I heard a great story about the Borrelli company in Italy. They make some of the best men’s shirts in the world, ergo they cost a lot too. All of the buttonholes on the shirts are hand sewn by a bunch of old women in a small town near the Borrelli factory. They do such a good job that they’re the only ones hired by the company to do the work. The problem is when the shirts are returned after the work is done, there’s always tobacco ash stains on them because the women smoke like crazy while sewing. So the company has long since factored into the production schedule a few days extra so the shirts can be laundered after they’re returned — and then sold.
I told the famous writer one particular short story he’d written was a great favorite of mine and that I go back and reread it often. He made a pained face and said, “I don’t like that story. I wrote it about someone who ended up being the biggest mistake of my life. I knew a woman who wrote a novel about her childhood. The book came out, no one bought or read it, and it disappeared very quickly. She told me the thing she was saddest about was she’d wasted the subject of her childhood on the book. I feel the same way about that short story: I wasted so much love on it when the one it was about turned out to be a very bad person.”
One night at a hotel bar in Texas, someone told me the story of a man who for years made audio recordings of all his favorite sounds: trains passing through town at night, wind in the trees, crashing ocean waves, fire crackling in a fireplace, certain birds, thunder and rain on the roof… He did it so that if he ever became sick and incapacitated, he could listen to those sounds to remind himself of the things in life worth loving and holding onto.
Some people live like life is a chairlift at a ski resort. They stand in one place doing little with the days until the next moving ‘chair’ comes around, usually in the form of a new person in their life, job offer, or opportunity dropped in their lap. Then with little effort on their part other than just showing up at the right spot, or the ability to say yes, they are automatically swept up by this chair and propelled forward.
Anyone who likes to read usually has far too many books in their library but has no hesitation buying another if it looks interesting. I like just looking at all of the unread book on my shelves. It is like being at a dinner party where all of the guests there are reputed to be very interesting or who have great spellbinding stories to tell. Of course I won’t get to talk to all of them. But just looking around the table at these attractive, intriguing people, knowing I will learn some of their stories sooner or later makes me happy.