Recently, I was talking to a friend about other friends who are not voracious, inveterate readers.
(I keep books in my bags, in my car, under my bed. I can't imagine a day without a book. I can't imagine the world without all the stories I've read stacked up against it. I imagine my friend is much the same.)
He asked me if knowing these people had expanded my horizons. Or something like that. He was joking, I think, but the answer is a serious shout of YES. Most of my friends speak the same languages as me. We speak fluent dance to each other. We speak books and writing. We talk about other things, of course, poaching the whole entire world for our conversation, but we're the same species and we understand each other. This is wonderful.
But sometimes I meet someone who is intelligent and articulate in a language that I've never bothered to try. Or didn't know existed. The conversation is awkward at first (sometimes it even dies and all is lost) because we don't have any common crutches to lean on. We don't understand each other, and this thrills me because I'm suddenly standing on the very edge of a different country where everything comes in different colors and smells are shifted ninety degrees... and the best part is when I start to see that this exotic, glorious wilderness is actually my own, ordinary world, just beneath an unfamiliar light.
The lovely Heather W., once told me that cyclists suffer more flats in the rain. I asked her why, and she said it was probably because the rain dislodged debris from the cracks in the road and lifted it up to attack the tires. I had never considered that. It was like bursting a piece of caviar in my mind.
Eric once showed me a particular kind of tree whose bark is smooth and red and astonishingly, strangely cold. For him, it was obvious and recognizable. For me, it was a miniature explosion. The world is suddenly not what I expected, and it's absolutely fantastic.
This is not to say that I don't love my friends who are cut from the same cloth as me (or at least similar: velvet/velveteen, dupioni/charmeuse, linen/poplin). They surprise, delight, warm, and challenge me. They are some of the most important people in my world and I love them. It's just that, sometimes, it's nice to get to know someone about whose world I know absolutely nothing.