the small incandescent lamp on my end of the couch, open to the recommended essay, and begin to read.

Alas, it is over my head. Every sentence feels like something important that is just of of reach. "Permanence is but a word of degrees." "Every ultimate fact is only the first of a new series." "Every several result is threatened and judged by that which follows." "Our moods do not believe in each other." Try as I might I can not get hold of these words in a way that makes real sense to me. Almost, but not quite.

I imagine Emerson at his desk in 1847 or so and the words flow on to the page like he is describing something that is solid, something that is clear and very real to him. But despite his eloquence and mastery of his craft I can not see what he sees. I feel slow witted.

This has never been a strength, the intellectual, informed critical thinking in the world of ideas.  I have relied on intuition and the physical.  I wonder if the former could be developed, if one could practice this ability. I suppose I could start with Philosophy for Dummies but not sure I'm up to it. 

And so Ezra, someone else, someone like yourself,  might benefit more from this book and the wisdom it holds, but I loved the gift just the same.

Thank you.

Ezra is the "driving force" behind Gertie the Bookmobile that cruises the Eugene, Oregon vicinity. Free Books to the People! Here is a nice article about Ezra and his work.

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