my proust has gone missing. perhaps. or i stopped looking for it. that’ll happen with proust. he did come along to boston, in the carry on that stayed in the overhead compartment. (when baby fell asleep with his feet in my face sprawled across big brother it seemed too much to crawl out from the the human jenga pyramid and retrieve it. i looked at skymall instead.). he rode in the back of the jeep with the dog when we drove 365 miles to see a vet about a six month ear infection. (he was passed over for pirate madlibs and a month of real simple menus). and now i can’t remember how to even look for him.
i’m weary of the writing that rants about not being able to write. weary, that is, of my quiet whine that writing is so difficult, so impossible to begin, particularly when one has been hoarding words and one starts to feel quite heavy with them and yet when one sits down to write the words scurry behind thoughts of second grade recess and volunteer art projects. which, of course, is a red flag that the book, and one’s words must be found at all costs.
The robe had survived various threats to its existence. There was the time some well-meaning relatives came out, and, as a surprise, gave the island a good cleaning. They threw out a lot of things the family wanted, but, worst of all, they carried the bathrobe down to the water and let it float away. They claimed later that it smelled. Of course it smelled–that was part of its charm. Smell is important. It reminds a person of all the things he’s been through; it is a sheath of memories and security. The robe smelled of good things, too–of smoke and the sea–but maybe they never noticed that. In any case, the robe came back. The wind blew, shifted, and reversed the waves beat against the island, and one fine day they brought it home. After that, it smelled of seaweed, and Papa wore virtually nothing else that whole summer.
of course as i write this, proust is with me, has been with me all along. the memory of smell, the synaesthetic intermingling of sense and memory. and as i write i am unburdened of these excess words, reminded that part of writing is wading along, walking on alligators. i’d been slowly savoring jansson’s book all summer long, wading about in the distilled island experiencing the dark, intense reverie that is particular to the finnish. (memories now of summolein strawberries, trams in the rain, travelling with a three year old in helsinki, adventures from another time). (closer still, seashells shaped like velociraptor claws and the pop popping of seaweed bulbs underfoot.) but august slipped by and i was still reading well into fall, holding on to the long tides of the midnight sun. proust was always in my bag, but jansson was at my bedside table.
i’ve shelved the summer book (and replaced it with jacob’s room) and i think proust will come back, if only as the smell of seaweed and the callous of barnacles on my bedside books.