Keeping Beauty

I just finished an amazing book this morning: The Underground Railroad.

I tried listening to the audiobook version, but the writing was so achingly beautiful that I had to keep stopping, then rewinding to hear a phrase or sentence, again and again. I wanted to remember the haunting, gorgeous words, keep them somewhere close to me.

Apparently, I’m out of practice listening. Okay, it has been over 45 years since I was young enough to be read to, but it’s more than that. It’s that I long to keep the effect of the words in my soul.

So I had to switch to actual reading.

When I read, rather than listen, I can stop and absorb words and phrases, reread as needed. Take my time. Grab a pencil and write down some choice quotes. Carry them in my pocket, my purse. Tape them on my mirror.

But even that isn’t enough. More than ever lately, I’ve found myself contemplating tattoos: a way to make the words a part of me. As with all my favorite books (Beloved, The God of Small Things, Midnight’s Children, The Small Backs of Children–need I go on?), I’ve thought maybe, if I could just work up the guts to tattoo a few choice quotes in conspicuous places, I could remember their beauty. Because I could see them. Every day. Feel their alchemy.

But even with the real estate I’ve got, I know I’d run out of skin.

What is it about words that makes us want to keep them?

Book started today: All The Light We Cannot See.

I’m having the same problem.

Above photo: “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” by William Stafford. Posted near the Wildwood Trail.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Beauty”

  1. You are so gifted! All the Light We Cannot See is another favorite for me. I love what you say about writing down and remembering the words. Now I need to go back and re-read some of the finer parts of The Kitchen House. I cannot wait to read The Underground Railroad! Thank you for your inspiration!

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