I'd already walked many miles today, but when I returned home the sun was doing its faraway thing. From my desk, it seemed to be glittering behind the college's trees; when I walked out to catch it, it turned out to be very far away indeed, and paler than it had seemed from inside. I heard birds and saw women rugby players. I had spent the afternoon browsing through a guildhall full of rare and antiquarian books, all of them beyond my means. For most of the afternoon, things were relatively unawkward--and then, just as we reached home, there was a quiet altercation over whether or not anyone could possibly enjoy collating books. (I have made my feelings about this matter amply clear for you in the past.) "It's just depressing," he said, speaking of a bookseller to whom we spoke for a little while. "He spent all that time collating that book, trying to figure out which printing it came from." "He might have enjoyed it," I replied, not even trying to be contradictory--just thinking back to all those hours I spent picking through the pages of rare books that summer in Charlottesville, and thinking that it would have been even more fun, probably, had we gone on beyond collation and started comparing our copies to other copies of our books. Within two more conversational rounds, he had asserted that he loves books, but that everyone goes to books for what's inside them, and I did have to counter that one: that's how you learn the anatomy of a book, I said. I'm telling you that I love collating. That's just depressing, he replied. Well, there's nowhere to go from there, I thought, especially if you're going to abuse a clinical term.
It was good that the afternoon was over, and good that the sunset was there to be seen out at the end of the footpath, is what I'm saying.
My piano lesson was utterly brilliant. It's not that I was utterly brilliant. It's that, once again, I received the true and enormous gift of having found myself a teacher who knows how to engage with my abilities and my mind at exactly the right levels, challenging my intellect and my technique and my emotions all at the same time. I was shy and proud when I finished playing her the Bach and she praised it; I was fierce and proud as we worked through sticky measures two notes at a time. I know--or else I wouldn't teach--that there's no real, lasting glory in getting things right the first time. The glory comes from working through toward rightness. Today's lesson felt like a glory, and not even just a small one.