My Dearest Fellow Conspirators,
I spend a lot of time thinking about politics, racial and gender issues, what it means to grow up in today’s world, and all the assorted things that stop us from being the angelic society we eternally hope to become.
What can I say? I like thinking, and most people have politics, a race, and/or a gender, so it’s all kind of low-hanging fruit for a writer.
Let me switch over for a second to technology.
I’m not a luddite, and I’m not a grumpy, “get-those-kids-off-my-lawn” curmudgeon. (I’m fine with kids on my lawn as long as their owners clean up after them!) I love my laptop, my Kindle, my smart TV, my Internet, and I’d probably marry my cell phone if it were legal.
But it was nice strolling through the expansive Jardin de Luxembourg in the middle of Paris, France and find people reading…(wait for it)…books.
I’ve been to Paris before. I’ve done all the touristy things: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsée, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Champs-Élysées. I’ve gone on the boat tour down the Seine and eaten baguettes and cheese with a nice Bordeaux. I even visited Jim Morrison’s grave.
But I’d never been to the Jardin de Luxembourg. (Not sure how I missed it in my travels: the park is pretty big!)
Nevertheless, last time there, I decided to have a wander. I was taken aback by the pristine green space, the manicured lawns, the well-kept trees, and the litter-free pathways. There were old folks out playing pétanque (it’s like lawn bowling). There were walkers, joggers, runners, and casual strollers. Then there were the gardens, fountains, statues, apple orchards, a puppet theatre, and even an open-air building being used as a gallery for a temporary art installation.
For kids, there are pony rides and a playground the size of a football field complete with a wide-variety of swings, ladders, see-saws, a carousel, jungle gyms, and pretty much any other device a hyperactive kid could manage to get injured on.
But for me, it was the tucked away little satellite parks within the larger park that really made an impression. People by the hundreds (and yet, somehow, it never felt crowded!) sat on benches, on chairs, or right on the grass and read…books. That’s right, books. Not Kindles. Not phones. But books. Books made out of paper and with cover art and spines and pages you could dog-ear or spread across your chest when it was time to have a nap under a soothing summer sun.
I wrote big chunks of one of my books there over a period of two weeks when I practically lived in the Jardin. But then, when I was ready for a break, I slipped my laptop back in its case, whipped out my favorite novel and settled into a quiet pocket of pastoral bliss.
I’m not sure what it is about books. Is it because I grew up reading them? Is it the nostalgia factor? Or maybe it’s the tactile nature of the experience? Paper feels different on the fingertips than the combination of plastic and glass I’ve gotten used to as the electronic age continues its relentless infiltration into every corner of modern life.
Or maybe it’s because I’m kind of destructive by nature. With traditional books, I fold pages back, crack the spines, write in the margins, underline lines I like, jot down phone numbers on the title page, rest my drink on the cover, and occasionally swat bugs that encroach on my bedside table. Try doing that with your iPhone.
Whatever the reason, the Jardin de Luxembourg now has a special place in my heart and in my future travels. It’s soothing and inspirational all at once. It makes you want to chill, relax, sleep, read, write, breathe, and be better than you are.
Again, nothing against electronic reading devices. I’m all for ‘em! But, wow, was it ever nice to see people of all ages reading in the old-school style all around me.
There’s something romantic and refreshing about knowing that technology still has its place, but it’s also nice to know it doesn’t yet have every place.