It’s been a good “First Day Back” from my mini-vacation to the land of my Midwestern roots. Time away can clear the mind, slow the pace and provide a wider perspective. But as I assume the “Mantle of the Routine,” a phrase that came to me on the car ride to the train ride, I realized my mantle had been happily interrupted not only because of the trip, but because of the book I finished while winging home.
I got hold of this book after a recent issue of Arizona Highways reminded us it turned 100 this year, a good enough reason to dart into the stacks and check out, literally, literarily, Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. I’d never read a western but I love the West, and so over these last couple of weeks, I’ve been with Jane and –Lassiter!! in the southlands of wild Utah. Jumping from 1871 to 2012, I found myself flipping the yellowed pages: just as my plane descended the horses ran for their lives. All of us breathless at the end, I had to re-read the last pages twice just to prolong (and absorb) the joy. Who knew?!
And as it that weren’t enough, next day, on the little bus to campus, I picked up where our reading group left off in Brideshead Revisited, a book I’m sure I wouldn’t have attempted but for this intrepid group who turn back the clock to gather, drink tea and read aloud each week. Again I found myself breathless at the description of Julia near the fountain, calling out her failures, her “sin”, and when I finished that section, I wondered: who can go to work having been hosed with these two master writers?
But we must go on. We return to our mantles of routine with some assurance, however. More wonderful writing will come our way, down the “grooves of time,” and for this I give thanks.
“Venters walked with Bess, once more in a dream, and watched the lights change on the walls, and faced the wind from out of the west. Always it brought softly to him strange, sweet tidings of far-off things. It blew from a place that was old and whispered of youth. It blew down the grooves of time. It brought a story of the passing hours. It breathed low of fighting men and praying women. It sang clearly the song of love. That ever was the burden of its tidings-youth in the shady woods, waders through the wet meadows, boy and girl at the hedgerow stile, bathers I in the booming surf, sweet, idle hours on grassy, windy hills, long strolls down moonlit lanes-everywhere in far-off lands, fingers locked and bursting hearts and longing lips-from all the world tidings of unquenchable love.[i]
[i] Grey, Zane. Riders of the Purple Sage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. P,158-9.