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On Tuesday morning this week, we got up early and took Ella for a run beside the bikes on the trail. The weather was so cool and welcoming that we decided to keep riding after we took Ella back to the camper. We filled the water bottles up and rode to the footbridge that goes to Harper’s Ferry. We locked up our bikes, crossed the footbridge and walked into the town. None of the coffee shops were open, but it was still such good outdoor weather, that we decided to climb the steps to Jefferson’s Rock. The climb wasn’t nearly as difficult at I thought it might be, and when we got there we sat down on this huge rock right near Jefferson’s and talked about whether or not the view was as outstanding as Jefferson claimed it was. The National Park signs over there say that Jefferson said the view was “worth the trip across the Atlantic.”

It was definitely worth a short ride up the C&O canal towpath and a short hike on part of the Appalachian Trail. It felt good to walk, to climb a little.

The corner coffee shop still wasn’t open when we headed back to our bicycles. Seems we do most of our riding and adventuring before the rest of the world wakes up, at least here in rural Maryland/West Virginia.

Potomac River

Just sit in front of the screen for twenty minutes.  You don’t have to write.  You don’t have to publish it if you do write.  But here’s the catch–there’s always a catch:  You’re not allowed to do anything else while you sit there.  It’s write or do nothing.

Look out the window if you want.  Look at the tent near the road, the morning light spilling itself through the clouds, the thick green grass, creating shadows of trees.  Listen to the sound of Ella chewing on her rawhide down there on the dog bed at your feet.  You don’t have to write, but if you don’t all you can do is sit here with your hands in you lap, like in meditation.

Except that when you meditate, you’re lying down.  Maybe most people sit on a mat or a cushion, the Zen way, but you never do.  When you meditate, you lie still, let your limbs go limp, feel the softness of flesh and bone.

You don’t have to write.  Really, you don’t.  You can think about how wonderful it was to sit in the river the last few days, looking downstream, watching the play of light on the water and the trees, listening to the sounds of children laughing, smiling with your friend.  Think about the rocks, the mussels, the shards of glass worn smooth by the water.  How long does it take for a shallow river to turn glass into something that can no longer cut?

You joked about buying some suture in case you happen to find a fresher piece of glass the hard way and the water suddenly looks red around you.  But there wasn’t any real fear.

No, you really don’t have to write.  You can just sit here, still and silent.

Wonderbooks, Frederick, Maryland

The clerk in the aisle of the huge used bookstore asks, “What are you looking for?”  What am I looking for?  It’s not so much a matter of looking for something.  It’s more a matter or narrowing it down to the one book that I will let myself take home with with me today.  I answer, “Just browsing.”  To my friend, I say, “Okay, when can I move in?”  He points to a couch near the children’s books and informs me that it comes furnished.

A dual-language Spanish novel from the 16th century?  Or how about a Spanish Bible?  I am familiar enough with parts of it to not need a side by side translation for learning purposes. Better use that book of Neruda in both English and Spanish and return it to the library first, I tell myself. How about an antiquarian Boy Scout book?  I don’t seem to be able to find any old veterinary texts, but there is an interesting old histology book wedged on a shelf between the biology books and the medical texts.

“Why am I thinking about taking home a Spanish-English dictionary when I have Google Translate in my pocket?” I wonder aloud.  My friend shrugs, “You like real books.”

After browsing to my heart’s content, I return to the stacks with books labeled “Literature” to pick up “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”.  I read the first few pages of it on my Nook the other day, a downloaded sample.  I choose an inexpensive used paperback version for to buy, leaving an older hardbound copy on the shelf.  If It call out to me again across a few days, I might go back for it.