Upon my arrival back in the U.S. on July 21, I was greeted the following morning by a large basket at the foot of the stairs containing nearly a month's-worth of mail and packages. Most of this was junk, which I promptly tossed in the recycling bin.
But among the copious litter I also discovered two books--both contributor's copies containing, each, at least one of my essays. Although I never count these books among my personal total (now well over twenty, I believe), there is nevertheless something visceral and palpitating in the sudden swell of excitement upon opening a book that, at least in part, contains some portion of one's thought and work.
Here, to the case in point, one book contained an essay I had written last year, and which the editors so kindly and appreciatively recognized as one of the best they had published in 2013. A small honor, to be sure, but the reprint in book form (rather than magazine) offered me the sense of a wider, though be it humble, forum of readership.
The second book contained an original essay that I had written upon request, which is another honor that writers find compelling: when an editor calls and asks for one's participation in an anthology. Though I was, without doubt, working on many other projects (and some large one's at that) I put these tasks aside for a time to write this essay.
I rarely remember writing what I write . . . I find that I can't quote myself. But from time to time I am able to observe my own work from a distance--one afforded by both time and forgetfulness--and ask: "Is this any good?"
At times I am compelled to burn my past, wondering how I could have written so badly or so lackluster. But at other times I am, I must confess, somewhat taken by a turn of phrase of choice of words that surely could not have originated with me, but most certainly did, nonetheless. I keep these successes as proof that I did work upon the page.
Now that these two other books are in the bag I can go back to working on other affairs.
It's good to be home. And the two packages from the dusty confines of these publishing houses somehow seem more relevant than the many artifacts I brought back from Europe simply because I was carrying a VISA. The words themselves seem to be the artifacts that carried me home.