I am on day five of vacation, happily sequestered in the quaint smallness of Saluda, NC, land of beautiful and challenging bike riding, class 4 kayaking rapids, and a rich literary tradition –sandwiched here along the Saluda Grade railroad track between Carl Sandburg’s home one town to the West in Flat Rock, NC, and Tryon, NC to the East– home of the poet Sydney Lanier and of the Pinecrest Inn, where Scott Fitzgerald would summer and write while Zelda was in a nearby insane asylum. As we biked through tiny Tryon the other day, I counted four book stores. Four! Small, independent book stores are thriving in this town that has virtually no industry now that North Carolina’s textiles are long gone, only one small grocery (and a Dollar General) and a robust smattering of vacant store fronts. Tryon has more book stores than stop lights, which gives me hope. And get this: one of these intrepid booksellers is named Mr. William Goodheart — got to love it.
I had great vacation intentions of reading more than I have, and writing more than I have, but that seems to be par for the course. I have, however, read the way the river V’s between rocks so I could paddle the kayak toward the path of least resistance and greatest white-water thrill. I’ve read the way the roads pitch and dip, anticipating sharp turns and steep climbs to try to conserve muscle and energy to pedal up when needed. I’ve spent more time looking at the barely-pink bursts of rhodadendron in bloom than I have the computer screen; I’ve listened to the gentle, happy clapping of a creek slip-sliding down a hillside rather than the constant stream of news, blogs, and Internet trivia.
Which is why I’m a few days late in noting the passing of the brilliant, sassy, pithy, wise, razor-sharp Nora Ephron. May I simply add my humble thanks for her wit, her insight, and her well-lived, well-read, well-written life. May we all take cover amidst this ferocious heat wave in the cool comfort a good book, possibly even an Ephron title, and take to heart her words:
Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.