Books have always been my salvation. So much so that when I learned to read in the first grade, I felt an empathy . . . no, more than that, a oneness with Helen Keller when she finally linked words to the pictures in her mind. That moment when Anne Sullivan pumped cool, clear water over Keller’s fingertips and pressed the letters for water over and over into her hand, I held my breath.
I, for the first time, felt the tug of the storyteller upon my soul, and I never looked back. I was seven years old.
I read that biography over and over until its spine broke, and Keller and Sullivan became my role models. The first, for her tenacity to understand the human language, then read (in Braille) and finally speak (all without the ability to see or hear). With Sullivan’s help, Keller graduated from college and went on to become a celebrity and activist, which is why Sullivan is also my hero. Much was and is made of Keller, but Sullivan gave her all for her protege and friend. She almost lost her own weak eyesight from the heavy course load and their ongoing work. This is a sacrificial kind of love, and I believe I understand why she did it. True, it was her love for Keller, but also her love for words.
Words mean so much to me that I am nearly reverent in their presence. According to the online dictionary, salvation can mean two different things: deliverance from destruction or difficulty; and in the Christian faith, it also means redemption. When I read a particularly beautiful sequence of words by a favorite or new author, I pause, close my eyes and repeat them to myself. Like diamonds, they trip off of my tongue and dance sparkling into the air.
Books taught me how to fish, knit, lose weight, be pregnant (which was mostly about not being scared), give birth and garden.
By launching my imagination into new worlds, or by giving comfort, books provided respite when things were tough. I often find that the struggles of the saints and those people who’ve overcome extraordinary challenges apply to my own life and faith. I lean into their wisdom. There is strength in knowing someone has trod this way before.
This summer, I haven’t had as much time for the garden as I would like. Too many other obligations, but when I’m doing my best to do my duty as a daughter, friend, mother and sister, I feel Keller, Sullivan and the saints with me, their hands upon my shoulders supporting and guiding me on my way.
My grandmother always said books were her great companions, and for me, they are even more. They are inspiration and guidance during those most stormy times of life, and everyone has those.
What comforts you?
This is such a beautiful post, Dee, and so well-written! I don’t remember exactly when I realized how much I enjoyed reading; I always seemed to have a book in my hand. I can remember, though, reading Little Women in 3rd or 4th grade and being mesmerized by a world beyond my own. Since then, they have been my escape and my window into worlds I’ll never see. It thrills me to see my granddaughter have that same connection with books.
.-= Rose´s last blog ..ABC Wednesday: Awesome Annuals =-.
How true. What what I have done without books? It’s really unimaginable. Lovely post Dee.
.-= Jean´s last blog ..Visiting Ledge and Gardens =-.
Books have also been a part of my life from earliest childhood with trips to the local, small, library some of my most vivid memories. The smell of an old book brings back another world. Lovely post, Dee.
.-= Layanee´s last blog ..The left handed mitten =-.
Dee, your passion for the written word is wonderful. If only we could instill that love of reading into every child, how much better the world would be.
Like the others, I find reading to be a solace, an adventure, and a learning experience. And like visiting old friends, I enjoy rereading some of my favorites.
Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂
.-= Beckie´s last blog ..Drooling with Delight and Desire! =-.
Cindy Dyer says
Loved this posting, Dee! I’m a biblioholic from way back. Don’t even ask me how many books we have in our townhouse! And especially don’t ask me how many gardening and photography books I own! 😉
.-= Cindy Dyer´s last blog ..Early morning at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens =-.
Ramble on Rose says
This a beautiful and touching post. I share your love of books and the feeling of refuge that they provide. I wanted to learn to read so badly that I used to pretend I was reading before I actually learned. Once I did, I used to check out 7 or 8 books at a time and read them concurrently, and people always asked how I could keep the plots straight. And I asked them, how could you not?
.-= Ramble on Rose´s last blog ..The Agony and the Ecstasy =-.
Dee, it is wonderful to be able to learn so much from books, not only that we can escape from all the stress of everyday problems in the pages of a book.
I too, learned to read at an early age, and used to check out as many books from the library at one time as they would allow me.
Oh yes, books are incredibly important to me, and to us as a family. When I first visited my soon-to-be inlaws I naive-ly asked where the book case was…they didn’t ‘do’ books. I think its one of the few times in my life I actually was lost for words! But, dear reader, I married him anyway, and converted him! Now the Hub even builds me bookshelves! I love, love, love books…
.-= heckety´s last blog ..State of the Garden =-.
Oh wonderful, lovely post! And this is NOT coming from an English PhD, professor, or writer. Nope. Not at all. 🙂 Isn’t that moment when a new thought, or just the lricism of a sentence, wraps you up and launches you out from yourself so wonderful? Words are far more powerful then anyone gives them credit for. And when someone asks me what I do, and I say I’m a writer, they say “Oh, I could never do that, too compliated and scary,” I reply by saying well you just wrote something–our conversation. Language is so powerful! So sensuous! So life changing!
