Another reason this copy is important to me is that I lent it to other friends of mine and asked them to underline and initial passages they especially liked. The idea of marking up a book went against the grain for all of us, trained as we were from childhood NOT to write in books. But considering Robbins' irreverent, rebellious approach to life, I thought that, if asked, he would not only give us permission to do this, he'd probably insist on it. So my copy of Still Life is truly one of a kind, festooned with underlinings of different colors, initials and scribbles from people trying to get their pens to write.
(I credit this particular experience for giving me the courage to start writing in cookbooks, a practice that has improved my cooking immeasurably.)
At the time, I was living in St. Louis. I had a settled life with kids in school and a steady job. I had no intention of living anywhere else. But one of Robbins' descriptions of the rain in Seattle lingered with me for years. When I first read that passage, I thought, "I want to go there." Nearly a decade later, I did. And shortly after that, I moved to Seattle for good. There were many other factors involved in the decision to move, but Robbins' writing was like music playing in the background. Here is that quote:
"On the mainland, a rain was falling. The famous Seattle rain. The thin, gray rain that toadstools love. The persistent rain that knows every hidden entrance into collar and shopping bag. The quiet rain that can rust a tin roof without the tin roof making a sound in protest. The shamanic rain that feeds the imagination. The rain that seems actually a secret language, whispering, like the ecstasy of primitives, of the essence of things."