Book refuge…

Jun 11

One of the nifty things about my Nook is that I am able to download samples of most any ebook. I do this often. I have read hundreds of samples of books and ordered a lot of them. Last week I ordered a sample of “The Scent of Rain and Lightning: A Novel” by Nancy Pickard but hadn’t gotten around to reading it until last night. I read it to my friend aloud and the story was engaging enough for me to purchase it right then. I continued reading some 130 pages before I went to sleep. Right before I gave in to my weary body and blurring vision from reading so long, so late, there was a passage I thought worth sharing and discussing. Here it is,

The numbers looked friendly to him, because he liked them and because they wouldn’t avoid his eyes. And thus, his sterling academic career began that day in Heather Davidson’s classroom, where the only companionship was to be found in his teacher’s kindness and in the impersonal facts in the book on his desk.

And so his love for scholarly pursuits began, and his love for learning and books…this boy who was ostracized because his father was a bad guy. This boy was alienated, teased and ignored because of no cause of his own. His mother was suffering and thus could not be there for him the way he needed but he didn’t blame her. His life was complicated but reading, arithmetic, school work was not. And his teacher was his only solace, she was kind to him when the whole world seemed cruel.

This is what school and books were like for me. For many of us. How many lost children are forgotten, go to bed hungry, alone? How many have no one to care for them? This is a common theme throughout every culture, and every era. I was a forgotten child. A child left hungry. A child abused. A child neglected. I found comfort in the worlds within the books. I found solace and strength of character within the lines of the greatest and worst stories of printed literature. I learned how children can be loved and can be hurt. I danced with russian ballerinas and sang in fields of corn back in the 1700’s. I wept with Lennie and asked aloud over and over “WHO IS JOHN GALT?” Books comforted me in a way people did not. My family did not keep me safe, warm and loved…books did. I was awkward around other kids but never around a book.

I would often grab my book at recess and take it to the tire at the playground, the one sticking half way out of the ground and climb inside. I would sit inside the tire, so tiny… and read the entire recess away. I was often the last one to return to class. Often late. I was oblivous to the harsh world around me when I found refuge within a book.

Books are a refuge, a sort of cloistral refuge, from the vulgarities of the actual world. ~Walter Pater

Books are my safe home, the one never afforded me as a child. Books parented me, brothered me, loved me, raised me. I am but a product of hope found within their spines. I imagine many of us were. This is why books are so important. In our lives, we are to be storied until we are complete. I often think for the sensitive, for the neglected, for the forgotten… books are our refuge.

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