Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friday Night @ Barnes and Noble

The student dinner at Rey Azteca ended sooner than our desire for conversation. We moved our cars to the parking lot nearest the entrance of Barnes and Noble. Erica wasn't up for walking at 7 1/2 months pregnant. The wind had picked up and it was nice to step in the front doors, hit by that unmistakable mega-bookstore smell of new paper and bindings and coffee.

We wandered slowly around the bargain books and gave our opinions of moleskin journals. I flipped through cook books. We discussed the state of young adult fiction and the plethora of wanna-be Hunger Game books (similar to the surge of vampire romances that flooded shelves post-Twilight). We wondered what the difference was between "Christian Fiction" and "Christian Inspiration" and "Christian Thought" (various titles placed on bookshelves in the religious section).

Erica particularly likes to look at the new fiction releases. I wanted to read almost all of them on the spot just because their dust jackets were so well designed. I picked them up and held them and looked at the paper choices and wished I could say something about the fonts. When we couldn't find Kimi's new book, Erica was the one who asked for directions; it doesn't occur to me to ask for directions most days. "Silver like Dust" was in "American History" and we admired how someone we know has a beautiful book sitting in prominent display at the State College Barnes and Noble.

It's strange to me when I think about the moments I met the people who are closest to me now. I met Erica Young Reitz when she was still Erica Young. I came into a poetry reading in the old auditorium in the library, the one where the casual reading room is now; it was my freshman year, and I hadn't learned to come early to these things. In fact, I had never been to one before. Julia Kasdorf was reading.  Now, I have joined Erica's staff doing campus ministry through Calvary at Penn State. And Julia Kasdorf became an academic mentor and role model as my thesis advisor.

People who come into your life at a distance and stay for longer and with greater impact than you can imagine. I sometimes try to remind myself of this mystery when I meet new people. But I don't remember. I am always surprised as the years pass.

Words come quietly and stay longer than expected. Words surprise me too.

Erica and I paid tribute to the poetry shelves, removing favorite volumes and giving recommendations. Erica told me to read Rumi. I talked about Rilkes being my go to man in recent weeks. A volume by Li Young Li sparked memories of his reading at Penn State a few years ago on an early, summer-like September evening. There were poems by Julia Kasdorf, who had taught us both nearly a decade apart and at different colleges. "Do you remember this one?" Erica asked as she pointed to thick set volume called "500 Best Loved Poems". "You gave it to me!" I smiled and asked, "Did I give that to you as a wedding present?" Yes, I had remembered correctly.

The evening had turned late. Erica noted that at 9:30 it was almost her bedtime and she wanted to see Craig and see how his graphic design project was going. Quieted by holding words in my hand and memories, I drove back to State College and through downtown to Whim Cotty. I played no music and kept the windows down. Quieted, yes. Content.

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