" Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one
at the end of a long day makes the day happier. "
I thought it would be a simple post, but the more I worked on it, the longer it got. Too long for a single blog post, it's now split into two. You are about to read Part 2, and if you missed Part 1, you'll find it HERE.
At various stages of my life, I sort my books. It's never an easy undertaking. The decision of what to keep, what to give away usually comes with a lot of back and forth. Then I read Marie Kondo who suggested bidding farewell to whatever you want to give away 'in a way that respects what it has meant to (you or) someone in your family'. I found that advice helpful. To give away a book I no longer need does not negate its value. I'm not throwing it out—it just means I'm ready to pass it on. To make way for something new. It helps me to imagine people eagerly waiting for books I will drop off at the thrift store. They will become the caretaker of those good books. I know how I love being on the receiving end of someone else's clearing out.
I mentioned yesterday that I've been giving thought to my 'why' for books and reading at this stage. In yesterday's POST, I shared three of seven points; today I share the last four. I hope you enjoy.
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Four. I read for courage
" Don't wish me happiness
I don't expect to be happy all the time . . .
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all. "
ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH
Oh yes, I need courage. Courage to carry on with one's work when it feels like the world is falling apart. Courage to keep searching for the beauty in art and music, books and nature. Courage to stay gentle in the midst of hatred and brokenness. Even courage to get out of bed some dreary mornings. I'm glad that I can gather courage from the pages of a book. Sometimes it's in the Book of Psalms or a volume of poetry; other times it's in a novel where the protagonist demonstrates the plucky courage I find myself needing.
"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
I love this little conversation found in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It reminds me that each era in history has had to face its own deep troubles. Like Frodo, I wish the horrid stuff wouldn't happen in my lifetime. But it happens no matter what I wish. I'm glad Tolkien wrote that simple conversation—it grounds me every time I read it. I'm reminded to keep my heart centered on what's important, no matter what's going on around me.
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Five. I read to fill in the gaps
" What I always liked about Socrates
was his insistence on questioning things for
the sake of reaching some sort of clarity—even
if it is only clarity about the gaps in our knowledge. "
These days I read to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. I've been reading books on historical events, some that have happened in my own lifetime, such as the Vietnam War, when I was too young to understand. It's exhilarating to come across information where I can say to myself, 'So that's what that was all about, now that makes sense'. There's a certain satisfaction in adding another piece of life's puzzle into place.
I've been reading books I missed while growing up, wonderful books like The Yearling and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love to read biographies and memoirs by interesting women, such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Amy Tan, and Sarah Clarkson. And I'm reading more widely and deeply the works by or about well known (or not so well known to me) people who have excelled in their various fields, dipping into the lengthy lists of Nobel Prize winners and the many literary award winners like the Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, and General Governor's literary awards. All to widen my understanding of what's been going on in the world around me when I was too busy living my own life.
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Six. I read to become a better writer
" Read. Everything you can get your hands on.
Read until words become your friends.
Then when you need to find one, they will jump into
your mind, waving their hands for you to pick them.
And you can select whichever you like, just like a
captain choosing a stickball team. "
Read, read, read is the chief advice authors give to writers, and it's advice I cheerfully embrace. No matter what I read these days, I keep a pencil handy as I'm invariably making notes in the margins, underlining and starring passages. Although I enjoy a story for its own sake, now I take note of how an author's account puts me in touch with my own similar memories, emotions, and observances of life. And when she says it in a way that makes me breathless at its beauty, my heart yearns to also write that way.
I love how reading triggers fresh ideas about what to write. Austin Kleon, author of books like Steal Like An Artist, Keep Going, Share Your Work, confesses regularly to his readers that many of his creative ideas comes from his voracious reading. Creativity begets creativity. We need the creativity of others to trigger our own new thoughts and ideas. Books lend themselves to that end beautifully.
In my previous post, I made the comment that I write to pay it forward because I owe so much to authors and their books that have shed light into my own dark places. And since I began working on this post, I am once again reminded—rather clearly—that it's my turn to share what I've learned over the years, providing light to new generations coming up behind. That's the job of writers. To pay it forward. So many of life's little secrets, wisdom, and advice came through authors setting their gleanings down in books. I do feel the weight of that as I write today.
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Seven. I read to meet new heroes
" I think a hero is really any person intent on
making this a better world for all people."
I don't think we ever get too old for heroes. When we were children, we needed heroes with capes to emulate. When we were young women with families and careers, we needed role models to show us how to develop life skills. And now as I approach this senior phase, I still need heroes. Those people who show us what aging with grace looks like.
They are the travelers who have gone ahead and left signposts for living a beautiful life. People like Maya Angelou, Whistler's Mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Audrey Hepburn, and Mother Teresa, to name a handful. I also think of Penelope Lively, a British author who wrote a memoir of her journey towards her ninth decade. Called Ammonites & Leaping Fish, A Life in Time, she said it was her 'view from old age'.
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A world without books hardly bears thinking about. It's such an amazing gift to be able to read. Without the written word, where would we be? Where would we be? Author Elizabeth von Arnim once said, 'What a blessing it is to love books". I couldn't agree more, and I am glad they will accompany me into my old age.
Wishing you a beautiful day,
1. Top photo by Alina Vilch from Pexels
2. Photo by Hannelies from Pixabay
3. Photo by Congerdesign from Pixabay
4. Photo by Voltamax from Pixabay
5. Photo from Pixabay, photographer unknown