Monday Morning Musings:Embed from Getty Images
Once again Jane Dougherty inspired me with a prompt—a muse for my musings.
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading”.
–William Styron, Interview, Writers at Work (1958)
Books are a bridge to the mind,
A link between author and reader.
Ideas slither stealthily—or—
Characters stroll, march, and dance,
Emotions gallop with the force
Of an army.
When I was younger
I fell asleep while reading a book
And I was there.
Astride a horse in the north of England,
Speaking in a voice and accent
That are not my own.
The air was cold,
The horses warm,
And it was so real
That I remember it now
When I awoke
I was sad and wanted to return to this
Foreign land that was not mine.
But that I knew. Somehow.
From a book.
Who hasn’t wanted a wardrobe
That leads to an enchanted land?
Or wondered what it would be like
To go back in time?
To live in another world?
I lived the teenage emotions
Of Anne, feeling first love
And fighting with parents,
The joy of being alive
Even while crowded in
A secret annex during WWII.
And I wanted to not know
I also wished another fate
For another Anne,
Whose head would be parted
From her slender neck.
They placed traitors’ heads
On London Bridge,
A bridge of the living
And the dead.
But not hers,
Which was buried with her body
In the Tower
Where she had been a prisoner.
I read Hilary Mantel’s
Books of Thomas Cromwell
And Wolf Hall.
Tudor England became alive.
I sat at the table with Thomas More,
I rode on the river barges
I saw Cromwell with his family
And pet dogs,
A different side of the man.
I imagined it all
I could hope while reading
That the story might be different
That history might change
And Queen Anne might live.
Still another Anne,
In another time and place,
That’s Anne with an “e,” please,
Delighted me with her love of big words
And the time she got her friend Diana drunk
And accidentally dyed her red hair green.
But I cried when Matthew died,
And when Beth, the third of the Little Women, died
I cried then, too.
I read the passage early in the morning
Lying in bed at my aunt’s house
Before anyone else was awake.
Books, a refuge from the turmoil around me.
Jane Eyre, who became my friend,
Had a friend, Helen, who died in the horrid Lowood School,.
My school was nothing like that,
Although it had its horrors, too.
But that was long before she met Mr. Rochester
Or his mad wife in the attic.
I cried for the inhabitants of the plague village of Eyam
Brought alive by Geraldine Brooks,
This time reading late at night, an adult,
My husband already asleep,
But I could not stop turning the pages
Until I reached the end.
During graduate school,
Douglas Adams’s books brought some comic relief.
I laughed so much at his world of unwitting space travelers
That my husband had to read the books for himself.
Remember to bring a towel.
Good advice, always.
I’ve walked side-by-side with Wordsworth
And seen the host of golden daffodils
Beside the lake.
And haven’t you fallen down the hole with Alice
And learned to beware the Jabberwock
And not to drink or eat items
Simply because there are notes telling you to do so?
Recently I crossed a bridge with All the Light We Cannot See
To enter a new land
Where I felt the tiny houses that blind Marie-Laure
Could not see,
Smelled the salty air,
Felt the vibration of the bomb blasts,
Knew the wonder
Of an orphaned brother and sister
As they hear a voice and music
That traveled from Brittany
As though by magic
To reach their ears.
And the book was magic, too.
Just last week, I closed the pages of Golden Age
The final book of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy
The saga of the Langdon family.
I experienced the history of the United States
Through their eyes
And experienced it with them—
Technology, wars, cults, births, and deaths
A farm in the Midwest,
A world in microcosm.
The final page was so brilliant and beautiful–
That I thought,
“I want to read this whole trilogy again.”
So many feelings and ideas
So many characters that I grow to love
All of these books–
And those yet to be discovered and read,
Old and new,
Crossing the bridge,
To new places
Entering my mind
And taking hold.
But the knowledge is sweet,
Minds, like hearts,
Can never be too full.
Your musings are always a delightful journey, Merril 🙂
Thank you, Jane. 🙂
Fabulous paean to reading, Merril. Thanks!
Thank you so much, Cindy!
What a great reminder that reading can enable us to live two lives at once without being labeled schizophrenic. I remember BEING Jane Eyre when I read Bronte’s book. “There is no frigate like a book . . . ! As always, thanks for such a pleasant musing this morning. 🙂
Thank you, Marian. I love the way you put that about living two lives at once when you read.
Loved your comment, Marian.
You may be an historian, Merril, but you are surely an artist as well. An artist who awakens when called into new worlds. I want to share this post with some other book lovers among my friends.
Thank you so much, Shirley. You’re very kind. Yes, please feel free to share! 🙂
You touched on so many books I’ve read and loved. Yes, I have wished for a wardrobe to enter into another time and place – although, perhaps, less trecherous than the White Witch in Narnia. I am always scandalized when I see someone read the last few pages FIRST. It just spoils the anticipation and surprises in the story.
One of my favorite quotes if from Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” “Thank you for all the fish.” 😉
And, thank you, Merril, for the lovely trip down memory lane.
Thank you, Judy! I agree with the reading the last pages first. I’ve never understood that.
Yes, I would not want to meet the White Witch. There are so many great quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide!
Those are all my people, too!! Isn’t it funny how we think we “are there” in a good book?
Yay! We have some same people. 🙂 Yes, it is sort of a sensory experience, isn’t it?
Beautifully written Merril.
xxx Hugs Galore xxx
Thank you so much, David. Hugs back to you!
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Some wonderfully evocative references
Thank you, Derrick!
Wonderful, wonderful! I miss that childhood escape into books. I indulge a bit now and then, usually with audiobooks which really can take me away from my own reality, making my familiar surroundings seem unfamiliar. But there’s nothing like a hardback book, propped on my knees. That kind of reading will always be my preference.
It is kind of magical, isn’t it?
Thanks so much for this beautiful journey revisiting my childhood landscape. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped believing in the possibility of escaping into different worlds both through the back of a wardrobe or via Enid Blyton’s “Magic Faraway Tree”. You climbed up that tree and there was a different world up the top and all sorts of characters who lived in the tree itself. After reading that, you can’t climb up a tree without wondering ever again.
Another great thing I appreciated from your posts and the comments, is how people from al around the world have read the “Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” and had similar responses. Shared that sense of absolute magic!
Thanks, Rowena, for your very kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!
I remember accidentally discovering the Narnia books in my school library. I had no idea that they were “classics.” No one discussed them with me. Then later, of course, I learned more about them and C.S. Lewis. My husband and I read the books to our daughters when they were young, and we rediscovered the magic.