The books not taken

We went by ship to Tasmania, spent half a week in the northwest and the other half in the southeast. Both were spectacular, and we were blessed with what locals thought uncanny sunshine. Packing Robert Frost was an afterthought, but one I was heartily glad of. I had decided not to take any fiction. Knowing myself, I knew any novel would sap the better part of my attention, and seduce me away from harder reading and from observation. So I took theology, philosophy, criticism - and Frost. By week's end most of the prose was still untouched, but I had read more than a hundred poems; by sunlight in the day, and by torchlight in our tent at night. There was something especially harmonious about reading Frost while living out of doors. There was scant resemblance to Frost's New England, but there was still a resonance in what I saw with what I read of tree and bird and apple blossom, of daybreak and nightfall. I relished Frost's quiet attention to his world. Without requiring too much interpretative labour, Frost's poetry gave me a liturgy for my enjoyment. Where fiction would have led me astray from where we were, his poetry led me to look more closely and see more clearly the road we travelled by. And that has made all the difference.