Friday, March 5, 2010

The books you read... you take them with you

You know those weeks where the entire universe seems to conspire against your writing? The weeks when the stars align in such a way as to form a gravitational pull away from your computer? The weeks when you have to choose between writing and such essential functions as eating or sleeping those vital 3 hours a night? THIS was one of those weeks. Or, at least it was for me.

This week I've been helping my grandmother move from her "independent living" apartment, down a series of long hallways punctuated by three different elevator rides, to a new "personal care" apartment. This is a great move for her, but her neighbors are horrified by the idea.

You see, the people in "independent living" see "personal care" as something to be avoided at all costs. My grandmother used to agree with them, but after a few tours of the new area, she's very excited about it. I've watched her try to explain to her friends how wonderful the new place will be, but they're unable to hear it, and are equally anxious to explain to her why they think it's a bad move. The thing is, they just don't know because they've never been there. When dealing with people like this, it helps to have some words of wisdom to guide you, and I have found myself remembering The Dream Tree by Stephen Cosgrove.

My mother read me The Dream Tree and many other of Cosgrove's "Serendipity Books" countless times when I was very very young. The Dream Tree is about a caterpillar who wants to know what it's like to be a butterfly, but she can't find out until she is one. It's a great story if you haven't read it, and I find it particularly apropo in this situation because even though my grandmother's new apartment is under the same roof as her old one, to her neighbors, it might as well be the moon. The "personal care" apartments are in another "building" they're practically a mile away, and they have a- pause for ominous music- different dining room. To the caterpillars of the "independent" apartments, if you move to "personal care" you might as well become a butterfly.

So here I am, a writer, an avid reader and a bona fide grown-up, and the most inspirational words of wisdom I have running through my head come from a book I heard when I was two. And I find it amazing because it goes to demonstrate how very important what we read can be in our lives. Sure, we read for education, for relaxation, and for escapism, but we also read to help us make sense of our lives. It is humbling to think, to hope, that as a writer I may someday touch someone in the same way that Stephen Cosgrove has touched me; to imagine that in more than two decades, something I write today may cross a reader's mind.

Who knows? All I know is that in this week in which the universe has conspired to keep me from writing, a simple Serendipity Book has offered me guidance. The Dream Tree has helped me understand my grandmother's neighbors in a way that would have been impossible without those few words.

Have you ever found wisdom from an unexpected book? What is the most influential book you ever read?

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