Oyster Time

There’s no greater pleasure than a bag of books.

D Mounger

Once I was gifted with a tender need to pause over the personal tattoo. An ancient veteran serving with me on the county commission pulled at his long sleeves in shame to cover his tatted arms before we voted on whether body-art was a deterrent for county employment.

Judgy issues keep us from the fullness of empathizing with another’s experienceI thought. For me if well executed, tattoos are representative works of art, though between rulings from contemporaries and potential wrinkledge, I could never commit. Wrong cultural upbringing here still I love the thought of a body-font quote reminding me of life’s higher callings.

Here’s a worthy one I found this past year from the noted author Susan Sontag:
“Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence….a way of being fully human.”

Robert Kellum, my grandson, is learning to read. It is soul stirring to watch the videos his mother Quinn sends us as he enunciates his way through books that rev his motor. Animated joy bubbles over as he speaks with a confident stage voice. He is lit.

D says he defines determination. What a big word to pin on a little guy and yet it’s there. After all he has a big brother to keep up with, and a younger sister to show off for so burning inside is the intent to do that which can give him an ultimate sense of himself.

This makes me wonder if the focus on reading skills are coached with this sort of emphasis, because the outcome can be more valuable than a year supply of Peanut M and Ms . Developing independence and ultimately interdependence are the tools of the full trade. Shakespeare wrote it like this, “the world is mine oyster,” and just as the discovery of the pearl is a surprising payoff, the treasures reaped with reading are limitless. Reading pays with dividends as long as trips to the library and bookstore are habits like brushing teeth.

Role models are the ticket at the beginning of life. That’s heavy, I know. Responsibility hasn’t been the most popular game in town for quite some time, but it’s in the watching of older readers that the love of reading is first imprinted. Reading aloud, listening to the measured voice of reader firsts and the downright observation of others delighting in the act can fertilize the dream to pioneer life through heaven sent prompts for self development. Next time you scan a shelf, observe the topics to which you are drawn.

My Tupelo Grandfather had an impressive private library devoted to his obsession with art, photography and science fiction, my agnostic Yazoo Grandfather checked out weekly stacks of a spiritual seeker. My Mother too was a library devotee for best sellers whether they were mystery, historical fiction, essays, or short stories. She built a side gig as the owner of countless cookbooks and tomes on the handmade. Even my non-reading Father committed to a multi volume series on Winston Churchill. His enthusiasm for what it brought forth in him never lagged.

I wanted the world to be mine oyster too, thus library work and an unquenchable desire for new knowledge. During the past 10 years on Goodreads I’ve kept track of what I read and I’m always surprised at the subjects covered in just one year. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry – the variety of what is out there takes my breath.

Here’s my registry of books read in 2021: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/28021004

So much to learn and so little time.

Assorted folk I know sometimes speak of reading as a chore. Often at the beginning they are in love like my dear Robert, but then as a pastime it is forgotten marked up to a busy schedule. I quell my urge to convince them that fortune awaits if for nothing else but little reader wannabes are watching.

Once on Valentine’s Day I pulled a conversation heart that said: “Let’s Read,” and considering the brand new year ahead….maybe encouraging others is that simple. Let’s.

Still how to begin this inexpensive journey of awakening to books for a new year? Never in the history of the world has there been such rich wordage available along the with the handiest tool for subject research ever: the internet.

Do you have an interest in improving your golf game or starting a meditation practice? How about checking out the culture of your ancestors? Do you long to resurrect the romance of youth? Are you intrigued by those who scale mountains, build businesses, knit sweaters or construct boats? Would you like to investigate the roots of Black Lives Matter or anti-Irish prejudice? What about instructions for a small kitchen garden or a new card game? And then there is the child’s classic you never read and the mystery series that intrigues the fancy.

I say 2022 is the year to put some well researched facts and newly explored ideas behind the hot air that we all readily spread throughout our circles of influence. My holy grail is to bring a larger landscape into my tiny scope OR on the other hand, begin to understand the need we have to bear witness to keeping things bracketed.

My favorite doctor once bravely said to a local non profit board, “Open up your minds, people! I wish I had asked him about his specific prescription for that task, but one thing is for certain: freedom to read creates personal opportunity where broader ideas reign and the world can be your oyster.