So far, I am really enjoying the way Bloganuary’s prompts ask me to dig deeper as a writer and a person, to ponder the prompt and come up with an earnest response. Today’s prompt asks, what is a treasure that’s been lost? For me, for a long time, it was my love of reading. I have been an avid reader all my life, but the hustle of work and college left me with little time to read for years. However, every day I am rediscovering my love of reading.
Quarantine Book Binge
The onset of the pandemic was a very frightening time. I was committed to putting up a brave front and supporting my family during this time, but sometimes I woke up in the middle of the night feeling breathless, my head spinning with the nightmarish images and statistics that I’d just seen and heard on the evening news. The present was surreal, the future uncertain, the circumstances grim. However, as many of us will recall, juxtaposed with the horrors of the pandemic was an uncanny tranquility. There was less traffic, many businesses were closed, and in many areas there was a curfew. Only during power outages following severe hurricanes had I ever heard my neighborhood so still. The rural surroundings seemed more vibrantly verdant, the skies a crisper blue perhaps thanks to a momentary reprieve from carbon emissions. The roads were silent, and instead of passing cars the carols of singing birds and the rustling sound of the wind in the trees rang through our house as the long sunlit hours passed. There was nowhere to go, and nothing to do but find something to do.
I began reading books that I hadn’t had time to, before, when the world was still hustling, bustling, and unaware that a virus called COVID19 was waiting in our collective future. I specialized in 18th century British literature in college, and I spent many languid quarantine hours lying on the couch and finally reading Cecilia by Frances Burney. I followed this with all six of Jane Austen’s novels, several independently published cozy mystery novels, some of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels, and children’s novels like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle.
My quarantine reading ran the gamut from romance, mystery, classic, and children’s lit. All of these books took me to new worlds as I put myself in the shoes of the characters. Their dilemmas became mine, as Cecilia Beverley searched for someone to look beyond her vast fortune and truly care for her in the vicious social circles of 18th century London, as Jane Austen’s heroines navigated the social customs and economic laws that governed the lives of women in their time, as Julia Quinn’s heroines flirted and gossiped in royal ballrooms, as Kiki tackled life on her own as the resident witch of a small seaside village and soared on her magical broom, and mysteries unfolded in cozy cafes and bookstores.
Reading these books helped me have something to look forward to, and gave me hope each day. I remembered once again just how relaxing it is to get lost in a book, how it expands the imagination to envision the book’s scenarios and characters. The adult world demands constant busyness, and we comply seeking a feeling of accomplishment. This can be elusive. Instead, we are often left with doubts that we have really gotten much farther than we began, feeling a nagging emptiness where we should feel pride and triumph, if we are not too exhausted to feel very much at all. This is where I found myself just before the pandemic.
A good book is its own reward. We open our heart, we sign a contract in which we are willing to involve ourselves in the fates of people who do not exist, in times and places that we must conjure with the author’s words, inhabit those realms through the powers of our imagination and in this state are induced to amusement at a joke never uttered, indignation at injustices never committed, to fall in love with people who do not exist, to marvel at wonders constructed only of words. However, in return we receive all the benefits of having lived these experiences. Our abilities of awe, empathy, and even solving mysteries is sharpened, and, conversely, we are as soothed at being told a good story as we were in childhood.
Reading in the Midst of Life
The pandemic continues, but where I live the restrictions of quarantine ended in late 2020. My life is a lot busier than it was that summer nearly three years ago. Last year, books gave me hope once again after I made some major changes in my life. Starting this blog to share my insights about the books I read with others gives me something to look forward to, and the creative outlet it provides helps me grow as a writer. When the world slowed down for quarantine, I rediscovered my treasured love of reading and its unique ability to relax the mind while firing the imagination, and open the heart.
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