Everything Is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and to invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

—David Whyte

Book Club: Charlotte’s Web

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” (Goals, you know?)

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There are rare perfect sentences that catch like a light on glass. Rarer, still, are perfect passages. Rarest of all, are perfect books; and Charlotte’s Web is one.

I wish I remembered reading the book as a child. I did, of course; I am a person who was young in this country in the last sixty-odd years. There is, most definitely, a hardback procured c. 1994, deep in my parents’ attic. For whatever reason, though, I don’t. I have no recollection of when and where I read it—or was read it, and by whom. I remember the cover (Who wouldn’t? Those eyes!). But beyond a lingering vegetarianism, I can’t for the life of me tell you of the impression it left.

So many years later, in graduate school, a class* brought me back to the story; and it was then that White’s words became something indelible. That I felt their weight—as narrative, and meaning—and carried it with me. Each one gracefully plain, but together weaving this scintillant web.

Id est, all of the tears.

A few weeks ago, I found a new edition at the lovely Diane’s in Greenwich, and brought it home. In her introduction, Kate DiCamillo (insert: heart-eyes) describes coming late to the book at age thirty-one, when a teacher urged: read this, if you wish to be a writer. Yes; agreed.

There’s no reason for synopsis here. Whoever you are, you know that there is Wilbur and Charlotte and Fern. That there is a pig who is loved, and saved. I won’t get into all that.

What I simply want to say, is: (re-)read it. If you must drive to the store for a copy, go and invest. If there is one in your home right now, all the better. Charlotte’s Web is something rare. It is a window and a mirror, both. It is a book for readers and writers, and children and “grown-ups”; and in its disquieting-comforting-generous-true portrayal of what it is to live in—and with—this world, it is nothing less than a miracle. And it’s the season for those, after all.

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*Whose syllabus, of a few years later, can be found here.