Monday Morning Musings:
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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.
My daughter’s wedding fan.
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.
Standing on the “Smoot Bridge” between Cambridge and Boston