Dante missed one of Hell's circles. It is populated by lawyers preparing to leave for vacation. What vision? Perhaps an urban sewer, a steady stream of waste streaming onto the damned who sit politely prattling into a telephone. Hell, alas.
Parting is such sour sorrow, it almost makes me regret having decided to leave the office.Well, not quite.
By the time you read this, I will be settled into a farmhouse in rural Wales. I am attending the 20th annual Hay-on-Wye Festival. I've already purchased tickets to attend writers' workshops, lectures on the crusades, global warming and organic gardening. I'll even tour a Welsh dairy farm. Who knows whether cows are in my future?
But tonight I suffer. My flight leaves tomorrow and I am swamped by the thousand and one details of running a small firm. Short calendars in order? Check. Motions up to date. Ditto. Briefs overdue? Miraculously, no. As always, though, I am behind on calls to clients. So much woe and so little time, what's a lawyer to do?
I've been tossing and turning for a week, stunned by my good fortune. Me a 50-something geriatric hippy of no pedigree off to Wales. For 10 solid days nothing to do but tour bookstores, and listen to lectures by authors known and unknown. And solitary walks amid the sights and smells of an ancient countryside. Heaven is within reach.
Hay-on-Wye is a book lover's paradise. The town is parked some 150 miles from London. It boasts 1,500 residents, but, and here is a glimpse of the divine, there are more than 40 bookstores in the town. All but a handful sell used and rare books. Pinch me. Tell me this is not a waking dream.
It all started almost 40 years ago when Richard Booth bought the castle in the town's center and declared himself King of Hay. A bold move. Who would want to be lord of a declining farming town?
Booth soon began to import books in bulk from estate sales, library sales, sales of every sort. Many of the books came from North America. He sells these used treasures. "This shall be a book town," he declared. And so it is. It sounds like my kind of place.Twenty years ago, the town started holding annual festivals. Book lovers flock to Hay from around the world. I've tried to arrange my schedule to attend for the past two years. But ornery judges with cases to be tried interfered each year. This year I staked all on going to Hay. And it is so. For 10 days I will sip ambrosia. But first, I suffer. I have a small firm, and a handful of employees. There is so much to do. I push through a dark night and then recall as if awakening from a dream that there is a column, too, to write. I've many commitments and only so much time.
I am gone tomorrow. There is grace even in the law.
Can Bethany be a book town, I wonder? Don't I own a bookstore? Questions, hopes, dreams, desires. All compressed for a time on printed page and celebrated in Wales. Can I really be going?
It is so. When you read this, I will be gone. Dreams can come true. Next week, I will write from Wales.
Reprinted with permission of The Connecticut Law Tribune.