Listen to the falling rain, Listen to it fall, And with every drop of rain I can hear you call.” (Jose Feliciano)
Today, unusual for North Carolina, has been a grey day of ongoing gentle rain. It has made me think. To me rain has always equaled books. I don’t know if everyone who writes is a bookaholic but I am. Books sound a siren call I find hard to resist. As Stephen King said, “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
Since the first time I climbed the stairs to the library in my small hometown I thought I had crossed the portal into paradise. The majestic entrance opened to a children’s room on the right of the beautiful neo-classical building. I loved the promise of the library, the smell of the books, the reverent silence. I was hooked. Books instantly became an enchanted tour of different worlds, an exploration of fantasy and folklore, myths and mystery.
Once I finished all the fairy tales in our library I started on Greek, Roman and Norse mythology. Then it was on to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, with forays to Erle Stanley Gardner and Agatha Christie. Black Beauty led me to The Black Stallion and Island Stallion series and they were mixed with Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, Treasure Island, The Wizard of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland.
I could spend an entire rainy day or stormy winter weekend on my bed reading. Only my increasingly pressing appetite fueled by the smell of my mother’s pot roast would stir me come dinnertime to finally close the book and reenter the ordinary world. Even today once I start a book it’s hard to stop until I am done, even if I lose sleep to do it.
As I got older I found the classics, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, Les Miserable, while the book of the month club brought my mother (and second hand from her to me) The Riders of the Purple Sage, The Silver Chalice, Ten Little Indians, and The Scent of New Mown Hay. We went to the library every Friday, and I honestly became more incredulous at my joy there as I grew up and got to explore the stacks for adventure and intrigue. At the same time I often hit upon other treasures among my mother’s books. The Razor’s Edge and Gone With the Wind, with photos from the movie, stand out in my recollection.
As I typically did if I loved a writer I read all their books. I do to this day. It’s almost a compulsion to go from one book to the next, the authors and their characters as real as long term friends.
My favorite teacher in junior high, Mr. Lee, who I had for both seventh and eight grade English (he got promoted with my class!), kept a small personal lending library in the back of his room. If you finished your work (correctly) you could go to the comfy chair there and read. I set the land speed record on my work to get to go there, learning to be both fast and accurate as long as books were my reward. I don’t remember loving the books in the high school curriculum as much as my personal reading except The Old Man and The Sea and The Great Gadsby. But I loved the school library. Whenever I could I got a pass from study hall to go there.
Shakespeare and the Romantic and Victorian poets, Faulkner and Steinbeck didn’t connect for me until college, then I devoured them whether it was rain or shine. My university had several libraries, multiple stories of books, with study carousels where I could stay and study and read to my heart’s desire. Pivotal to me in those years were Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tokien. Their thoughts on living with deliberateness and transcendence and the importance of a call to a higher purpose shaped not only my world view but my life. Certainly they are the underpinnings of my novel.
I can’t quite imagine my life without books. They are my Alladin’s lamp or magic carpet that transport me away from the grey cloudy everyday. Whether its a book store or the library the magic has never diminished for me. The music of the rain fades with all awareness of my surroundings and I am immersed in new worlds, new people, new experiences.
“Listen to the falling rain, listen to the call…of writing and books. Let your imagination sweep you away past the clouds, beyond the shadows, into the brilliant sunlit lands.
- Friday Fun – Books we love to re-read (nhwn.wordpress.com)
- National book month has arrived (Video) (examiner.com)
I’m really enjoying your blogs. I was there, I remember the trips to the library on Friday nights. Very important part of life. Even when coming all the way from California, one of the most important things I did to show my children around Utica was to take them to the library. I remember how you moved from fairy tales to the Greek myths, and so forth. I still treasure some of those books when we moved up and on to the mysteries for young people. I remember loving books about what it was like to live on a farm before so many people lived in cities. I recall a book about a tame pet crow, another about a raccoon. Did you read Mystery of Burnt Hill? Oh, those mysteries were good. One book that really influenced my life was reading Cheaper by the Dozen, causing me to make the most of my time. I got my son Mike to read it, and I think it has influenced him. He really can’t stop himself from trying to study everything, and try everything.(Wholesome, healthy things, art, dance, music, sculpting to sailing, hiking, surfing He really tries to make the most of his time. All of my children have read C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and all the Harry Potter books. I agree that reading is what brings us to life internally, and transforms our presence in the world. So many people simply don’t read anymore. I hope this will change, and it may. Because of the fond, fond memories I have of our library, and for which I thank our father, for taking us there on Friday nights, and for both our parents being readers and loving books, (you realize they met at the Polish literary society?) I made sure trips to the library were important memories our children would have. To our childhood memories, I’ve added grand memories of the libraries here. Our children attended a school that had a read-a-thon each year and I literally would go to the library in the next town and check out 90 books at a time for them to read in a week (they were mostly picture books). I think because of me, that library started making the people from our town pay to use their library. We went there because we’d already checked out our limit in our own library here in Simi Valley. Just like we did in Utica, the children got to play outside, too, all around the library. Do you remember climbing the statues, and walking the sides of the library ledges? Remember pondering the significance of the letters written by the children of Lourdes, what could they contain? Wondering about nuclear war, sitting on the front steps of the library, while holding our library cards in our hands? Was that statue we climbed of Columbus? I’ve forgotten. Perhaps your excellent memory still knows.
While I didn’t put it in there I do remember the “explorations” of climbing on the columns and on the stone edging of the building, and of sitting on the stairs waiting for Dad to come and pick us up when we got old enough to leave there while he got meats and groceries at the “Vicory Market,” but I don’t remember who the statue was of. I also have a memory of climbing on some lion outside of some library or building somewhere – but i don’t know where it was. One of the things i now do with our grandchildren when they visit is take them to the library here…especially on rainy days. I want them to have the great memories about it that we do. When we are in Raleigh i love watching my children share books with their kids. The Lord of the Rings” was one of the last I read to Chris (when he hit Middle School) and he has read the Narnia tales, The Hobbit and TLOTR to his girls. Gretchen and Jay read to the twins. One book I wish i could find was a book of Giant stories she loved when she was a girl. At some point I started a game with the girls where I would start a story and we take turns adding to it. One story I made up for them is called The Friendly Ciant, and they still ask for it. Getting my kids to bed was never an issue when they were children because if they wasted time fooling around they lost story time. I actually did read Harry Potter though they were grown up by then because Doug’s sister’s girls were reading them and when we were on vacation at the Cape we “shared’ them. I do remember Cheaper by the Dozen and also loved it. Oddly I remember Dad getting books at the library but I don’t remember sharing any with him until I sent him Mitchner’s Poland as an adult. But Mom and i often shared books through the years.