In the soft
light of the lamp,
you take me away
to faraway places.
You allow me to fly
My whole life, books have been my delight, an escape, a path to follow, inspiration, shared humanity through the well-chosen word. Since I was five I have carried home an armload of books from the library every week. That's three thousand one hundred and twenty armloads, but who's counting? Plus I have an in-home library of several hundred books I cannot bear to part with; I have gifted many people with hundreds of others, every time I down-size.
I have read myself to sleep every night of my life, the soft light falling on the page as I tread the rock face of the Himalayas in search of the snow leopard, am exiled in the frozen gulag with Solzhenitsyn, live with lions in the Kalahari, or walk in pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago.
Without leaving home, I have explored many places on the planet through other writers' eyes, alternate realities I have eschewed in favor of armchair traveling, homebody that I am. I have temporarily shared someone's romance with a Burmese geurilla, accompanied seeking souls on their spiritual treks, and borne witness to the survival stories of the imprisoned and oppressed. Hour after hour, by simply opening the covers, I can experience scrubbing the stone steps of a monastery in Dharamsala, ride an elephant across the rippling yellow grasslands of Kenya, or walk among the beggars of Calcutta. I can board a rickety train and rock from side to side across the Russian steppes, or follow Heathcliff, cape flying, across the lowering moors, calling for Catherine, dance with a man and a woman beside a campfire on the African savannah, or travel through the tundra with a single mother, as she wrests a bare living for her children through gruelling winters in the frozen north. With every story, I marvel at human endurance and our ability to soar above our circumstance.
There is nothing like the feeling of endless possibility on opening the covers of a new book. Or the pang of regret upon closing one that has been an especially good read.
I fell in love with words in elementary school. I remember the teacher dictating as we wrote down the words, how some words were especially tender in the mouth, and how I would write them with extra care, pen fresh from the inkpot and scratching on the page.
I remember reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, when I was thirteen, like Francie. Romances in my teens, in the 60's, when I was dreaming my hopeful dreams. Womens' liberation books in the 70's as my identity awakened, and reality replaced dreaming. Spiritual seekers in the 80's, as my emerging consciousness took flight and, in the 90's, activists, environmentalists, shamans, shape-shifters and visionaries, as I gained a broader view of the universe. Now, in the 2000's, I cant get enough nonfiction, peoples' stories of difficulty and transcendence, which I now recognize as the real adventure and the ultimate journey.
There is nothing more enthralling than nonfiction. You cant make up the kind of stuff that actually happens to people.
There is always a toppling stack of books to be read next, beside my bed, with a secondary stack behind it for good measure. As I age, I remind myself so much of my mother, whose favorite moment of the day was climbing into bed each evening with a good book. She would actually groan with fatigue and pleasure, and so do I, sometimes, now, laughing at myself.
With books and movies and a porch swing and dogs, there isnt a whole lot left to wish for. A soul can feast on such a banquet and be replete.