|View taken on last Thursday's hike|
What got me thinking about how important reading has been to my life was a chance encounter with my neighbor yesterday. I had just picked up a book from the library that I'd been waiting for. When I first put it on hold there were more than twenty people in front of me in line, so it took months before it finally came up. I'm a fan of Mary Roach's books, having read all of her previous ones, and this latest one is called Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. When I walked out to show the book to three of my neighbors, who were chatting while one was watering her porch garden, they were all very interested in it, except for Carol. She said, "Oh, I don't read." Both Lynn and I are voracious readers, so it surprised me to learn that one of my dear friends isn't interested in reading for its own sake. She said she's an article kind of gal. And then it occurred to me that I had never seen any books in her apartment.
I remember learning to read as a child. Remember the Dick and Jane books? They were the very first books I ever read, and I still remember them with real fondness. I have an ancient memory of tracing the word on the page and sounding it out, and suddenly realizing I could read it! That link takes you to a Rare Book Exhibition description of the history of those books. To think that there are people who have never heard of them, while they are essential to me.
|Sample pages of Dick and Jane reader|
My parents had bought a multi-volume set of books called Childcraft when I was little, and my sister and I would pore over them and once we could read them, we read stories and poems to each other. We share some wonderful memories of those books, and we can still recite some of the poems back to each other, to this day, more than half a century later. Do you remember who Dilliki Dolliki Dinah is? Not long ago, Norma Jean and I recited this one to each other. What memories surfaced from that one: A Ballad of China.
I wish I could say that I was a fan of the Nancy Drew mystery stories, which many of my compatriots read, but I didn't read them as a child. Instead, I loved comic books, especially Little Lulu. I remember the joy of getting a new book and reading it over and over. When I think back to identify the first real book I ever read on my own, nothing comes to mind. Apparently there was nothing special enough about it to capture the memory for easy retrieval. I'm sure I was assigned books to read in school, but they are lost to me today.
Daddy was a science fiction buff, and as a teenager I remember him giving me several classics to read, and I will never forget the excitement of learning about worlds beyond our own, and sagas of long journeys across empty space to new planets. Mama was always a voracious reader, but when I was young I don't remember her sharing any of her books with me. My memories of her were usually with knitting in her lap, rather than books. I know she read plenty of them, though, because when she went to the library she would bring back a heavy box of books and managed to read every one.
Once I graduated from high school, my very first paid employment was as an assistant to the librarian at the base library. It was my job to return books to their shelves when they were returned by patrons. This library used the Dewey Decimal System, and I had to become familiar with it so I could find the appropriate stacks. It's an interesting system and is still in use today. In fact, the library here in Bellingham uses it, and distant memories sometimes emerge when I'm roaming the library shelves.
And then in 1979 when I went to work for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, I was fortunate to become the assistant to Mickey Glantz, who mentored me from lowly secretary to a salaried writer/editor, over the course of thirty years. I helped him with every aspect of book publishing. Over the years we published more than a dozen books, mostly volumes of edited papers from scientists. It may seem curious to some people, but one of my favorite things to do was to create an index at the end, containing names and topics that would be of interest to the reader. Not only did it give me the opportunity for one more detailed read, giving me a chance to catch errors, I also enjoyed the task. A scientific book is immeasurably enhanced by a good index.
And now, here I am in my retirement years, and fortunately for me, the world has evolved enough so that it's possible for me to keep my hand in the publishing world through my blogs. Being a creature of habit, my Sunday morning always begins with this post, and I usually have a topic in mind before I start, but it's fun to just let whatever is on my mind come to the surface. Once I've got a first draft on the page, I'll read it over and make adjustments, usually additions and deletions as my mind goes off in another direction than where I originally intended to go.
Once I finish Mary Roach's book, I have four more standing by, waiting for me to give them my attention. Two are from the library, and two are ones I purchased at our local independent bookstore. Oh, and I have two more on my Kindle that I downloaded because they caught my eye for some reason or another. Recently I've gotten interested in reading memoirs and just finished one by Liz Murray, about her journey from being a homeless teenager to Harvard graduate. There is an entire universe to discover out there, through books. I cannot imagine my life as a non-reader.
It reminds me of the importance of taking care of my eyesight, which gives me the opportunity to read. When I spend too long in front of the computer, or staring at the written page, my eyes get blurry and need some time to recover. That is when something like an all-day-long hike comes in handy. I look out at the vistas, such as you see in that first picture, and gaze at the beauty all around me. And I'm in the company of other like-minded elders, who enrich my life with their adventures and memories, as well.
Yes, life is pretty good right now. And once I finish this post and publish it, I'll hop out of bed and make my way to the coffee shop. I've got a 9:00am yoga class, which I look forward to all week, and then I'll enjoy the rest of my day until I fall into bed. With a book, of course.
Until we meet again next week, I hope you find at least one good book to keep you company. Be well and don't forget to give yourself some appreciation. You deserve it; we all do.