Pining For My Books
I love to read. I have always loved to read. I used to climb up into our backyard tree or hide in a fort I had constructed with sheets and settle in with a good book. Sometimes I would ride my bike to the park at the end of our street in Detroit and sit inside a group of old shrubs that had grown wild and formed a secret tunnel-like space just for me (or so I thought). There I would read my favorites – Caddie Woodlawn, Nancy Drew, Little Women, Henry Huggins, and the Little House on the Prairie series.
I have only spotty memories of my early childhood, but I clearly remember our neighborhood library and I can picture the exact shelf I would run to every week and choose a different Madeline book.
When I started Kindergarten I found a copy of The King’s Stilts by Dr. Suess in the school library and it became my constant companion. When I left Emerson Elementary in the second grade, our neighbor, Mrs. Dixon, a teacher at the school, gave me the yellowed cloth copy to keep. I had that book forever until it got lost when I moved to NYC.
When my children were young I got to revisit these treasures all over again, and experience wonderful new ones along with them. Some of my most precious memories are those spent curled up with my kids (and usually a dog or two) reading a good story.
I think that if I could choose just one solitary activity that gives me the greatest pleasure, it would be lying in a hammock with a good book (usually fiction).
If that hammock is beside a lake or the ocean, well that’s just icing on the cake.
Lately though, I’ve noticed that the books are piling up while I’m reading less and less. I blame the Internet, or rather my inability to stay off it long enough to get through a big meaty novel. I spend more time at my computer than I know is healthy, and it seems like the time just evaporates and those pleasure-filled hours spent reading become few and far between. Pining For My Books!
For a while I switched to reading on an e-book device (sounds so cold), but in the end, went back to the real thing. I love the feel of the pages, I like to flip back and forth, underline, circle, comment. I know you can do this on an e-book, but it’s just not the same.
And nothing beats the library or a bookstore. Heaven on earth. I have to limit my time in them these days, until I do some catching up on the piles in my own apartment.
I’ve ventured into the world of audio, listening to stories or lectures while walking in the city, riding the train, or sitting by the river. I don’t remember much storytelling going on in our house when I was growing up, and I’m loving experiencing books in a new way. On a recent trip, I downloaded Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed and was mesmerized.
Of course I have shelves and shelves of books on spirituality and holistic health. I could probably open an Ayurveda library. 🙂 And my art books are precious friends that I look to for inspiration. But nothing gives me that reader’s rush like a good piece of fiction.
Around Christmastime I bought myself a book called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo. It’s a gem of a book with a page or two of insight and inspiration dedicated to each day of the year. The book was published fourteen years ago and I have seen it on the bookstore shelf many times. For some reason, this time, it leaped out at me, begging to be taken home. Wayne Muller, founder and president of Bread for the Journey and author of How, Then, Shall We Live? has this to say:
“Mark Nepo is an astonishing poet and teacher. He generously comforts us while guiding us toward the deep, quiet river of wisdom that saturates each and every day of our lives.”
While I might not be reading stacks of novels these days, I have started this new year by reading each daily entry in The Book of Awakening with my morning tea. Each day these little poetic gems of wisdom get me thinking, inspire me and ignite my own creativity. I want to share one with you here. This one is from the entry on January 8th.
Feeding Your Heart
“No matter how dark,
the hand always knows
the way to the mouth.”
– Idoma Proverb (Nigeria)
Do you love to read? What book has inspired you lately?
“Even when we can’t see, we know how to feed ourselves. Even when the way isn’t clear, the heart still pumps. Even when afraid, the air of everything enters and leaves the lungs. Even when clouds grow thick, the sun still pours its light earthward.
This African proverb reminds us that things are never quite as bad as they seem inside the problem. We have inner reflexes that keep us alive, deep impulses of being and aliveness that work beneath the hardships we are struggling with.
We must remember: the hand cannot eliminate the darkness, only find its way to the mouth. Likewise, our belief in life cannot eliminate our suffering, only find its way to feed our heart.” – Mark Nepo