Summer reading: The Pull of the Moon

It's June 1! Which on my calendar officially marks the beginning of summer reading season. So every week from now until the end of August, I'll give you a snippet from a perfect summer book that I love, mostly written by women because I don't know if you've noticed but I am a woman. However I will also throw a man into the mix every once in a while, too, because it makes me sad sometimes how men are so neglected and undervalued as a species in our society. Won't somebody please give them a voice? Also, some of these books we have talked about here before, because I do tend to repeat myself; I'm like my father that way, we both find a thing and hammer it half to death with our love. But whatever: it's summer. Go read something.

I went to a lecture once by a famous psychiatrist who was talking about how women must rid themselves of the idea that they are sitting on the ground, eyes cast downward, waiting for a man to tap them on the shoulder. It is a very common feeling, I know. When he said that, the woman sitting next to me recrossed her legs and straightened herself in her seat, the truth of what he said snaking through her, through all of us there. The air in the room seemed to change, to become charged and visible. What he did not say is how the story repeats itself over and over, how once a woman is tapped, she is likely to get up and do what she is bid, then sit down and wait again. Where does this start, I want to know? When do we leave behind staring straight at someone, not worrying if, in the middle of the conversation, there's a mosquito bite we need to scratch?

I believed, at twelve, that I could be a scientist. I read a book a day. I believed I could be a writer, an actress, a professor of English in Rome, an acrobat in a purple spangled outfit. Days opened for me like the pulling apart of curtains at a play you've been dying to see. I had a microscope on my desk, shelves full of books and treasures that I found outside: rocks, wood, abandoned nests of hornets and birds, notes to myself for things to do tomorrow because I hadn't had the time today. I believed the way to ride bareback was to get on and go, the rising heat of the horse against your bare legs the only instruction you'd need. The how of everything was simply in the doing of it. I had a turtle in a plastic bowl, and I fed him flies I captured in my bare hands and to whom I apologized before killing. I had a crow living outside my window, I spoke to all the dogs in the neighborhood, and they understood me. I patted them so hard dust rose up off their backs in tiny, dim clouds, and they understood this, too—they stood still for it as long as I would do it, their eyes closed in itchy pleasure. My life was like a wild, beating thing, exotic, capable of unfolding and enlarging itself, pulling itself higher and higher up like a kite loved by the wind, and it was captured beneath my cereal bowl. There in front of me, my own for the taking. And then, suddenly, lost.

And look, now, how I avoid this still. How I use my own hand to turn my face away.

Elizabeth Berg, "The Pull of the Moon"

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