My day begins at the timeworn wooden kitchen table in the Connecticut home my husband and I have lived in for 15 years, and in which we have raised our four boys. And it begins with peanut butter on flax toast, a big mug of hot coffee — and a book.
Reading a book at the kitchen table began when I stopped reading the newspaper at breakfast. While I still read the paper every day, I wait until later to face the realities of politics, our country, the world. My day might start with murder (the latest Louise Penny mystery), tragedy on the high seas (rereading Charlotte Rogan’s splendid “The Lifeboat”) or an obituary (Mike McCormack’s exhilarating “Solar Bones”), but the accounts I read are fictional. Fiction has the incredible ability to go deep into tough issues and wring both hope and redemption from miserable circumstances.
I read at the kitchen table because it is comfortable there, well lighted and quiet (now that our boys are grown). My chair has a cushion, and the height of the table is perfect for resting my elbows. I also have a great view out the French doors that lead into our garden. In the summer, I see flowers and long swaths of grass; in the winter, I see snow and birds (we put out chili pepper-spiked birdseed to keep away the squirrels). Now it is spring and I see daffodils, tulips, sprouting green things (unidentifiable as of yet), and in the distance a long, brilliant wave of yellow forsythia.
The only drawback to reading a book at breakfast is that, because I work from home and have no train to catch or clock to punch, too often I look up from my book and realize that it is almost time for lunch. So I settle in for an early tuna sandwich and continue reading. I’ll finally get to my own work by midday and then have a late dinner with whatever family members are around. We eat at the kitchen table, but no reading is allowed. Not yet. Dinner is for talking.
Later, after finishing whatever work I have left to do and before going to bed, I am back at the kitchen table. I end my day the way I started it, with a book. Wine now instead of coffee, and chocolate instead of toast. And when I look up from my book, instead of seeing the garden, I see myself reflected in the glass: hair tied back, reading glasses on and book open before me.
Last night I finished “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez, a book that reminded me to find joy even when there is pain. The narrator has lost a friend to suicide, gained a dog and ponders the equation of life: how it gives us so much even while it takes so much away. Another recent favorite was “Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan, a lyrical, sweeping novel about a boy born a slave who finds himself unexpectedly freed and facing difficult choices. I also loved C.J. Sansom’s “Tombland,” a historical mystery centered on popular uprisings during the waning reign of Henry VIII, when the poor wanted food and opportunity, while the wealthy had little interest in providing either. How history repeats itself.
I just bought “Working” by Robert Caro. I’ll start the book tomorrow morning and get the day started right. Peanut butter on toast and book on the table.