Sunday, September 3, 2017


Scott Russell Sanders' Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World was a joy to read, from start to finish. Its many noteworthy passages inspired a new record for sticky notes applied while reading. Before I'm done with it, I'll copy a number of sentences and paragraphs into a special notebook I keep specifically for the purpose of retaining such things for future use.

Sanders has a fine eye for detail, a delicately attuned sensibility to nature and place, and a willingness to be lyrical when the situation requires it, which is often. This collection of essays manages to be particular and universal at the same time, taking the willing reader on a looping journey through Sanders' present-day life, his memories, and his varied interests. All the same, Sanders' musings are never self-indulgent to the point of overkill or boredom. He's definitely the sort of thoughtful, erudite person I'd love to spend an afternoon with, sitting in the dappled shade of a tree somewhere, letting the conversation ramble -- and this book is the next best thing to doing that.  

I know very little about Indiana, Sanders' chosen place, but this book made me want to know more about my own place. Sanders' respect and dedication called forth in me a deeper appreciation for the layers evident in any place: the geological formations, the natural communities of plants and animals, and the human history manifesting itself from the past into the present day.

It's altogether a lovely book, and thoroughly quote-worthy.

Excerpt (in the dark of the backyard):

My frisky mind keeps darting off, loping through a lifetime of books, raiding memory, jumping ahead into the future, visiting countries where I have never set foot, zigzagging through the cosmos. And why not? When the fiddling of a cricket is tuned to the temperature, which is driven by the weather, which is linked to the earth's tilting spin, which is governed by all the matter in the universe, why shouldn't one's mind gambol about? Only risky, roving thought can be adequate to such a world.

While my mind rushes hither and yon, however, my body stays put. For the flesh there is no past or future, there is only this instant of contact, here, now. Heart pumps. Muscles twitch. Ears fill with indicipherable song. I lift my face and swallow some of the boggy air. With it comes the fruity smell of oak, released like a long held secret from the pile of split logs. I smell the rank sweetness of the compost bin, where apple cores and watermelon rinds deliquesce back toward dirt. I stroke the limestone blocks that hem in the wildflower bed. The flowers have faded but the stones endure, sandpapery to the touch. All the while, August heat clings to my limbs like damp wool.

Note: This book counts toward the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge, and the I location for the Where are You Reading Challenge.

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