The first book of Louise Erdrich’s that I read was The Beet Queen. I think I bought it in a bookshop in Palo Alto during one of my visits to the family. I don’t recall much of the book’s plot but I was struck by the focus of the book on the lives of ordinary people in a small farming community.
I am now reading another of her books – The Painted Drum –bought as I’d mentioned earlier from one of Bonn’s last few remaining local bookshops that stocks English books. It’s the one just across the sculptures of two gigantic severed heads of early Christian martyrs behind the Münster. I don’t believe Witsch, Behrendt, and Schweitzer carry bestseller fiction, as the little bookshop at Bonn’s Central Station specializes in, but they do cover an enormous range. It seems to me they stock most of the recommended reading for the English department of Bonn University, as well as for the linguistics and other foreign languages departments.
As a high school student addicted to books – I used to come home with a tall pile of books from the school library (Mrs. Freeman, the librarian, was so welcoming) – I would often read all night to finish a book – after I’d finished my homework. I don’t often do it now – motherhood, job, all sorts of responsibilities have made me moderate my reading addiction – and I have made it a habit to pace myself and savour my pleasure slowly — reading a few pages at bedtime until I fall into sleep.
There are certain books though which cause me to revive this voracious habit. Books that for some reason touch a certain part of my heart. And The Painted Drum is one such. I quote a passage that has struck me:
“All we crave is a simple order. One day and then the next day and the next after that, if we’re lucky, to be the same. Grief is chaos. Death or illness throw the world out of whack. …. To proceed with and keep that order is a gesture of desperate hope. Protect us. Save us. Let our minds remain clear of sorrow so that we can simply praise the world.”
It is the last sentence that sits on my mind at this moment. “Let our minds remain clear of sorrow so that we can simply praise the world.”
The greedy bookworm in me was tempted to read on to the end of the book – Louise Erdrich weaves such an engaging, fascinating tale of an American Indian family. But I stop right there, at that sentence, and let it seep through me.
I had other plans for today, but they’ve had to be changed because of other people’s circumstances. Perhaps it was for the best. As now I can still take in the last day of the Artists Open House Exhibition in Südstadt. I’d missed it last year, as we were away.
It is raining today — a steady, gentle veiling of the finest mist. In the Kottenforst — the forest nearby — the trees are ablaze with leave-taking. Their leaves seem to be gloriously praising the world as they bid us farewell for this year.
I give thanks and clear my mind on this day to simply praise the world. It is glorious!