In the past week I learned about the death of Janet Chapman, who came to her first Writers Retreat Workshop the year after Gary died. My niece, Anna, came to visit my dad and I while she attended a wedding nearby. I spent all of Saturday (and a little bit of Friday) watching the first Breeder's Cup weekend held at Del Mar Race Track (built by Bing Crosby and friends). My sister-in-law, Hope (Anna's mom) had a book reading and signing for her third Christian romance novel, which was held at our new local bookstore. And in the wider world, there was another senseless shooting, today is election day, kids went trick-or-treating for Halloween, retired mare Songbird sold for $9.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sales, and more men were accused of sexual harassment in Hollywood.
I could walk to the library from our house on Homer Avenue, and often did. Those were the years when a first-grader could safely go out for hours with friends, even sometimes alone, and a parent didn't need to worry. Well, except for the time I got caught in a thunderstorm and tried to shelter under a huge pine tree with some boys. The woman who lived in the house with the tree invited us inside, knowing how dangerous it was, and I said yes. The boys ran home.
My heart aches with grief over some of the events of the past weeks. And when my heart aches, I turn to books for solace. This morning I was browsing USA Today online and ran across an article on Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, on display in the New York Public Library. It was the first time I'd seen the originals, and as the writer of the article said, they looked loved.
It isn't that books can change or take away our grief or sadness. They might provide a brief escape, but we do always finish the story. It's more that they bring us into contact with others. The writer, who understood us without ever knowing us. The characters, who felt so much as we did. And other readers, who find a similar joy in discovering the same beauty.
So when I walked in that bookstore and smelled the books, I was back in the library of my childhood with Lad and Black Beauty. I was back on the street, peering into the jungle of mystery on the corner across from the cemetery, imagining what was inside the green branches.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop