How To Read In Flagstaff by Natalie Rose
It’s funny how often the act of opening a book and seeing each word with your eyeballs and registering that word in your noggin does not actually lead to reading. It leads to scanning, which is to reading as consuming lunch at your desk is to enjoying a fine meal prepared with love. That is to say, it’s miles apart. Engulfed as we are in our busy lives, taking the time to find a cozy, quiet spot and block out conscientious space in our brains to consume what is on the page is near impossible. Engrossed as we are in our routines and people and places and things (I’m looking at you, iPhone), we find ourselves all too often reading, but not reading.
Sometimes, though, we must read. Reading, when we are, in fact, reading, giving our full attention to a text, being sucked into the rabbit hole, as it were, well… there is nothing quite like it, is there?
Fortunately, there are some books that demand my full attention. Not my half-assed reading-while-waiting-for-my-toes-to-dry-locked-in-the-bathroom-type reading attention, but my full reading attention, my drill sergeant reading attention, my school principal reading attention. Ander Monson’s book Letter To A Future Lover is one of those books. A collection of musings about the “ephemera” found in library books, his words, sentences and paragraphs are practically impenetrable to the distracted and the multi-tasking.
If you find yourself with one of these books, take a drive. My favorite places in Flagstaff are up Snowbowl Road, either Kachina Trail or Humphrey’s Peak trail, though Kachina is usually quieter.
Hike in. You require quiet for this exercise today, so find a spot not too close to the trails, maybe in one of the aspen meadows. Set up on a nice flat rock or a cushy blanket, looking out into nature.
Take out your book and open it, listening for the small crackling sound the cover makes, sort of like listening to a bowl of rice crispy cereal. Thumb through the pages like you’re looking at a flipbook. Feel the air on your face that the wave of pages creates. Smell the pages, a mix of glue and cardboard and ink. Find the place you have last left off. If you are reading Letter To A Future Lover, you can just open to a random page. The rule of order does not apply here.
Before you begin, close your eyes and take a deep breath, centering yourself for the upcoming mission. If you read effectively, you will no longer be in aspen meadow, you will be sucked into a worm hole through which you, dear reader, will commune with the author of your book, with their characters, places and things. You will experience, as Steven King once said, telepathy. You will be where the author is, whenever they are, with them, shoulder to shoulder. But only when we remove ourselves from our daily grind can we experience such a transformative communiqué. Only with time can we be free to read.