Saturday, July 24, 2021

One Book I Avoided Reading as a Girl



" I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! "
JANE AUSTEN


I never tire of books. They are a hobby, a pursuit, a lifeline. From my earliest childhood, words in books captivated my imagination in a way nothing else on this earth has ever done. Books are my heartbeat. It's a gift for which I'll never stop being grateful. So, to be honest, during the sweltering heatwave we had recently, and it felt unbearable at times without AC, I secretly grinned to myself. Expending as little energy as possible during those days, I tucked myself in a coolish corner and, without a shred of guilt or shame, I disappeared into my books and read for hours. Just like I did when I was a girl....reading on a sunny afternoon in the shade of our poplar trees or sprawled on my bed in the evening reading until sunset, squinting my eyes to etch out just a few more words before the twilight faded into dusk.

British novelist Doris Lessing once said people should not read a book out of its right timing for them. I agree. Out of season the words lay listless on a page, barely engaging us, but in season, they hang with promise, heavy like ripe fruit ready to nourish and delight. Sometimes we read a book and we aren't ready for it, but the experience can ruin it for future reading. 
 


THE YEARLING (children's fiction)
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


One such book for me was Black Beauty. I don't know how old I was—maybe nine or ten—but I was totally gutted when I learned this beautiful horse had to be sold to uncaring, cruel men. I never read it again. So then, I could never bring myself to read another children's classic The Yearling, because it was about a boy and his pet deer, and I already knew it wouldn't have a good ending. And even though my younger sister loved it as a girl and highly recommended it, I still couldn't bring myself to read it. But, this summer at the, ahem, tender age of sixty-four, I felt ready for it. It has been a lovely summertime read with its storyline woven with high adventure, sadness and loss but also with many delightful threads of beauty and wonder and hope. Life in the Florida backwoods was ruthless, and Penny Baxter fought off wolves and bears, faced failure and sickness; yet there he was, instilling in his young son the ability to marvel at the beauty of the world around them.


"I do not understand how anyone can live without
one small place of enchantment to turn to."
MARJORIE KINNAN RAWLINGS


I was especially taken with one enchanting description in the book. One evening while out tromping in the woods, Penny Baxter and young Jody watch as eight pairs of whooping cranes glide into a pond and begin their mysterious ritual dances. It was like watching a dance at a grand ball. I remember naturalist author Diane Ackerman writing about the plight of whooping cranes and how these elegant birds had been nearly destroyed and are now making a slow recovery. Yet, here was this description written decades earlier, possibly drawn from Rawlings's own encounter, when whooping cranes still plentifully wild were doing their courtship dances with barely anyone to see them. Penny Baxter and his son watched and were so overcome by it, they were speechless, even when they arrived home to supper. I sat in that moment after reading the passage, and I had no words.

Reading books when the timing is right is so important in getting the best from them, even when it means reading a children's classic when one is nearly a senior citizen. I borrowed the book from the library, but I think it's one I'd like to own and have near to hand, in case I want to read my favourite lines again. The illustrations in the hardcover edition are wonderful.

I'll close with this heartfelt talk Penny Baxter had with his young son as the boy faced the grievous loss of his beloved pet. It's one of my favourite passages:
"Ever' man wants life to be a fine thing, and a easy. 'Tis fine, boy, powerful fine, but 'tain't easy. Life knocks a man down and he gits up and it knocks him down agin. I've been uneasy all my life...I've wanted life to be easy for you. Easier'n 'twas for me. A man's heart aches, seein' his young uns face the world. Knowin' they got to get their guts tore out, the way his was tore. I wanted to spare you, long as I could. I wanted you to frolic with your yearlin'. I knowed the lonesomeness he eased for you. But ever' man's lonesome. What's he to do then? What's he to do when he gits knocked down? Why, take it for his share and go on."
   
* * *

Shall we take it for our share and go on?
Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

Brenda

Top: Image by Ina Hall from Pixabay 





26 comments:

  1. I never read The Yearling either but now you’ve teased enough out of it to make me want to read it. And you’ve made me consider that every book has its right time to be read. I think you’re right!

