Books were my inspiration. I fell in love with Charles Dickens, with the jilted Miss Havisham, still languishing in her wedding gown in her cobweb-strewn living room, with Little Nell and her grandfather in the musty old curiosity shop and Oliver’s twisted path from the workhouse to life in the cruel hands of Fagin. I lost myself in the adventures of Jim Hawkins, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s, Treasure Island.
Anne Shirley, of Green Gables became by bosom friend, as did Jo March in Little Women. I saw myself in both of them, imaginative, determined, head strong or what my father called flighty. But somewhere tucked between the pages I discovered the longing in my own heart to write.
I wrote copious amounts of stories but none of them saw light of day. They were my inner world crafted in words, filling journals and exercise books and anything I could lay my hands on. My parents saw them as nothing more than my scribblings. Back then it didn’t dawn on me it was a gift, maybe even a purpose for my life, and I live with a deep sadness about that, of what might have been.
But books have continued to be my source of inspiration. Between their pages I’ve found great wisdom or there’s been a paradigm shift, a light globe moment and those squiggles on the page have stretched my world beyond imagining.
How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book? Henry David Thoreau
Others have languished on shelves, unread, unmarked, except for a layer of dust. I brought them home with good intentions, or was given them because someone thought I would enjoy them, and one day I will. George Steiner, author and philosopher, said, “A book can wait a thousand years unread until the right reader comes along”. Or maybe in my case, the right moment comes along. Sometimes a book, which doesn’t speak to me today, will scream at me tomorrow.
And there's something enduring about a book. This handful of bound paper can connect me to someone who died centuries ago, yet still I can hear their thoughts, benefit from their wisdom and find joy in their words. I can ‘meet’ Tolkien and Hemingway, Henry David Thoreau and CS Lewis, through their writing. Tucked between their pages are legacies of a lifetime that will never die.
They can bridge generations. I remember my father giving my daughter, Good Wives. He took time to write little messages to her throughout its pages, a gift from a grandfather long gone but which still speaks to her today.
I imagine, after my demise, someone will learn a great deal about my life from the books I’ve read, and more so from the treasures tucked between their pages. I have an eclectic assortment of bookmarks … a postcard from a cousin, a pressed leaf and a perfectly preserved pansy that remind me of spring, a letter from someone dear to my heart, a photo of a family wedding, a boarding pass from a flight to Bendigo – I obviously read that one on a plane – a concert ticket from the Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, and my portrait, drawn by a grandchild.
They are so much more than mere books; they are receptacles of the moments of my life.
What bookmark treasures would you find between their pages?
What unread books languish on your bookshelves waiting to stretch your world or even change your life?