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Pickle Me This

January 9, 2014

The Silver Button and Wanderlust

wanderlustI have been besotted with Rebecca Solnit ever since reading The Faraway Nearby last fall, so I was very pleased to receive two more of her books for Christmas. I read Wanderlust: A History of Walking first as it was written before the other, and I loved once again being absorbed in a Solnitian world where the connections between books and place are so strong, and where one thing leads to another, just as one step does. (“One foot in front of the other,” is Harriet’s mantra as we embark on the 1.3 km walk to school every morning. It is a long walk if the walker is 4 years old, particular lately through snow and ice. ) And it is because one thing leads to another that one can’t sum up a Rebecca Solnit book properly, and I therefore must resort to ecstatic sharing. I loved learning about how closely the history of English garden design connects to the history of walking, about how the idea of walking being natural takes for granted civilization (i.e. law and order), and the gender politics of walking and (for women) the sexualization of the street—how different is the term “tramp” depending on to whom it is applied.

The first paragraph of Wanderlust:

Where does it start? Muscles tense. One leg a pillar, holding the body upright between the earth and sky. The other a pendulum, swinging from behind. Heel touches down. The whole weight of the body rolls forward onto the ball of the foot. The big toe pushes off, and the delicately balanced weight of the body shifts again. The legs reverse position. It starts with a step and then another step and then another that add up like taps on a drum to a rhythm, the rhythm of walking. The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.

the-silver-buttonWhich reminds me of the exquisite picture book that I bought Harriet/myself for Christmas this year. The Silver Button is a new book by Bob Graham, one of our favourite authors and the force behind the wonderful Oscar’s Half-BirthdayIt’s a story that takes place within a single moment, illuminating the connections, the beauty and the perfections of the world. The perspective moves from a space on the floor in a single room to eventually comprise an entire city and beyond toward the global as Jodie puts the finishing touches on her drawing of a duck and her brother Jonathan rises to his feet to take his very first step. “He swayed, he frowned, he tilted forward, and took his first step. He took that step like he was going somewhere….”

These two books are an unlikely but absolutely perfect pair.

One thought on “The Silver Button and Wanderlust

  1. theresa says:

    Wonderful post, Kerry. You’ve convinced me they’re a pair…

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