.-= Benjamin´s last blog ..Our Wounded Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly =-.
Lisa at Greenbow says
You are so eloquent Dee. I dive into books as often as a pool keeper. Books are treasure boxes where I find travel, entertainment, answers and questions and solace. I would hate to live in a world without books.
Your post qualifies as something to read, close my eyes and repeat. You articulate so well the love of books and the well written phrase that many of us share. At times like this one realizes what a gift reading can be. You are doing what you need to be doing this year…the books and the garden will wait for you.
.-= Leslie´s last blog ..GBBD July 2009 =-.
What a great post, Dee. My neighbor was a teacher at the Helen Keller Institute for the Blind in my home state, Alabama , and she took me with her to see how the legacy of this great woman lives on. I also visited Helen Keller’s home in Tuskegee.
Books were also my salvation and helped me lift myself up from poverty to a comfortable life.
I’m happy to know that Helen is an inspiration to you as she is to so many others.
.-= carolyngail´s last blog ..Home Grown Tomatoes =-.
You know Helen Keller grew up in Tuscumbia, right across the river from me? I have posted a few blog posts about the garden renovations going on over and I helped design a rose garden for them. She was an amazing person.
.-= Phillip´s last blog ..Perfect Weather =-.
Lovely post, Dee. Books are among my best friends, too.
Dear Demeter, what a beautiful testimony to words and books. You say it all so well for all of us, as you can see from the comments.
Some six months ago, as I packed, of course, I read a bit of a worn paperback of Keller’s life. Her description of what happened to her, how learning words opened her life, made me realize suddenly my little grandson’s struggle. He was furious not to be able to make himself known. Now, as his ability to speak improves, he’s a much happier little fellow. And I’m more patient, too, understanding his struggle. Maybe I have a budding writer on my hands, and I will make a grandmother’s difference.
.-= CurtissAnn´s last blog ..Blogging at Goodreads =-.
Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening says
Reading led to writing for me. When I have a rough spot I’m going through, I often write my way through it as well as read.
.-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Bindweed Battle in Progress =-.
Beautifully written, Dee. Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine life without books.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens says
I echo the comments of everyone, a beautiful post. I love books, and especially books by gardeners about gardens. I find them inspirational.
With Keller, Sullivan, and the saints to guide you, and your family and friends supporting you, you will surely find your way!
.-= Carol, May Dreams Gardens´s last blog ..Embrace Annuals For a Happier Life =-.
Dee — How well written. I share your love of books and feel a loss when don’t have the time to spend reading as I would like. My passion for reading has to take a back seat sometimes to gardening, or even blogging. But I do my best to squeeze them all in there to provide myself with some balance.
.-= Diana´s last blog ..Adventures in Kentucky =-.
Dee, You’ve written a beautiful post…I fell in love with reading as a little girl, too. The library was a wonderful place for me to go and so were the stories in books. Gardening and reading are comforting for me….thank you for asking~gail
.-= Gail´s last blog ..Wildflower Wednesday~~Coneflowers =-.
nola at the alamo says
I love the way you describe your affection for books! They’ve been my constant friend since I learned to read. I re-read well written verses over and over, committing them to memory.
.-= nola at the alamo´s last blog ..Rust and Other Opportunities =-.
Cindy, MCOK says
Books can be whatever you need them to be, when you need them to be. When a book speaks to me, I find myself jotting down a phrase, a sentence or an entire passage so I have the solace of those words as I need them.
.-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..A Mystery On My Corner of Katy =-.
Mr. McGregor's Daughter says
Dee, you have written a beautiful, touching and poetic post. Thank you for sharing this. Books have also always been my refuge, my passport to another time, another life, or another dimesion. When I can’t be in the garden engaging in my horticultural therapy, I seek the solace of books. You are definitely racking up the points in the book of good. Hang in there.
.-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..Silly Redbud – Picture This Photo Contest =-.
What a lovely post Dee…I feel exactly the same way!
Books have always been my special comfort. My mom “planted the seed” for loving books AND gardening when as a child, we would spend every Thursday at the library and then to beautiful Descanso Gardens to read under the oak trees while feeding the ducks. Wonderful, warm & fuzzy memories of that time makes books, reading and writing like a life-line to me.
.-= Theresa/GardenFreshLiving´s last blog ..Miniature Terrariums =-.
Beautifully written and how true, Dee. Books have always been my best friends and my childen’s/grandboys favorite gifts. I have bookcases in EVERY room of my home (all filled) and stacks here and there. There’s nothing like the joy of holding and smelling a good book.