Books are a uniquely portable magic.Stephen King
A short week after my mother’s life was stilled by an embolism, I had a technicolor dream where, as protagonist, she starred in a red dress with a full skirt. She never cared for red, but nevertheless, there she was free as a bird waving a book at me from the top row of our local high school stadium.
Out of my mind with relief, I ran to her and said, “Why did you leave?” She laughed and melted away into a floridly setting sun.
And get this: I forgot to ask what she was reading.
She was a mother who was ahead of her time on so many fronts. A jack of many domestic trades. She knew that memories mattered and she was aware that when given an opportunity, she could cultivate reading as a winning preoccupation for others. For her it was a sacred privilege, a key to discovery and the unmatched iron in the fire for times of stress and strain.
She midwifed the benignancy of reading and I was a front-seater to dramatic junctures that thrilled my tiny soul including the tender introduction of her Bobbsey Twins library along with an occasional midnight call to watch black and white movie favorites like, The Enchanted Cottage and Lost Horizon. “The book is better than the movie, but you must see this,” she drawled through a cigarette puff.
She always pushed me to go for the next most challenging read. There was, of course, really no awareness at that time of reading levels etc.; she just wanted to make sure that I got all the perks that came from seeking self-improvement. Entertainment mixed in along the way with things you just did not know theretofore makes for sunshiny days and starry starry nights.
We always hustled to the library after a family move which happened twice in elementary school. Once while connecting to a public library instituted in the hallway of a county building in the town where I live to this day, she instructed for all to hear that it was time to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
Signing for my new library card, I traced the frayed book and proudly signed my name for its release. As we eased into the red front seat of her white Plymouth Valiant she said “Don’t tell me, (pausing for effect) but I can recite the first line of Rebecca – ‘I dreamed I went to Manderley again last night.’”
Gasp. Super power. Wide-eyed, I wanted to be a person who could do that.
Later I realized that she had chosen books as a non-pharmaceutical for her intermittent melancholy and the dose was often perfectly prescribed by the local librarian, my grandmother’s book club or Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.
Following her lead, I find solace and take my alma mater, as Malcolm X once suggested, to be a good library of books. He said, “I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” She urged me to balance my choices between fiction and non-fiction. Her word stands today: Check out one make-believe book along with one instructional (as in a Betsy-Tacy and that book on factory field trips).
With 365 full days of life in 2019, I see books as a tool to the glory of “lifelong learning” a term coined by Basil Yeaxlee in 1929. He speaks of it as an understanding that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom, but takes place throughout life and rests on the belief that people are or can be self-directing. One need not finish with the goal of good grades in college, he urged, one may choose an arena of insight and expertise with the beloved book.
It’s here that I’ll insert my grandchild Dalton’s plea to all who will listen. She is just in first grade yet quick to point to activities that show a “growth mind set”. She’ll often warn her family, “you won’t get anywhere with that mind set.” Touche, Dalton, no better activity for the growth mind set than reading a book.
After all, this keeps a body in the game. And for good measure, the young are watching and likely to mirror actions that provide elders pleasure …
I cannot quantify the effects of reading except to say God bless the amazing insight and beauty to the point of tears that appear, free of charge, for the taking. Eternally counseled about home after reading The Wizard of Oz series by Frank Baum on my grandparents’ screen porch, later about courage after reading Personal History by Katharine Graham within the arms of a book club and most recently about the present moment after reading The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer while on vacation; I feel my edges blurring with the turn of every page.
We all now have tools for reading selection that my mother could only have dreamed: beloved independent bookstores, brilliant recommendations via podcasts, librarian friends who easily report the next big thing and finally the website Goodreads where one can sign up for the type of fun stuff that clarifies why life is a bowl of cherries.
With a Goodreads account, one can receive free books, ask authors questions, save every book read for later recall, collect quotes, speculate on other people’s reading lists and wait for it: give oneself a reading challenge. I love this feature because at the close of the calendar, I can view all the book covers read in 2018, my big chance is see what can happen in a year’s time and absorb the results of my own curiosity.
And if you are still not moved to read even one book in the coming year, consider what J.K. Rowling said: “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” And if you don’t know how to find the right book, look around as Mr. Rogers said, for the helpers.
When asked by an ancient lady at the Tupelo Public Library to read A Fly Went By on the radio when I was seven, I snapped to and found out that just as she predicted – worlds opened up. And what worlds! Volumes for the taking so a little southern girl of the 1950s could make her way…. social awareness, know-how, gratitude, recipes, beauty, facts, patterns, history, culture, nature, imagination……just follow the yellow brick road –
Nuts to Snack Upon
Here before you are simply the most exquisite recipes for toasted nuts that you’ll ever want to have in your possession. I have consumed quite a few pounds in the privacy of my very own reading nook. My companions of choice are hot chamomile tea or merlot. Day is done.
Toasted Rosemary Pecans
2 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
2 sprigs of rosemary *
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Lay pecans on a cookie sheet. Slice butter into 1/4 inch slices and top the pecans. Wash and shred the rosemary from stem, then dice. Sprinkle rosemary on top of the pecans to taste. Place in oven and watch until the butter melts (about 10 minutes). Mix nuts around to distribute butter. Toss every 10 minutes until the smell of pecans arise, about 30 minutes. Salt and serve.
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons sage, finely chopped *
5 cups walnut halves
1 egg white, beaten until a little stiff
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 white sugar
generous sprinkle of sea salt
In a medium pan, heat butter. Add chopped sage and cook until fragrant. In large bowl, beat egg white. Add walnuts and toss. Add maple syrup and butter to incorporate. Add sugars and toss until the walnuts are evenly coated. Preheat oven to 300. Spread walnuts evenly on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Cook for 30 minutes, breaking them up every 10 minutes. Makes a pan full.
- rosemary and sage are simple herbs to grow and if planted in a sheltered spot can be harvested year round.