Tag Archives: reading

Reading Life

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I started with books that my sister, Brenda, brought home. She was one year older, and already in school. I could spell my name; I knew the alphabet and many of the letter sounds. I was anxious to learn the mysteries of reading. I would crawl under the kitchen table with a book and – with the quiet and privacy afforded in that space, try to unravel the puzzle. I remember great joy when the letter sounds worked together to reveal a word that I was familiar with. I remember crying in frustration when I couldn’t understand. Once, my mother crawled under the table, wiped away my tears, and explained that K-N-E-W was pronounced “noo,” not “canoe,” and that it did make sense when read that way.

Dick and Jane, of course, came next. Better books followed. I always read far ahead, so was bored with the in-class read-aloud sessions. I loved the library, right across the street from the school, and always brought home library books. Heidi was the first hardcover book I owned. Brenda had Little Women, and Aunt Betty brought us a stack of books that had been hers when she was a child, the rest of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s books, included. From there I moved on to Nancy Drew mysteries, then Agatha Christie mysteries and selections from my mother’s bookshelf. I loved White Fang by Jack London and was haunted by The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

As an adult, I went through a stage where everything I read terrified me: Jaws, Helter Skelter, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Alive. Then, taking English Literature classes in college, a whole new world opened up. Henry David Thoreau, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Emily Dickinson. Modern authors: E.B.White, Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Maxine Hong Kingston and others. I currently love Kay Atkinson, Louise Erdrich and Laurie R King, and am happy when any of them put out a new book!

#38 Johanna Spyri and Heidi

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My life has been greatly influenced by Johanna Spyri and the character she created, Heidi.

I cannot separate them.

I cannot separate them, even, from the book that brought them into my life. I have it here in front of me. The cover has illustrations from other children’s books – Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Pinocchio – in many colors over a gold background. A large blue rectangle in the upper left hand corner displays the title in bold white upper-case letters. The binding is torn and the edges of the pages are discolored. Inside, there is only one color illustration, at the front. There are a very few black and white pictures at the ends of some chapters. Some child wrote “T e e” in pencil on the page that lists the contents; lines in red ink frame the word “HEIDI” on the title page. On the last page, in a childish scrawl in blue ink, I wrote, “A very very good book!” My name is written in cursive on the top right hand corner of the first page, just inside the cover. The “Y” in Cindy has a curled flourish at the end of the tail and the “G” in Ricksgers looks much more like a “Q”. The entire signature looks a little wobbly. I had just turned ten-years-old when I wrote it.

I received the book from my mother and father, for my tenth birthday.

I was an early reader, and enjoyed books, but had never owned one all to myself.

I don’t know if I’d ever read a chapter book before.

Heidi was sassy, smart and kind. She loved animals and the outdoors. She was not intimidated by her gruff Grandfather.

I fell in love with the mountains and the meadows and the wind in the treetops; with Meadow Nuncle, his cabin and workshop, and with the goats. I cried when Heidi was sent to the city, and suffered through all of the horrors of loneliness, confusion and sadness with her. I despised Miss Rottenmeier and pitied little Clara. I rejoiced when Heidi was able to return to her mountain home and read with interest how her new knowledge and worldliness improved the lives of those around her.

I remember the feeling of wonderment, that words on a page had such power over my emotions.

I wonder at it still, though I’ve learned to expect it.

This was the beginning of a lifelong love of books and reading, that has enriched my life beyond measure.

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Whew!

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I like the four seasons we experience here in Michigan.

Living on Beaver Island, with its wintertime isolation contrasting with summer’s influx of visitors, the season’s are even more distinct.

Labor Day marks the end of our busy summer season. In this economy, business drops off suddenly.

I’m right on top of it! When things slow down, I move instantly into my off-season pace.

Springtime, when things pick up, I’m a bit slower to catch the wave.

Through the winter, with time spreading out before me like a warm blanket, it’s easy to start new projects. Winter menus and New Year resolutions inspire new commitments to exercise. Time in the studio sparks several new creative pursuits. Maybe try encaustic painting…do a little clay work…get back into drawing…teach a class or two. A warm April encourages a whole new aspect in my garden. Why not? Time for writing…sure, commit to a blog. Add pages showcasing my art. And writing. And sure, why not even add book reviews.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of our summer season. Talk of the weather is replaced by speculation on summer business. Gas prices are up; the economy is not. It’s an election year; unemployment is still high. We depend so heavily here on summer’s bounty to carry us through the entire year, it’s always a concern. Will people come to Beaver Island?

They’re coming!

The days are once again punctuated by the blast of the ferry boat’s horn. The restaurants are adding their summer help. Businesses have changed to summer hours. Gift shops are open for the season. The streets are busy with cars and people. The islanders breathe a sigh of relief.

The second sigh is one of exhaustion.

I just finished working a stint of eleven days in a row. Actually, there was one day off squeezed in there, which I used to take my aunt to the mainland for medical tests. Not even considering the 8AM flight or the mainland traffic, a day spent in hospital waiting rooms and medical offices is not a relaxing day. I’m counting it as a work day. So, eleven days, many nine or more hours. Busy! My pedometer, which barely clocks ten thousand steps per day all winter no matter how many walks I add, was marking over double that, just during work hours!

I came home exhausted every night. Dragged myself out to walk the dogs. Put the most pathetic collection of meals together. Read a few meager paragraphs before falling asleep. No exercise program, no studio time, no gardening. No blog.

For my blog entry, I re-posted one of Renee Fisher’s “Life in the Boomer Lane” selections. She is an excellent writer, always thoughtful and often laugh-out-loud funny. It was a wonderful, encouraging post. It covered many issues that have been rolling around in my mind for quite some time. She spoke of those issues much more eloquently than I would have. Still, it felt like a cheat to my commitment. I’ve already quit writing the book reviews, having remembered that – though I love reading, and even enjoy reading reviews – I have always hated writing book reviews. Now I’ve sunk to re-blogging, as well.

Sorry.

When the tempo picks up this time of year, it takes me a while to catch up with it!