“I’d be smiling and chatting away, and my mind would be floating around somewhere else, like a balloon with a broken string.”

HARUKI MURAKAMI, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Photo: “H’mong children play with their balloons on a foggy day in Moc Chau, Son La province, Vietnam; photographed January 2012.” Photo and caption by Vo Anh Kiet. This beautiful photo took 2nd place in the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. Visit the National Geographic website for all the winners.

Thoughts on Photo: What does the balloon symbolize or make me think or feel? Joie de vivre, soulfulness, art, poetry, music, all the things that make life worthwhile — and, while sometimes elusive, their pursuit gives our lives meaning. I also think of destiny, pursuing one’s destiny, I think of dharma, I think of truth and beauty. The balloons make me think and feel many things. Innocence and wonder, and maintaining the capacity for innocence and wonder throughout life. Thank you Vo Anh Kiet for your amazing photo.

Thoughts on Quote: What can I say about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, except “read it!” (if you haven’t already). I’ll admit that I wasn’t an early adopter of this 1997 (in English translation) novel. I read the book in 2005 at the recommendation of someone with similar taste in books. I’ve never read anything like it. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle blew me away more than any book I’ve ever read — the novel is strange, wonderful, engrossing, with gorgeous prose, fascinating characters, and mind-bending scenes.

Since I find it beyond my ability to summarize the book, here’s an overview from Toru Okada quits his job as a gofer in a Tokyo law firm and stays home to take care of the house while his wife works…Toru’s quiet life changes a few days after their cat disappears and he meets an unusual cast of characters who help him explore connections between waking and dreaming, past and present, good and evil.