A Book Review: Notes From The Drift
A couple of weeks ago I received a copy of “Notes From The Drift” by Anthony Guilbert, a practical yet poetic look at the world from a certain viewpoint. For me it is a timely reminder of the simplicity and beauty of living life. A few days later I had to spend the day in Virginia Beach, a trip that would require some time waiting for a friend attending to business, so I took my new book along. There are few things in life better than coffee and a new book, so I found a coffee shop and started reading. I was intrigued from the first page: “There is something unqualified, an anonymous flux surging in, around, and through our world that seems to urge everything.” Yes. I know this. I think we all know this. However, I will allow we sometimes forget it. In any case, the more I read, the more I felt a reflection of what has been in my own mind a thousand times in any given situation.
“Those within the drift enter into a dialogue with the world. They allay the mysteries by making contact with them.”
In some ways this book is a travel memoir, in some ways it’s a poetic rendering of life lived, in others it’s an intimate look at the natural world around us and our place in it. I think that last one is what resonates the most with me. Every person’s reading of any given book is individual and unique, and this is mine, this how this book speaks to me.
“Children of the Earth, students of the universe make intention their first practice. They step barefoot into the mysterious and feel ‘their way’ with their toes.”
A part of what the indigenous Tibetans consider as the process of Soul Retrieval is reconnecting with nature. And even though that process can be fairly in-depth and formal, when you get down to it it’s basically all about developing awareness, paying attention to the world around you. This is something we can all use more of: simply take a walk in the woods, a drive in the mountains, or sit by the ocean. Feel a sense of oneness with your environment. And while I would never pretend to know Guilbert’s intention in writing this memoir, it seems to have that essence to it. An essence of renewal, of awareness, of paying attention and recording the results like they were an endless flow of magical data. Which is apropos because the world is a magical place and we need writers like this to remind us of that. Like Han Shan and Ryokan, Zen Poets of another generation roaming the countryside and recording their observations, Guilbert unveils the beauty, mystery, and power that surrounds us, all the while reminding us how common it is.
“For half a million years, a very-human being has walked this world. They stood on the same coasts, got swept up by the same surf, cut against the same rocks….”You ask how we know? We know, because we remember—we are old—we are wise. World-worn, we wrote our history in the earth, in our flesh.”
I had time and coffee and I used it to my advantage. I read half the book in short order and took a break to change locations. I moved over to the local park, found a nice little oak tree and did my Taiji form with a specific intention to feel ‘The Drift” surrounding and supporting me, that anonymous flux so close at hand. I sat on a bench and considered what I had read so far. A vivid sentence from the last page at the coffee shop replayed in my head as I picked myself up to move on: “Going on from here, you must welcome the mystery in the everyday. Don’t try to possess or detain it—become instead, a likeness of truth. Go on then, the drift has limitless contours and many, many, inspiring spaces.”
The next morning I woke early and took a walk along the ocean with a renewed sense of wonder, or more likely a remembering from deep in my flesh. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes words—the right words—can have so much power, a flux of their own. And so it is with this book, these words. I have to say I enjoyed my first reading of this book, my next reading now at hand. Buy this book. If you can appreciate the power of words, the mysteries that surround us, the miracle that is life, the observations of a good writer, this book will speak to you. And in the end, that’s what makes a good book great.