Saturday, November 27, 2010

Reading, Writing & Time Travel

As a kid, the most looked-forward-to event in my young world was always our next trip to the library.  I devoured books.  The feeling of walking into the warm, well-lit library from a dark & cold Alaskan winter day was nearly a religious experience for me.  The hushed tones, reverence for the written word & ability to be uplifted, as some people find in their churches, I found at the local public library.  I loved exploring the neatly organized aisles, in search of new & undiscovered adventures.  Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Edward Eager, anything by Judy Blume... I even sampled a few more advanced tomes at a young age... reading The Great Gatsby at age eleven & Catcher in the Rye around twelve.  (I may have missed some of the finer nuances of course, but totally "got" the concept of outsiders wanting "in" in their own ways.)  Returning home with a stack of yet-to-be-read books, I was like a young lion on the Savannah coming upon a herd of sleeping elk... um, or whatever it is that lions eat... circling my prey... deciding which should be digested first.  That is the voracity of my appetite for books & the written word.  Setting off to unexplored worlds of magic & truth & possibility, as necessary as taking in breath.

Even now, with the advent blogs & online journals, I find I have a similar appetite for reading.  Though it is now done between loads of laundry & refereeing squabbles between two little boys.  Writers online send out these messages, lovingly placed in their little bottles & set adrift in the sea of technology.  Not knowing for sure who will receive our words.  I see this personal writing as messages to our future selves, a bit of time travel in a way.  I once spent an entire afternoon at my Aunt's house reading letters that my Great Grandfather had written over the years to my Great Grandmother.  Letters from near (they lived in the same town) and far (when he was away during WWI)... his beautiful script often hard to decipher.  How better can one learn about who our ancestors really were?  Relying on the memories of others gives only a fraction of the whole person.  Reading their own words & thoughts & perspectives is such an amazing gift.  How else could I ever have known that my Great Grandma had very small & cute ears?  Or that my Great Grandpa loved her long before she would ever give him the time of day?  Though I suppose one could argue that our own accounts make us the least reliable narrators... taking it all with a big grain of salt... knowing that what we choose to write is not always the full story.

My own personal inspiration for a return to writing has come from a re-discovery of Natalie Goldberg, along with blogs by Kelle Hampton & Nici Holt Cline, showing me the beauty & importance of putting down the words & documenting this incredible thing called life.  I find myself simultaneously nostalgic for an era of "real" letter-writing, and grateful for the convenience and immediacy of Facebook & email.  The Luddite side of me wishing these words were a bit less disposable, leaving breadcrumbs for future generations.  These days I have far less time for personal reading or writing, but I take it where I can find it.  Usually in short snippets of thought - both reading & writing blog entries is about the same length of time my two monkeys can play alone, or watch an episode of Caillou or Dora, before losing interest & turning to mischief or violence.  I have a stack of "can't wait to read" books next to my bed... "The Help" is at the top of the pile, followed closely by the latest from Jeannette Walls & the manual for my Canon 50d.  They call out to me nightly as I tumble into bed, exhausted from the day.

This love of the written word for both pleasure & purpose is something I hope to pass along to my two boys.  We have books everywhere in our house, literally everywhere thanks to Quinn's love of moving large stacks of them from room to room.  We make our weekly treks to the local library - checking out books at random - wandering aisles, judging by covers & finding treasures along the way.  As for writing, am hoping my own little bottle-clad messages eventually wash up upon welcoming shores.  That future generations will know who we were.  That I have small, cute ears & loved my husband before he even knew my name.


Kelle said...

Kate! Thank you. I love this post. I could preach on the mountaintop about the good that writing does. It is so fueling, and blogging is such an incredible way to do it. Love the sleeping elk reference...ha ha. Thank you so much for sharing. Write on, Girl! You are a beautiful writer!

Ann said...

Um, cool is that?! (I'm trying to figure out how to type an arrow pointing up to Kelle's comment...forget it....) I love reading your writing too! It's so comforting knowing there are other moms that understand the highs and lows.

Unknown said...

Love this. I was never as avid a reader as you, but have always felt that book stores and libraries were my "churches" packed full of inspiration. I woke up early this morning wanting to write in my journal and thinking "hmmm, maybe it's time to look into starting a blog." And then popped up your beautiful writings. Today I will begin my own blog trail, mainly for my son, but perhaps for my future self too. Thanks Katie. Glad you took the time to put it down in words.

Rememorizing said...

Katie you are always my inspiration. You invited us to share so I sent it to my friend who fundraises for all the Anchorage libraries. When I first started working with her, I encouraged the board to tell their "library stories." Each board member, for the first time shared their amazing childhood stories with each other. It was amazing and even tearful. I was reminded of that experience today from your writing. Thank you for sharing your story.

Margaret Heatly said...

I have been enjoying your blog for months, but never have time to comment. The pictures of the boys are great and the words always ring true. I love seeing the pictures of the family events too. It would be so fun to get all of the cousins together. My love of reading has definitely taken a back seat these days. I check out a book from the library and return it without even opening the cover. One of these days it will get easier, right?