From a sales table at a B&N on one or the other end of Houston I had found a copy of The Best American Essays 2009. Essays are something that I try to be wary of, like park trails with which I'm unfamiliar or neighborhoods that I've never before visited. Although trod or read by others, the possibility of danger (especially that of sudden shock to the view or the self-conception) turns me to safer paths.
As it turns out, the danger in this collection was that it would light the restlessness that I usually tamp down. We 'don't travel because of the dogs'--it's been a good excuse for the entirety of a marriage that covers the fact that we're not that flexible and our patience for each other's company is mediated by the minor absences of home, such as reading or watching tv.
For years I missed traveling with a ferocity that expressed itself in withdrawal. Then I grew accustomed to a circumspect prospect. Then I lost my job, the second car died, and the prospect withered to the precincts of the house. Frustration flared, but it died just as quickly with a sarcastic Haven't we been through this before?
So the book of essays, slim and yellow, turned out to be like a single tile in the puzzle of the way through Oz. I find myself thinking that I could be in New York City in a few days and spend just a few hours walking in brick and mortar canyons. Perhaps I could point the car toward Florida and an ocean that's not the color of mud. Each essay, each little slice of somewhere else, is like a tasting menu of the ideas that grow in other places, a non-locavore feast of language soaked in the specificity of a single vineyard, a call to find somewhere to go and something new to think.
To which the response will be, ever and always, that the restraints of thought are not territorial but psychological.