Books are a Bridge

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.

Across it

Ideas slither stealthily—or—

Stride boldly,

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

Decades later.

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

Her fate.

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

And so

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,

Didn’t you?

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.

Haven’t you?

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

To Germany

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–

And perfect–

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

Smoot Bridge








Dream Reader

When Ricky the Cat woke me early this morning, I was deep in Tudor intrigue. There was Thomas Cromwell, as he looks in Hans

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell. New York, Frick C...

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell. New York, Frick Collection. Oak panel, 76 x 61 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holbein’s portrait, slightly stout and clothed in the rich garments suitable to his station in life at that point. He was standing and talking to two other men, who appeared equally wealthy, if not as powerful, perhaps. I wish I knew what they were discussing, but I don’t remember the rest of the dream.

I’ve been reading—savoring actually—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Each section is like a scene in a movie, and just as vivid.  I picture the characters in my head, and the rooms they are in, too. I hear Cromwell’s voice—at least as he sounds to me in Mantel’s book. I see him at his desk. I see him talking to Lady (formerly Princess) Mary at Hatfield, as she sits before a weak fire. I am with him as he talks to Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Thomas More, and I can picture all of them.

I love having dreams about books I’ve read, and where I feel as though I’m actually there. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s like a special gift. (Of course, there are books I would not want to dream about—The Shining, for example. Nope, don’t want to visit THAT hotel!)

I still remember falling asleep once as a teenager and having an extraordinary dream about a book I had been reading. It was set in northern England near the border of Scotland, perhaps in the 17th century. I actually don’t remember the book, but I remember the feeling of this dream because it was so real to me. I was with a few other people, and I think we might have been fleeing from someone. We were on horseback, and then we stopped to regroup or discuss something. I felt the cold air; I heard the snorts of the horses, and I was there in the hilly north country. The most amazing part to me is that I spoke with a Northumbrian burr—something that I cannot do at all in “real” life, but which I felt that I could do when I first woke up. I really felt like I was there in Northumberland—a part of the world I have never visited.  Alfie the Dog woke me up that time. (Pets waking me up seems to be in constant in my life.)

I know people who don’t read fiction at all, but sometimes doesn’t fiction seem more real than real life?