Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I believe I quoted this passage a few months ago when I read it. Now, home in Medford, I revisit it:

"The one thing Pierre desired now with his whole soul was quickly to get away from the horrifying sensations he had undergone that day, to return to the ordinary conditions of life, and to sleep peacefully in his own bed in his own room. He felt that only in the ordinary conditions of life would he be able to understand himself and all he had seen and experienced. But these ordinary conditions were nowhere to be found." -- p. 1007

So - yeah. I am back in Boston. I am back in the U.S. and back from Korea and no longer teaching rugrats, and I just think, listen, Pierre, Natasha, really? Is it possible? Can I just make this little thing called life work out?

Returning from another country is a great way to process The Book. I have had several meltdowns and a few wig-outs in the last two weeks as I've been galavanting about the Northeast seeing the people I need to see and answering the questions I need to answer.

And I didn't even see a battlefield in my "tour of duty"! (Unless you count the day we went to the DMZ.) But those classes, those screaming children in the hallways, those incessant orders of advance and retreat from the Ding Ding Dang powers that be, were all a lot like what the armies went through. You know, in a very melodramatic metaphorical way.

This book, this life -- they're bigger than us all! Bigger than I can get my mind around! But "these ordinary conditions were nowhere to be found" doesn't quite do it. On the contrary, I've come back to my house with the girls and the balcony and the Orchard Street treetops and the 96 bus and the woman at my local Dunkin' Donuts on Boston Ave who after nine months remembers me AND MY MEDIUM ICED COFFEE CREAM NO SUGAR ORDER!!

I think even Pierre might agree with me that in the epilogue, the ordinary conditions are to be found. They just might be right there waiting for you. Right where you left them.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It is finished

I have returned from Korea.

I finished reading War and Peace on the plane, somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Now, wouldn't you know that my seatmate to the right on that long flight would be a man from Serbia with some Russian heritage who was most intrigued to see me reading Tolstoy, and to learn that I had read other Tolstoy as well as other Russian authors. I thought - really? Are we known as such plebes that we aren't even thought to have read phenomenal Russian literature? I'm such a fan of Russian lit. Dostoevsky and Nabokov and then there are gems like The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov...anyway, I digress.

I finished the book!

I also finished my stint in Korea.

The Serb/Russian man asked me what one main point I would take from the book. One? I was incredulous. But I said, after a moment's reflection, you know, it's that there is something bigger than us all guiding this whole thing (life).

And it's not simple. It's not simply "God." Tolstoy, they say, did come to terms with Christianity in his way. But I mean, the epilogue just went on and on about this philosophy he's been sprinkling throughout the book about historical events; the free will or lack thereof of kings, generals, and so forth; the interconnectedness of it all; and how the farther we get from events in history -- or in our lives, I daresay -- the more sense they make.

Needless to say, I had a fabulous plane ride home. Sooooo much thinking. I can honestly say, between the comfy seat (in the big middle five-seat row, but the bulkhead gave some leg room) and the many things I had to contemplate contending with upon arriving back on U.S. soil, that I wanted that journey to never end.