" I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!
How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! "
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. 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.
THE YEARLING (children's fiction)
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
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.
Top: Image by Ina Hall from Pixabay