Monday, April 2, 2012

The Books that Speak

Today my writer's challenge is two fold.  One - to commit to read a book.  That is not difficult, as I do enjoy reading.  And now I find myself with plenty of opportunity to do so.  A recent severe thunderstorm produced such lightning that a strike in the neighbor's yard caused cable lines and satellite lines throughout the whole block to go dark.  My husband and I decided to try going "TV free" and only use our internet for the news and shows that we think we must have.  (I do believe that "NCIS and Bones" are essential for my mental well-being, and for him....sports anything.)  It's been very restful to not having loud mouth announcers shouting at me through the tv screen what I must try, what I cannot live without and why I must believe what they tell me to be true.  That could be a whole other post, but today I am focusing on the books.

I am a big fan of Karen Kingsbury and have committed myself to reading and finishing 2 of her books by the end of the month.  Since I have had these books since least Dec 2010, I really need to hold to this commitment.  I have many more authors that I love to read, Francine Rivers, Beth Wisemen, Beverly Lewis - yes, I enjoy Amish books.  They inspire me to go clean something or to bake.  Neither one being a bad choice for a homemaker.  I have a good size book shelf filled with both fiction, nonfiction, devotional and motivational books.

The author of the challenge explains that as writer's we need to keep reading new material.  Not necessarily to write on those topics or to gather new concepts.  But instead to just keep a steady stream of new words, images and concepts flowing into our brains so that the well we draw from does not become stagnant with only our own content.  Eventually, after using the same words, concepts and images you will run out of new things to say.  She then asked us TWO -  to tell about our favorite book.

If I desired to go all spiritual upon your head, I would tell you the Bible is my favorite book.  My Bibles are very precious to me.  The Word is precious.  But without the book I want to share with you, I would never have read The Holy Bible.

I was nine years old when family was taking a round about way to Florida.  My parents loved to camp and never drove "straight" to a campsite.  You can make that trip in probably 12 - 14 hours if you keep driving.  But they would meander around large cities when possible and choose the most obnoxious little hole in the wall places to stop, shop or camp in.  That is yet another story.  My point here is that we were stuck in a hot camper for multiple hours on end.  So mom purchased a book for me to read on the way.  I got to choose the book.  I chose Heidi because I had watched the Shirley Temple version in movie form and had some idea what the story line would be.

Up to this point I would not say reading was difficult.  But it was also not fun.  Words sat flat on a page and were very uninspiring to that nine year old.  Reading gave me headaches and eyestrain.  It never gave me joy or interest or any imagination.  Until Heidi.

I started reading Heidi and suddenly a new world opened up in front of me.  I no longer saw just "words" but the words created pictures in my mind.  I didn't just read Heidi.  I saw Heidi.

I saw the mountains, and felt the breezes, smelling the flowers.  My heart swelled with tenderness when the gruff grandfather began to extend kindness to the delightful little girl.   I cried the tears when deceitful aunt Dete spirited Heidi away from her beloved grandfather.  I ached with loneliness for Heidi as she missed her loved ones.  I felt such pride when she bravely encouraged Klara and taught her to reach for her dreams.

Heidi unlocked books for me.

When I turned the last page and found it was indeed the last page, it felt as if I had said goodbye to a long lost friend.  I read and reread this book, simply because of the joy it gave me.  Even when I was familiar enough with the story, that I knew what would happen next, I still smiled in delight.  I turned turned the pages to find that Peter had arrived with his goats to take Heidi with him to the pastures.  I would begin to feel sad long before the words came to explain that Grandmother was blind and Heidi bitterly wept.  I felt the frustration at the unbending will of the governess Frauline Rottenmeier and would want to kick her for her hatefulness to the sweet little Heidi.  I read the story so often the binding tore lose and  barely held together.

Over the next years, I would also discover the worlds of Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, The Hardy Boys, and in time Grace Livingston Hill romances. (The only romance my parents would permit.)  But I would always remember that it was the book Heidi by Johanna Spyri that unlocked the mystery of words and books for me.

I lost track of what happened to Heidi, as I grew in age.  Eventually I looked to books to expand my mind and broaden my views.  I would read to educate and to mystify.  I developed a love for reading that surpassed any for movies or tv shows.  

The fall of 2010 was a difficult time for me.  My mother was dying of liver failure brought on by her breast cancer treatment.  At the same time, I was diagnosed with breast cancer of my own.  Just 11 days after the massive surgery to remove my breasts and cancer, my mother stepped into heaven.  She died peacefully with all her daughters together under the same roof.

The time had come for us to go through the rest of the belongings and decide what must be done with everything.  My sister Becky lifted an old tattered book from the box it had resided in all those years.  I gasped when I saw it.  I whispered to her, "I think that's my Heidi book."

Becky flipped it opened to the inside cover and chuckled.  "I would guess so since you scrawled your name across each page.

 Gently, I opened the broken spine, separating pages and held it to my heart.  It now hold a place of honor on my shelf.  

"Heidi", the book that unlocked the joy of reading for me.


  1. Ah...Trixie Belden. That's who I was going to be in 7th grade, since that Annie Oakley thing wasn't working out. :) This is one of those books that I've never read, and you don't remember it until someone mentions it. Thank you!

  2. I read the same books that you did as a child. In fact ... I read the sames ones currently as those you listed (Kingsbury, Oke, Wick, any author as long as it's Amish). I always loved books. We moved so often that I didn't trust people to stay in my life. Books on the other hand were steadfast and constant.