READING GIVES US A PLACE TO GO …
Mason Cooley said “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”
I could never have imagined this change of lifestyle, when we made our big move from Queensland to New South Wales in late January, 2020. It’s been a disorientating time, as it’s been for everyone. After thirty-one years in the same place it’s an understatement to say it was a big change. No sooner had I begun unpacking and getting organised life suddenly changed. I could barely concentrate on anything. I started to unpack like a crazy person so at the end of each day I was left feeling worn-out. I went to social media to try for some perspective but naturally everyone else was feeling pretty much the same way as I was. Television was a slight distraction but I just kept changing channels from one repeated TV show to the next Breaking News cast.
During this time, I didn’t even long to read my usual go to books and I couldn’t bare to face the characters in the latest book I’m writing. Of course, they were still there in my head banging on my skull telling me they needed to get out and onto the page.
I wonder if you all felt this disorientated? A few phone calls from friends assured me they did.
So, what happened?
Finally, a wall of shelving was complete and I was finally able to unpacked all of my books. I actually cheered up when I unpacked all my copies by an author from the 1960’s and 1970’s that I love and have collected for years.
(D. E. Stevenson writes with a kind and ironical observation of ordinary life.) I chose one of my favourites and immediately I was in Scotland, back with an old friend.
‘I remember this,’ I said and sighed, suddenly realising that this is how reading is meant to feel. It’s that delicious moment when you lose yourself and all awareness of what’s happening around you. The moment you admit defeat and give in to the story. Everything else falls away and there’s only the world in the book.
Reading for me has always been a lifeline and it was distressing to notice that I couldn’t relax with my favourite books. I now look back over all these lock-down weeks when I felt continually frustrated even fearful. I realise now the reports on TV and social media were really messing with my head. Yes, one needs to know the latest. But why every thirty minutes? I now turn off the TV and have a visit to social media to maybe share something and have a smile and look about for a little while – then I do something else.
So, here we are still at home. Let’s keep picking up new books – or old books, there’s nothing better than the joy of re-reading – and if you do I bet you’ll begin to smile as I did when you reunite with favourite characters.
I’m very relieved that I persisted. And guess what? I’m back writing my next book and the characters are behaving. Well, they still have some pretty difficult situations to overcome. I’m might be getting a handle on all this lock-down business but I still take each day as it comes.
From now on I’ll never take for granted how books can give us that wonderful leap into the imagination. Think of books as a type of tonic for the mind.
Stay well and safe, happy reading. Carmel