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Skins and stories

[I wrote this on 16 August last year, but somehow never got around to posting it. I rediscovered it today in my iPhone’s Notes while looking for something else,and liked it enough that I decided I should post it.]

I came across an article the other day about ebook sales dipping (slightly), in contrast with print book sales rising (also slightly), bolstered, apparently, in part by the sales of colouring books. The article framed the discussion in terms of paper books versus ebooks, as if one were the antithesis of the other.

I also just had a brief exchange with a friend who’s helping us cat-sit; she’s leaving the country just as we’re returning, and had borrowed one of our books on the way out. A stray comment she made, that the book had probably been read because the pages were yellowed, got me thinking about the physicality and the idea of books.

When people talk about how they love paper books, and how an e-reader or a tablet will never replace paper, part of me rebels. I’ve read since I could remember being conscious; I—like almost every voracious reader I know—have read ketchup bottle labels, shampoo ingredient lists, the backs of cereal boxes, and other odd things when faced with an inexplicable lack of other reading material; I read like I breathe: involuntarily, obligatorily. But if all else were stripped away, it is the story that I love above all. Stories are how we make sense of the world. They’re how we construct ideas, our selves, our very conception of our experience as sentient beings.

The book is the skin of the human story. The ideas in it, the story in it, are the soul of humanity, of consciousness.

The scent of paper and glue and binding and ink, the dry shuffle and rasp of page on page, against your hand, the pleasure turning into dread as the weight of a book you’re enjoying alters its balance from your pinky to your thumb… to confuse the sensory delight of these things with the wonderful infection of ideas that is the heart of a book is to confuse the taste with a wrapper. You might as well venerate the finely blown bottle in which your wine resides (which I have done, nothing wrong with it), or the layers of rice paper and pastel wrapping in which your handmade mochi is presented (again, I’ve done that; the Japanese take presentation to beautiful heights)… but make no mistake: while you may enjoy the physicality of the thing, its essence resides elsewhere.

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Kitchen Metaphors, or Why I Probably Need More Adult Conversation

My hands are wet, and starting to feel a little chapped, but the fridge is full of things that don’t look good to eat:

  • a bowl full of raw chicken marinating in spices
  • a bowl of turkey giblets and turkey neck, which were cooking in the slow cooker all last night
  • another bowl full of rich, dark turkey broth (see slow cooker above)
  • a freezer container with jellied turkey pan drippings

In the freezer:

  • celery, onions, carrots, mixed with tiny bits of turkey meat, left over from the slow cooker
  • package after package of frozen turkey meat

But out of all this unloveliness will come delicious things like turkey giblet gravy, a butter chicken curry for dinner tonight, and lots of turkey sandwiches and salads and pastas. And I think to myself that this must be some kind of metaphor for the ugliness we must pass through and endure in order to get to a better state of being, because a difficult year is drawing to a close, I’m starting on my fourth zodiac cycle*, and it’s starting to look like I can hope that there will be many good things happening next year.

Stories to come — we took a short vacation to Bali, I turned 36, I just signed up for Antigravity yoga teacher training, and oh boy do I have tons of photos to post, along with a couple of places to review.

But practical things first: I need to put the rice on for dinner tonight. And this is why I’m not a tai-tai, haha!

* I was born in the year of the (Fire) Snake. The Chinese zodiac cycle is 12 years, 12 animals, and I just turned 36, hence starting on the 4th cycle. Technically, I suppose, a full cycle with all 12 animals and 5 elements would be 60 years, but hello, most people don’t get enough years to count more than one!