Lorelei Lab here. I was just hoping for something simple like
Treats. Bacon. Stuffie.
But Mom decided to write about books.
She didn't know what she would do without her books. Remember the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury? It was set in a dystopian future in which firemen intentionally burn any house in which a book is located because it's against the law to possess them. In the end, a fireman who had grown to love books escapes the city of quick, mindless but big-screen, reality-based entertainment, to find a small group of book-loving refugees banded together. Each person is assigned the memorization of one complete book -- Aristotle, Dickens, James Joyce, and more -- so the books will survive until society is ready to embrace them again
She didn't read a lot of popular novels, though she had a rather large collection of classic Sci-Fi. When her grade school classmates were reading The BoxCar Children and Pippi Longstocking, She was reading the works of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein, and a whole world beyond her quiet, hushed one at home, opened up to me.
Reading for her was not just intellectual but embracive. She loved the way the spine of a book feels in the crook of her fingers. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages are sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as her fingers gently turn it.
She tended to read a lot of non-fiction and books that teach you how to create and maintain things. She likes to read history. She loves reading about long ago. know more about her own life when she knew more about the past. It's a sense of perspective; of days full of people that killed, tortured, struggled, and suffered, agonizing for things that were of the utmost importance to them; working and living for reasons that may be well the same as ours. Now they've been gone some 500 years and all that is left to us is the essence and quintessence of their lives so she can remember all that they never forgot.
To her, history was more than a story, more than a book, it's the life, heart and soul of ages long ago. It's the ultimate myth and inevitably ambiguous, but she did believe, as Lord Bolingbroke stated, "History is philosophy teaching by example and also by a warning." History not read is like ammo not used, someone once said, and without reading, for herself at least, the past is silence and the future is haze.
Quantum Physicists have stated that time, as most of us think of it, is an illusion. They have postulated that the past, the present, and the future are here, now, captured in a touch, the blink of an eye, or perhaps, simply between two pages.
Between two pages here is a photo of her Mother in her garden. Outside the window here now, a plant opens up, spilling forth its seed onto the soil. She remembered days of working in the flowerbeds that her Mom so lovingly maintained. After her death, She kept it going as long as she could for her Dad until adulthood called me away. As she toiled in the garden, the sun kissed the top of her head, the touch a benediction, a blessing.
She had not yet learned of other kisses, the ones in the crook of the neck where the head joins the body and the body knows not its limitations. The one that dances on the skin like light that falls upon it, outstretched hands gathering fistfuls of flowers imprinted upon starched cotton. She had not yet learned that love is not just as wild as the flowers; it’s as fragile and elusive as glass; that in nature, the most delicate of things are often trod underfoot as they go unnoticed. So much contained in those pages never read.
At the bookstore recently, an engineering manual, two generations old, was opened to browse. In it was an ancient leaf, carefully pressed within the pages, the person who had done so likely long gone. She has many books like that old book, purchased from stores that contain more light than dust, yet containing within them things old and forgotten, things that in the wrong hands would only grow older. Finding the right one is like finding treasure, fingers tracing the spine, fingers that are gentle and forgiving, not wishing any further scar upon that which binds.
Such books find their way to her home, where they lay looking out from under leaded glass, pulled out to be read on late nights, the mind marveling that other minds marveled, the mysteries, the mistakes, playing out across the pages as if they were penned today. They tell their tales like the lonely, animated elderly, to anyone who is willing to listen, lessons are given without rancor or heat, so many words that need to be said while they can still be heard.
Nothing for her is worse than being in the back of an airplane or at a hotel with nothing to read. When in one mountainous far off place, she had to downsize a bag as the little airplane being piloted by what she believed was a Yeti, was weight restricted and her books were left behind for materials she had to have for the missionary work. She almost would have given up her tools, her poncho, and her hiking boots than her little collection of paperbacks, of Earth Abides and Stranger in a Strange Land, and a small leather-bound book of Shakespeare sonnets.
Let the weather play God with her itinerary, let the tanker bringing in supplies break down somewhere, let the post sell the last bottle of whiskey, but if she'd laid up alone in the middle of nowhere after she busts a move down the Himalayas and breaks her leg, she wants a book. Curled up in strange places among a couple artifacts of family that get toted around in her suitcase, she may be lonely, but she will be content.
For she has a book.
It's a big old paper dead tree book because she wants to hold something in her hand that feels alive, to me even if a living thing died to create its pages. It's words that form pictures, laid out upon a living thing that never slept, never dreamed of the soft perch of birds or the sharp blade of the ax, never mourned the tender leaves that it nourished and abandoned. It’s a piece of wood, that can be warmth, support, and shelter, or the perfect, pristine bed of memory laid down bare.
Such is it tonight as she is alone tonight. But in her head is history, the cries of warriors, rushing forth immortal beneath disported sabers and brandished flags, men rushing forward into time, propelled by gunpowder and righteousness, underneath a sky of thunder. She has a book. She is caught up in battles, in loves, both forbidden and forgotten, coursing like blood as long as the words will, that immortal, fresh, abiding blood which bears respect above regret and commitment above the ease of dishonor.
Her housework is put aside for at least an hour or two before bed and she'll pick up that book. She'll let it transport her to somewhere far away until a chime will toll for warriors, for battles won and those so easily lost. As her hand turns the pages, she will move among people who lived and died, or perhaps never existed at all, their shadows not of flesh or blood but of imagination, shadows as strong as finely honed steel and shadows as quiet as murmuring breath, forgotten until they were put upon paper.
Then, on the sound of that chime, perhaps a clock, perhaps something that just travels within her, the note cutting the air, as sharp, clear, and quiet as a blade, she will fall off into sleep, there in that lonely bed. The book lies prone on the nightstand next to her, two forms, creating one shadow, the stories in both of them, never ceasing, even at rest. Outside the world continues in that illusion of change, the sky letting go of its tears, washing a parched landscape anew.