I live in an incredibly noisy place. And I have a noisy brain. There is nothing I can do to influence the former, no plea I can make to my neighbors, no legislation I can enact or enforce. All I can do is be quiet myself, and that sometimes requires assistance. Long hours of sleep can help, though the outside noises make that impossible here. Getting sick can force it. Going away to a calmer environment (if there is time and money for the trip) can give brief relief. But the best way for me, is, and has always been, to read.
My folks taught me to read before kindergarten, and I was fortunate to start my schooling in a district that focused on reading and writing skills. Very fortunate. Because the habit had already taken hold by the time my family moved, in the middle of my second grade year, to a different state, a different school, a different teacher.
The new school put its attention more on arithmetic skills in that grade, and mine were not as advanced as was my reading. WIth a little extra attention, I probably could have caught up. And I did get extra attention. Mrs. Kelly focused on my deficient math skills, bringing her primary teaching tools in to the fray. She lavished ridicule and humiliation on me so effectively that, 40-odd years later, when I was finishing my B.A., I almost blacked out in the class I took to fulfill the mathematics requirement.
But she couldn't similarly cripple my reading, because I already knew how to do it. But she could punish proficiency. In the silent reading period, she snatched the book out of my hands when she discovered me "reading ahead" to the next stories while the other kids were still stuck in the single one she had assigned. "Just who do you think you are?" she demanded. "How dare you read ahead?" The other kids turned to stare while she stalked away, leaving me to sit at my desk, bookless, still, and silent.
I don't know what she thought she was teaching me, but here is what I learned: it was dangerous to not be good at something, and equally dangerous to be very good at something. Unacceptable to fall behind, offensive to leap ahead. Stupid – did I mention she called me "stupid"? - to be slow, and punishable to be fast. Though she was not the only adult whose bullying I would endure in my life, her "lessons" were long-lasting.
But she never cured me of my addiction to stories, to tales, to dreaming in print. In fact, she probably drove me to take that drug more often. I became one of those girls who "always has her nose in a book".
Now, some of you have been sweetly scraunching at me, wanting to know why I have not written more, or posted more on Facebook, or on my website. Well, I have needed to be Elsewhere. Here is the list of my recent – and exquisite – shelters from the storms.
One of our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (newest installment of the Thursday Next series, catnip for literature lovers)
Moonwise by Greer Gillman (A Child ballad in prose. No one else writes like Ms. Gilman. I finished it, ensorcelled, and promptly read it again)
Little, Big by John Crowley ("the greatest fantasy ever written by an American"
The Underground Church by Robin Meyers (what might happen if what Jesus said to do, and what he did, was what we do)
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (how we hurt the earth, and what would happen here if we simply vanished)
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (a joyous and true cat story)
My profound thank you to the authors, to public libraries, to independent booksellers and those who sell used books, and to my sister, who loaned me Homer's Odyssey.
Hi. I'm back.