    “What’s he to do when he gits knocked down? Why, take it for his share and go on.” Very wise advice.

    I’m glad you found that coolish corner to do what you love, completely guilt free. We all need blocks of days to do so. Thank you for this post, a wonderful start to my day. 😊

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  2. Oh, The Yearling, it's never too late to read The Yearling! I loved it, reading it first as a young teen and then re-reading several times, lastly as an adult with young teens of my own. I do so agree with the idea of there being "right timing" for reading, when books become rather like signposts on our path through life. How lovely to have this beloved classic come across your path, not too early, not too late, but at just the right time!

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    1. Oh yes, books surely are signposts marking certain seasons in our lives.

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  3. I guess I need to read this! I read many children's classics but there is never time to read them all. I think we're never too old to read them again. I copied the last passage (by hand!) into my quote book.

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    1. So true, there is never time to read them all. I'm glad you found the quote worthy of copying 'by hand' into your quote book. Thanks, Jenny.

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  4. Brenda, I so agree with your thoughts. I never thought about timing before, but how right you are. I just re-read a book that I adore and must have missed much of it my first time around. The timing wasn't right. You are such an encourager, there are many children's books I should read.

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    1. C.S. Lewis once said, "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." He also said, "No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond." So true. Thanks, Sandra.

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  5. I feel the same. There are books that I read later in life and somehow was all the better for that. Black Beauty was too sad for me. I often go back to my favourite Elizabeth Goudge childrens books, though in fact I never think of them as being for children. Henrietta's House, The Little White Horse, old favourites and comforting.

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    1. I haven't been able to gather all the Elizabeth Goudge I'd like to read. I hope one day I'll find those you mention. I do love reading old and comforting favourites.

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  6. I never read The Yearling for the same reasons! When we were homeschooling, we would go to the Friends of the Library sales about three times a year and buy wonderful books for a dollar each. I would put most of them on our bookshelves, knowing they may not be read right away. Quite often, they were the perfect book to read years later.

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    1. It's so true. Like you, I have books on the shelf, some for years already, waiting for the right time to pick them up and finally read.

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  7. I've never read it, but now I want to. Have you ever read Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski? Another wonderful children's book based in the Florida wilds. Highly recommended!

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    1. No, I have not read or even heard of Strawberry Girl. Thanks for the heads up, Kim. Another great read to chase down. Thankfully, we still have a lot of summertime to fill in with good books.

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  8. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings could sure write. I prefer her Memoirs...Cross Creek... and highly recommend them. (And, yes, much of the story behind The Yearling are true events.)

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    1. Thank you, Vee, for mentioning her memoir! I am most interested in finding it to especially hear some of the back story of The Yearling.

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  9. Oh I was going to say that one of the stories I avoided as a child and read much later was Girl of the Limberlost. It seemed so dull the first time around and so fascinating in adulthood.

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    1. I read that one as an adult as well. The spouse of one of Rick's former work colleagues lent it to me completely enthused to share this lovely story. I so enjoyed it.

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  10. I, too, first read The Yearling as an adult and I hung on every word! It is masterfully written, a tale of simple folks living a hard life, but with such depth and such beauty. The second time I read it, it was a read-aloud at a small monthly homeschool co-op and we read it over the course of the school year. I was thrilled that it was my turn to read when we came to the passage about the whooping cranes!

    Beautiful book, and I am glad that I came back from my blogging break just in time to read this post with your musings about it!

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    1. Oh, I think I got goosebumps when you mentioned being thrilled to read aloud that passage with the whooping cranes!

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  11. I totally agree about the timing, Brenda. There are some books that I wouldn't have fully appreciated if I had read them when I was younger. This summer, I finally read the Phantom Tollbooth which was a fun book with lessons for both the young and old!

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    1. Now, I haven't even heard of the Phantom Tollbooth, but it sounds fun. And as you say, no matter our age, we all love a bit of fun.

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  12. enjoyed your thoughts about life and reading...

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  13. As always, a lovely story about your connection to books. Thoroughly enjoyed this lovely insight.

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To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xox

PS. I do not always comment here, but I do look forward to coming and visiting you....