Sunday, November 2, 2008
129: Messing up my swing
It's all about bracing for winter these days: the plastic sheets on windows, the wet leaves covering our bare garden plot, soups in the pantry (if only we actually had a pantry; many homemade soups in the freezer, though), Thanksgiving plans falling together (Michigan again).
I've been reading a great deal this autumn, which I would celebrate, but I've been reading books off the chair (meaning: books I plan to donate after reading, books I have a sneaky feeling I won't want to re-read, once sent to friends, now will either go to the library book sale or the GSO book sale on campus). Mediocre, OK. Not terrible, certainly not wonderful. Not deserving of the top ten list I've been honing for fellow first years--an assignment given by another poet in the program who wants to compile a recommended reading list, a difficult task for someone who wants a list both representative and valuable.
And difficult to invoke when reading books that "mess up my swing."
At the retreat, one of the fiction writers explained it this way: There is apparently this phenomenon called the home run derby, which involves professional baseball players and practice hitting with a bat that isn't regulation (what? is lighter? something is off about it). And there are some that refuse this kind of strange practice because it "messes up their swing." One wouldn't want to practice with a bat that isn't regulation in a game that is far from standard; sub-par, some might argue.
So, when we read books that aren't written very well, we might be messing up our swing. It's a terribly apt metaphor, and it explains exactly what I might be doing all through summer and now fall as I try to clean my house by reading. This, however, cannot stop me, especially when I am in a particularly obsessive mood. There's a ridiculous determination in these "cleaning" techniques of mine: I somehow believe if I can just keep reading these books and giving them away, the house will seem less like a disaster; if I can just keep writing letters to my grandmother and best friend, I will have less paper, which will equal more clean. In truth, there is a difference, but so slight, something that takes years and years of work to accomplish, and in the meantime, who is going to help me out with all these handouts I'm getting in school and boxes of old photographs?
We have a modest annual wine tasting party, and this year, it's this next weekend. It's the time of year we face the mess, say something clever about spring cleaning, and tuck it all away under the beds. I always say how I want to truly clean, not just put things in proper boxes and forget about them until the next attic search. And then we come to that panicked twenty four hours before the guests arrive, the dust still built up on the bookshelves, Zephyr's fur in every imaginable (and unimaginable) crevice of the house, and we no longer care about truly and just want the damn thing done. So begins another week before guests arrive: me reading books that mess up my swing, writing letters on the backs of handouts, and cursing the ways in which four pets can change the color of the carpet.