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Archive for December, 2014

In Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop, a short novel filled with fine passages, the main character finds herself on a pebbly beach:

Children crouched down to decide which of these pebbles they would put into their buckets; grown men selected others to throw into the sea.

I read this on my morning commute, standing in the crowded aisle of a regional commuter train.  The air outside crackles with cold, and the passengers are red-faced and angry at one another’s coats and bags as they crush on and off of the train.  I stand with my backpack between my feet, leaning this way and that to let people by.  Every few minutes I pat my pockets for the things I need: cell phone, keys, office identification.  They are just where they were before, but I have lost things on the train.  People brush by, and I lay my Kindle against my chest to make as narrow an obstacle as I can.

But what about the pebbles?  The ones that the children pick up may travel home with them, may go onto a shelf or into a box of nostalgic curios.  Remember that holiday at the seaside? The ones picked up by the men are cast back into the void, perhaps to wash back on the beach in a thousand years as a few grains of sand.  Such different results, from decisions that no one could control.  Is it the child or the man who finds you?  A fable would have as its moral some truism about the pebbles, that it is better to serve a child who will keep you than a man who will cast you aside.  Or perhaps the tragedy is in the ones taken away from the beach, to be neglected in a drawer instead of sleeping secure in the cold darkness of the deep where they belong.

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Just a placeholder, but I just this minute realized that it was ten years ago (plus a little) that I quit my job as an associate at a good-sized Boston law firm without another job lined up just because I didn’t like it.  I admire that person, but I’m not him any more.

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