People asked me incredulously: “Did you really fly to San Francisco just to listen to a talk?”
Yes, I did.
People told me: “But the talk will be available on the radio and the podcast!”
Yes, it will. But I wanted to listen to it live. And I wanted to have an opportunity to meet Rebecca Solnit, one of my favorite authors, and tell her in person: “Thank you for your books.”
And that’s why last week I found myself at a Nourse Theater, at a City Arts & Lectures program, where Rebecca Solnit was to be interviewed by another bright and creative mind, Maria Popova of BrainPickings.
I came to the theater early and retrieved my precious ticket.
I found my seat, looked at the empty stage, and smiled in joyful anticipation.
I watched the opulent, art deco theater slowly fill up and up and up, until there was not a single free seat left.
And then Rebecca Solnit and Maria Popova came to the stage and sat at the little table in a circle of light, and once the applause died down, they had a large conversation.
There were great many sparkling moments in their dialogue.
“The world is not made of atoms, it is made of stories.”
“We live and die by stories.”
“Even the street you live on can be full of mysteries.”
In this conversation, there were many bridges, many delightful connections to other writers I know and love. For example, it was thrilling, yet not surprising to learn that Solnit loves Virginia Woolf and Henry Thoreau.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the evening came when Rebecca was answering questions from the audience. The stage was bathed in golden light, while the rest of the theater was hidden in the shadows… Rebecca wanted to see her interlocutors, and that desire gave us a heartwarming image of her shielding her eyes with her hand, making an effort to locate the individuals asking the questions in the dark so that she could connect with them completely.
And then, after the conversation was over, it was time to stand in line to buy books. And what a joy it was, to wait in that line and delight in warm, wonderful conversations with my fellow book lovers and kindred spirits.
Finally, I had the opportunity to meet Rebecca and had two books signed by her, “Hope in the Dark” I just bought and “The Faraway Nearby” I acquired in a lovely used bookstore in Edinburgh, of all places. Rebecca, who shows up with strength and confidence when she is on stage, was incredibly kind and gentle in person. She had many questions for me, and I walked away overwhelmed with her incredible warmth and humility.
… And so there I was, standing in front of the theater at 9 PM, clutching the treasures of my signed books. I caught a cab and I was whisked away to San Francisco Airport, and flew home. I slept a little on the plane, and I woke up smiling.
Thank you for the light, Rebecca. Thank you for creating an ever expanding circle of light around you. Thank you for building and holding up a bridge, seemingly vulnerable yet infinitely strong – of connection, hope and faith.
Hello, my name is Maria Fafard and I am delighted to meet you! I read old books, travel to thin places, think about meaning of life and write about all of these things. I care about people, ideas, and books, believe in power of liberal arts, try to nurture creativity in others and myself, and strive to live a meaningful life. I believe that travel in the physical world is often a symbol for seeking in the realm of mind and spirit, and that wherever we are, countless gifts of joy and wonder are offered to us every day – but we have to be present enough to look up and accept them.
If you have enjoyed reading my blog posts, you can follow me here on WordPress, on Medium, and on Twitter (@mariafafard). Thank you and I am looking forward to talking with you on your favorite platform!