Sunday, November 04, 2007

Books That Influence Us

There are books we read that draw us into a world we knew nothing about, there are also books that fill us with dreams and aspirations, there are books that are just entertaining and then there are a few rare books that profoundly impact our lives in ways we could never imagine.
There are not many of those kinds of books. The very fact that there are very few, increases the value of them.
I have been an avid reader all my life. When I was just a child, my grandmother would ask my parents to take her to Mr Murphy's book shop once a week or so. My grandmother spent her elder years reading books at an amazing rate. She was a brilliant woman, and could consume a hardback book every other day and remember all the details of the story. She never wasted her time on silly romance stories, but loved historical novels. She loved stories where honor and goodness won out. My mother had a bit less time to read since she was busy raising her family but there was never a day in my entire life that I didn't see her spend some time reading and my father is the same way. So you can imagine I grew up with a deep love of books, cultivated by dear old Mr Murphy with his used book store that had shelves everywhere and the entire store smelled of cats and musty old books. He knew I loved old books and actually sold me an entire set of Louisa May Alcott first editions for $2, because he knew I would love them. He could have made so much money on those books but he chose to sell them to a little girl that would treasure them. As the years crept by, he would smile and call me over to some dusty box containing books he knew I would love. Thoreau, Poe, Hawthorne, Longfellow.....first editions many times, sold for what he knew my allowance was. He even sold me the coffee table book ( first edition) of Andrew Wyeth's art work for a tiny sum of $5. One week on a trip there, he told me he had a book I would enjoy..... "We Took to the Woods" by Louise Rich. I had never heard of her and it looked like a rather ordinary book to me. Not old and filled with history like the other books I so loved. It was not richly bound, nor were their wonderful engravings. But I was smart enough in my early teens to know that Mr Murphy would not steer me wrong.
I started reading that night and fell under the spell of what life was like in the woods, away from all the modern things.... about getting ready for winter, chopping wood, and yes, even having a baby with no hospital around. I read of interesting people, of an area of Maine, wild and untamed. I wanted that very same life. That book hooked me into seeking out the simple life. Life off the beaten track. I learned that people still could live like Thoreau. As romantic as that had seemed to me, Mrs Rich made it real, practical and yet funny, filled with the idea of laughing at the things that can be difficult. This woman was tough and yet still all woman.
I liked her....and somehow knew that if I had ever met her, I would like her very much.
With her words she took you beside her as she picked berries or cooked a meal.
This one book has taken me on a journey to live simply.... yes, I have always wanted to take to the woods but never have been able to live that fully. We came close to that life when we lived in Oregon, but still not as far away from "civilization as I would have liked.

I am not afraid of difficult, or uncomfortable in solitude. At times I still feel the excitement of this old dream. Driving down a road far off the beaten path, I wonder, I dream, could this be a place to hear only the sounds of nature and work side by side with Emery building a life in the woods ? Reality soon hits and I remember how I would miss my children and my computer. In that order.
Next week, if all is quiet and life takes on that comfortable rhythm found in routine, I will sit by the stove and read this book one more time. It will lead me to another book, " A Year in The Maine Woods " by Bernd Heinrich . It is written about the same area, by a man whose writings I love, he too took off to the woods...only for a year but still his writings stir within me that same longing to just take off to the woods. If you get a chance to read these books, it will open up a new world for you.


Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I love company!

I too am an avid reader. I truly enjoyed this post. I can remember being a 7 year old and visiting the local library with my Mom once a week. It was soo much fun to choose a book and take it home to read.

Rondi said...

"The Cabin" that I write about is set in this part of Maine. I have walked in those woods, gone boating and snowmobiling on those lakes, enjoyed the brilliant night skies from those mountain tops... One of my favorite memories is reading "We Took to the Woods" outloud to my boyfriend by the fire one winter... There is a family who lives on an island about a 1/2 mile across the lake from "The Cabin." They live the way you do...very simply...with no electricity (solar power), etc. It's a beautiful place, and a peaceful way to live...

Rowan said...

Thank you for writing about these two books,they sound like the kind of thing I really enjoy and I've added them to my Amazon wish list:) I've been an avid reader all my life too.

Marianna said...

I'm off to see if the library has these!! My grandmother is from Maine, but I have never been there. I long to visit someday.

Much To Catch Up....

In mid January, we saw the passing of my father and after nearly two years of caring for him, it was so hard to see him leave u...