Life As A Hedgepig
 
Tuesday, 20. June 2006
Bookworm

I spent most of my childhood with my nose in some book or other--a habit that actually hasn't changed much over the years. I don't know that all this reading has helped me understand life better. Most of those years, I was using books as an escape from real life.

Looking back on what I was reading, I can certainly see how the books I read shaped how I looked at the world, and helped shape what I want out of life.

Most of what I read -- and if I liked something, I read it repeatedly -- had either a historical setting, or a fantasy setting. Fantasy settings tend to be pseudo-medieval in flavor (just another era in history).

I guess I spent a lot of time when I wasn't reading trying out the things I read about. If I'd had a river to raft down, or caves to explore, I would have been in trouble: "Tom Sawyer" was one of my favorite books!

There was a river in town (now that I think about it); I guess I couldn't figure out how to manage the raft. I did build a rather impressive lean-to one day (don't know if that came from Tom Sawyer or something else). Later I found out there were caves outside of town, too, and my friends and I did a little spelunking. The caves weren't as big or as impressive as Tom's were. And we fortunately managed not to get lost!

I read books about Indians and tried to make a bow and arrows. More books about boys in the 1800s (especially John Fitzgerald's "Great Brain" books) and I tried to make a slingshot and learned how to play marbles. Tom Sawyer and the rest had also convinced me that boys had more fun.

I couldn't quite manage to become a boy, but I did manage to look like one for quite a while, with my hair cut short and always wearing jeans and sneakers. I figured the term "tomboy" had been made up for me -- after all, all my favorite characters were named Tom.

Eventually, I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder, and found out that girls could have fun and adventures, too. So I grew my hair long enough to wear in braids and demanded my mom make me what I believe we called "a granny dress." And a matching sun bonnet. Most of Laura's adventures were out of my reach, but I did get to try churning butter. And Laura is always in the back of my mind when I am researching my pioneer ancestors.

Greek mythology showed me that God had many faces and many names and that he might even be a she. Roman and Egyptian and Norse mythology reinforced those lessons. I still believe that God is too big to be caught in a building or trapped between the covers of any one book.

In high school, I discovered a book called "Illusions" by Richard Bach. I stumbled across it during a lunch time stop in the school library -- I devoured books more frequently than lunches. I had read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" when it was the "big thing." I'm sure I thought it was quite profound; "Illusions" was profounder (if that's a word). I was spellbound from the first page. I know I went to my classes that afternoon, but I have no idea what happened in any of them. I was reading. I should read it again; I don't remember too many of the details now, just that it was startling and illuminating and beautiful. The only "lessons" that stick in my mind from it now are, paraphrasing, "any thing is possible" and "how to tell if your mission on earth is finished: if you're still alive, it isn't."

In high school, I also discovered historical romances, although I disdained the formulaic "Harlequin" type novels. I also disdained any book where the heroine traveled to made up kingdoms and married fake royalty, successfully masqueraded as a boy for more than about five minutes, or ended up in a harem. I had some standards! But I did fall in love with the Middle Ages. I knew the genealogy of the British royal family (or families) before I knew my own. In fact, the royal genealogy probably helped prompt me to study my own.

I knew that the romances were pure fiction, and didn't expect to find my soul mate, but I was really surprised when I made it to college and found the Middle Ages! The Society for Creative Anachronism, "a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to re-creating the Middle Ages, not as they were, but as they should have been," had a branch on my college campus. After all those historical romances and all those fantasies (Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lloyd Alexander and the like) finding the SCA was like coming home. I did find my true love there, as well, although it didn't work out quite the way it does in the stories, and I found out that made up kingdoms and fake royalty can be very real and not necessarily a cause for disdain.

These days, I have lowered my standards even farther and found that Harlequin romances can be acceptable fare. But I am heavily into escapism these days; I still think that the romances are bigger fantasies than the fantasies! But I kind of missed my own happy ending with my first "true love," so I read the romances and enjoy those happy endings instead.

As for finding out what I want to do with my life? I want to be a librarian, of course! What better career for a dedicated book worm?

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Bookworm I spent most of
my childhood with my nose in some book or other--a...
by ceridwen (6/20/06 4:40 AM)


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