ordered chaos

my desk, Sunday morning

The contents of my desk this morning, though not contained anywhere:

  • Nineteen books
  • Two magazines
  • One book of sheet music
  • Seven journals (five filled, two in progress)
  • Four blank journals (waiting their turn)
  • Five spiral notebooks
  • Two coloring books
  • Three sketch books
  • Three peanut butter jars filled with pencils, pens & a hawk’s feather
  • Four baseballs and two hockey pucks
  • Rocks, a starfish, paperweights, paper clips
  • One digital recorder
  • One digital camera
  • Two Mary Chapin Carpenter CDs
  • One bowl of frosted flakes
  • One mug of coffee

I think about the books alone. There are five for reference; Oxford Pocket American Dictionary, Oxford Pocket American Thesaurus, Wood’s Unabridged Rhyming Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Pocket Rhyming Dictionary and a Dictionary of Folksy, Regional and Rural Sayings. (Note how three of the five are “pocket” sized, though only one actually fits into my pocket.)

There are three memoirs, two of these illustrated. There are two on creativity, along with a file folder filled with journal articles on the same subject. There are five works by Adrienne Rich, to be read only in small snippets so as not to be overtaken by the deep complexity of her mind. And there is one – ONE – novel. I keep saying I’m going to improve on this lack of fiction reading. This copy of “The English Patient” that I got for a quarter at the Friends of Worcester Public Library’s bookstore yesterday represents my latest attempt.

I imagine the number of words these books alone contain. I look across the room at an overflowing (though well-categorized, librarian) bookshelf, at a jam-packed book cart, at a couple of titles peeking out of my bag and one on my drafting table. I wonder how high the tower of words might be if they were stacked one on top of another. My own Tower of Babel.

But amazingly, they’re not babel at all. Amazingly, the authors behind each took a rather large stack of words and put them in order, some kind of order to tell some kind of story. It is a talent that I admire. It is a talent that I try to hone in myself. I fear I lack the discipline to ever succeed in ordering enough that they appear bound and resting on my desk. But I still imagine it. One should never give up on dreams.

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