Of course I dream of other worlds, but it is because I dream of them (catching sight in the distances of piled cloud on cloud with beyond the highest, whitest cloud a brightness remote and indescribable, or in the darkness of a still pool, suggesting yet deeper depths beyond: another world) in the present world–which is all I know–that this is made another wonder.
I think it is a wonder that in this world there should be a place like Philadelphia. Let those grumble who will, who only see what they can; I will love Philadelphia. There is a whole city block enclosed and given over to food downtown. It is a combination of a market in Cleveland to which I went when in sixth grade and the North Market in Columbus. The place in Cleveland was touted as a wonder back when I was still innocent in expectations, and was taken in while I still had growth to undergo, and so it was greater around me than nowadays it is. Rare and desirable goods were displayed in cases over which I could hardly see, and there were lights and smells unimaginable. These goods were available to us in all their beauty for no more than money–what a happy exchange! The North Market in Columbus is full of places to eat and specialty food shops; it is various and curious and worth just walking through. Put the two together, entirely taking the space of both and glorifying their ideas, and crowd the walkways, and add Mennonites and greater variety of display and you will get the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. People today were crowding the breakfast tables, chocolates and baked goods were piled, coffee was being roasted, tea reposed in cans, pretzels and pasta, steaks and bacon and poultry and seafood, barrels of pickles, sauerkraut and such stood ready. Not so much ethnic food, as in the North Market, though there was enough of that for me who hardly cares for it; more the delights of Pennsylvania, echt Deutsch. (I am a man of the West. All these fiddly ethnic foods–why don’t they eat meat and potatoes?) And the people in there sounded, chose, devoured; and the lights were welcoming and the abundance was cheerful; and altogether it was wonderful to see: one of the great sights of my life. A place suggesting real good-cheer, echoing below the cheer of heaven and the life to come.
Speaking of the life to come, I saw in the art museum the study of a scholar and wondered what kind of place the Lord has for me someday. I was thinking about it because this silly American ideal of being a handyman came up: and I am not (not a manual labor guy, you know?). Nor is gardening my thing, I’m no horticulturist. I have no wish ever in my life except by way of food to touch an animal, though seeing them from afar is interesting, though as a sausage more. What I am is a reader and a dabbler at writing, and a lover of those kinds of things to do with paper. I also love weather, and seeing the effects of weather on the world, specially the qualities of light you get–these I admire and enjoy the most, and its one of my chief reasons for going out of doors. I like artificial light as well, the light of candles and fires, and the effects of a proper atmosphere indoors on something. Cunningly lit places, with dimness and brightness I love. And so this magical market somehow seemed to me, though at this point I don’t know why (I am antipathetic to explanations that destroy wonder, so I don’t look for them. Nothing is more off-putting than some clod taking away the magic to leave one only in possession of a fact, as if that counted for more). Whatever awaits me in the world to come for which I long more than anything, I think something got into this market.
Perhaps it was the joy of discovering such a place, the undetailed observation that is the first impression, the happy extent of it, how unanticipated it arrived all stumbled upon. I do not know, but I think it is one of the best things about this wonderful metropolis.