Books are a Bridge

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Once again Jane Dougherty inspired me with a prompt—a muse for my musings.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading”.

–William Styron, Interview, Writers at Work (1958)

 Books are a bridge to the mind,

A link between author and reader.

Across it

Ideas slither stealthily—or—

Stride boldly,

Characters stroll, march, and dance,

And

Emotions gallop with the force

Of an army.

When I was younger

I fell asleep while reading a book

And I was there.

Astride a horse in the north of England,

Speaking in a voice and accent

That are not my own.

The air was cold,

The horses warm,

And it was so real

That I remember it now

Decades later.

When I awoke

I was sad and wanted to return to this

Foreign land that was not mine.

But that I knew. Somehow.

From a book.

Who hasn’t wanted a wardrobe

That leads to an enchanted land?

Or wondered what it would be like

To go back in time?

To live in another world?

I lived the teenage emotions

Of Anne, feeling first love

And fighting with parents,

The joy of being alive

Even while crowded in

A secret annex during WWII.

And I wanted to not know

Her fate.

I also wished another fate

For another Anne,

Whose head would be parted

From her slender neck.

They placed traitors’ heads

On London Bridge,

A bridge of the living

And the dead.

But not hers,

Which was buried with her body

In the Tower

Where she had been a prisoner.

I read Hilary Mantel’s

Books of Thomas Cromwell

And Wolf Hall.

Tudor England became alive.

I sat at the table with Thomas More,

I rode on the river barges

I saw Cromwell with his family

And pet dogs,

A different side of the man.

I imagined it all

And so

I could hope while reading

That the story might be different

That history might change

And Queen Anne might live.

Still another Anne,

In another time and place,

That’s Anne with an “e,” please,

Delighted me with her love of big words

And the time she got her friend Diana drunk

And accidentally dyed her red hair green.

But I cried when Matthew died,

Didn’t you?

And when Beth, the third of the Little Women, died

I cried then, too.

I read the passage early in the morning

Lying in bed at my aunt’s house

Before anyone else was awake.

Books,  a refuge from the turmoil around me.

Jane Eyre, who became my friend,

Had a friend, Helen, who died in the horrid Lowood School,.

My school was nothing like that,

Although it had its horrors, too.

But that was long before she met Mr. Rochester

Or his mad wife in the attic.

IMG_2404

My daughter’s wedding fan.

I cried for the inhabitants of the plague village of Eyam

Brought alive by Geraldine Brooks,

This time reading late at night, an adult,

My husband already asleep,

But I could not stop turning the pages

Until I reached the end.

During graduate school,

Douglas Adams’s books brought some comic relief.

I laughed so much at his world of unwitting space travelers

That my husband had to read the books for himself.

Remember to bring a towel.

Good advice, always.

I’ve walked side-by-side with Wordsworth

And seen the host of golden daffodils

Beside the lake.

Haven’t you?

And haven’t you fallen down the hole with Alice

And learned to beware the Jabberwock

And not to drink or eat items

Simply because there are notes telling you to do so?

Recently I crossed a bridge with All the Light We Cannot See

To enter a new land

Where I felt the tiny houses that blind Marie-Laure

Could not see,

Smelled the salty air,

Felt the vibration of the bomb blasts,

Knew the wonder

Of an orphaned brother and sister

As they hear a voice and music

That traveled from Brittany

To Germany

As though by magic

To reach their ears.

And the book was magic, too.

Just last week, I closed the pages of Golden Age

The final book of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy

The saga of the Langdon family.

I experienced the history of the United States

Through their eyes

And experienced it with them—

Technology, wars, cults, births, and deaths

A farm in the Midwest,

A world in microcosm.

The final page was so brilliant and beautiful–

And perfect–

That I thought,

“I want to read this whole trilogy again.”

So many feelings and ideas

So many characters that I grow to love

All of these books–

And those yet to be discovered and read,

Old and new,

Crossing the bridge,

To new places

Entering my mind

And taking hold.

But the knowledge is sweet,

Minds, like hearts,

Can never be too full.

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Standing on the “Smoot Bridge” between Cambridge and Boston

Smoot Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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23 thoughts on “Books are a Bridge

  1. What a great reminder that reading can enable us to live two lives at once without being labeled schizophrenic. I remember BEING Jane Eyre when I read Bronte’s book. “There is no frigate like a book . . . ! As always, thanks for such a pleasant musing this morning. 🙂

  2. You may be an historian, Merril, but you are surely an artist as well. An artist who awakens when called into new worlds. I want to share this post with some other book lovers among my friends.

  3. You touched on so many books I’ve read and loved. Yes, I have wished for a wardrobe to enter into another time and place – although, perhaps, less trecherous than the White Witch in Narnia. I am always scandalized when I see someone read the last few pages FIRST. It just spoils the anticipation and surprises in the story.

    One of my favorite quotes if from Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.” “Thank you for all the fish.” 😉

    And, thank you, Merril, for the lovely trip down memory lane.

    • Thank you, Judy! I agree with the reading the last pages first. I’ve never understood that.
      Yes, I would not want to meet the White Witch. There are so many great quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide!

  4. Pingback: Poetry challenge Bridges: the entries – Jane Dougherty Writes

  5. Wonderful, wonderful! I miss that childhood escape into books. I indulge a bit now and then, usually with audiobooks which really can take me away from my own reality, making my familiar surroundings seem unfamiliar. But there’s nothing like a hardback book, propped on my knees. That kind of reading will always be my preference.

  6. Thanks so much for this beautiful journey revisiting my childhood landscape. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped believing in the possibility of escaping into different worlds both through the back of a wardrobe or via Enid Blyton’s “Magic Faraway Tree”. You climbed up that tree and there was a different world up the top and all sorts of characters who lived in the tree itself. After reading that, you can’t climb up a tree without wondering ever again.
    Another great thing I appreciated from your posts and the comments, is how people from al around the world have read the “Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” and had similar responses. Shared that sense of absolute magic!
    xx Rowena

    • Thanks, Rowena, for your very kind comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!
      I remember accidentally discovering the Narnia books in my school library. I had no idea that they were “classics.” No one discussed them with me. Then later, of course, I learned more about them and C.S. Lewis. My husband and I read the books to our daughters when they were young, and we rediscovered the magic.

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