Friday, December 21, 2007

Brimnes and Bill Holm

Bill Holm makes me want to move to Iceland. Really.

On my first of three errands to West Photo yesterday, (Three, because the "printing technichian" thought I wouldn't know the difference if they cropped the foreground, sideground, background - basically anything other than the subject in my photo - in order to cram the frame uncomfortably into an 8x10 that makes me look terribly inept as a photographer. All I wanted was an 8x12 - but I had to bring them back of course. Thank God its only a five minute drive.) I was listening to MPR - and the entire morning was a discourse about fetal alcohol systematic disorders. Long story short - there hasn't been a minimal safe tolerance of alcohol established for pregnancy. Bottom line: don't drink while you're pregnant. But one snipt did jingle my ear - Bill Holm was to be on at noon.

My solace in his writing came from his collection of essays, Coming Home Crazy. It was recommended to me after I went crazy, too, during a little period of readjustment back in June. The book is a series about a year long endeavor teaching English in China, and it was a comfort to know I wasn't an anomaly and that Guatemalan banks aren't the only places that change their rules from day to day. Perhaps I love him a little.

I love being read to, and I've always wondered why we quit reading to one another after we gain the skill on our own. Why is reading silently such a big deal in elementary school? Why did I get pissed when the kid next to me wasn't really reading silently, but muttering the words under his breath?

But I do remember the seventh grade. Mrs. Johnson was my English teacher and she opened every class with a few pages or a chapter from The Outsiders. It was one of the best times - and one of the only times in English class in junior high that I remember. The buildling was old - most Catholic schools are - and we sat at hexagonal tables in the room, four or so to a table. Mrs. Johnson, a middle-aged woman with gray-blonde hair, sat in her directors chair when she read - mostly because she was scarcely five feet and it was more comfortable than the slate backed, pastel seats of the room. Her voice matched her stature, and I'd sit and gaze up at the cork board borders of the room, considering Ponyboy and his gang. And she frustratingly stopped at the most inopportune moments. But that was, of course, intnetional on her part.

So I opend my ibook and tuned in and stopped answering my phone. For an entire hour. And a 65 year old author with a raspy, velvet voice read poetry about small town patriotism and Walt Whitman's Brooklyn Ferry. And he told me about Iceland. Which, as it happens is the subject of his latest work, Windows of Brimnes. He spoke of its intricate and beatiful language and its cake-frosting houses by the sea. "Almost everything in the country is within spitting distance of it," he said.

He spoke of not having an address - but living in a place where people can find you if they ask. Where windows are open to the evening tide and houses hold old Steinways and conversation. His home sits quietly in a crag and he keeps computers away from it.

And he read of his mother, and Icelandic woman from America who spoke the language well. He putters through sentences.

But in English, he made me wish for travel again.