I was out and about signing books in Houston on Tuesday, and while I was at the lovely Blue Willow Bookshop, I was asked how old I was when I became interested in books. I was in the process of buying three beautiful composition books at the time – I like to make notes for each book I write in a different composition book. My response was that I had my first library card at age three, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. Then we started talking about having good notebooks to write in, and I revealed that when I was a kid one of my favorite games was to play “offices.”
Now, this was interesting, as neither of my parents worked in an office, in fact, I didn’t know anyone who worked in an office, though I’d seen the school secretary and the doctor’s receptionist. But I loved the idea of having a desk with books, paper and pens everywhere. As we talked, a raft of memories came cruising in on the tide of conversation. I can remember pressing my poor kid brother into being my “assistant” until he couldn’t stand it a minute longer and mutinied, whereupon I’d get uppity and pull rank (I’m the oldest!), and he’d thump me, so I’d whack him back, and before you knew it my mother had us both by the scruff of the neck, sending us out into the garden with instructions not to come back in until we’d sorted ourselves out. And we’d end up climbing trees or building a camp, which was all my brother wanted to do anyway. Pretty good tactic, on my mother’s part.
The one thing I’m not good at, on the book tour, is flying. I’ve gone on and on about it here before, so I won’t get stuck on the issue again. But imagine my chagrin on the first flight of the our, when the two “dudes” in the seat behind me began talking about the fact they thought they would die in a ‘plane crash. “Dude, I’ll be going down like, whoosh ...” And I thought, “Dude, you’ll be going out of that exit door like whoosh even before we’ve taken off, if you don’t put a sock in it.” They needed someone like my mother to get them both by the scruff of the neck.
I’ve always been a people-watcher at airports – and a listener. While waiting at the gate for my flight from Houston to Denver, the elderly lady sitting alongside me was telling a woman she’d just met a little about herself – in a fairly loud voice. Everyone at the gate learned that although she was a Baptist, she belonged to a Presbyterian prayer group, but her greatest joy came from the fact that she was a clogger. “I’m a clogger,” she said. “Clog every Sat’dy mornin’, reg’lar.” Ah, bless her cotton socks.
You see a lot of advertising at airports, most of which is ho-hum. No I don’t need a United Visa card, and I’ve already got my Bose headphones ... and so it goes on. But every now and again I see an ad and think, “That’s clever.” So, if you’re at an airport, check out the new Earthjustice ads. You’ll see a breathtaking view from an airplane window, then the words (and I’m paraphrasing here as I can’t remember the actual words used), “If you want to see what we’re fighting to save everyday, ask for a window seat.” Clever, that.
I’ve always been a window seat traveler, not least because I love to look out at the land below (though not during take-off or landing). I have no idea where I am as I write this post, but below me America is spread out like a veritable table-cloth – fields and forests as far as the eye can see; lakes, ponds and pools; rivers with meanders, tributaries and ox-bow lakes. I can see never-ending dead-straight highways, long and winding roads, trails leading to farms, and paths to houses. I can see communities clustered, and in the distance a grand conurbation. I am looking at a map of America that is alive and teeming.
There’s a lot to protect down there – not just the geography of America, but jobs, families, the lady who clog-dances on Saturday mornings, the children who climb trees in their back-yards, and the kids who dare each other with their talk. It brings it home that “love thy neighbor” isn’t just something you might hear at your Baptist or Presbyterian church, but a sentiment that underlines a respect for the many ways of life that are worth all the protecting we can muster.
Funny what you see, hear and think about, on the road – and up in the air.
Have a lovely weekend!