I began three books this weekend. My attention span really is at an all time low. Bird.
I had just opened the cover of a new book, relishing the smell of printed pages, the feel of the paper against my fingertips, and the rush of being on the edge of a story, happily waiting to fall in. The book’s voice was friendly, childlike without being cloying. Honest without being brutal.
My heart clenched in happiness, for it has been many a day since I felt the soul of a book. Attending a university was as thrilling as it was imprisoning. While learning new skills and expanding my horizons, it was rather like forcing your foot into a shoe that doesn’t quite fit. It’s what’s expected, but it is not comfortable, a lot of you is hidden, and you leave a little bit behind. After the vigorous experience, I had little space in my mind for wonder or imagination. The characters who had once accompanied me throughout every moment of the day, stood scared in the darkest reaches of my mind, raw after the harsh criticism they had been subjected to in writing class.
I don’t like being told how to be.
I digress. Squirrel.
After the wonderful, terrifying, foundation altering experience that was college, the books lay silent. Even when I no longer felt completely burnt out, and mustered the courage to open a cover, the pages didn’t so much as whisper. Books and I were no longer friends. The words no longer effortlessly painted vivid images in my mind. I had to concentrate to bring a shimmering mirage to the surface, a hollow ghost of what I had once seen.
But finally, out of the dark years I was drawn. Learning to be happy for me and for no one else. Learning to gaze upon the world with wide eyes once more. Finally, the books began to whisper.
It was subtle at first, and a little painful. Like talking to a friend you once knew, but suddenly found that their name had been on the knife in your back. The books were untrusting, fully aware that I was about to analyze them. They were timid, and so was I, worried that I had forever lost a piece of who I was.
This book was loud. Not an unpleasant sort of loud, but the sort of loud that fills the mouths of friends when they are nearing the end of another glass of wine. This book was eager to share its story. This book was generous.
As my eyes hungrily roved the pages, a sense of home returned. Wherever this part of me had hidden, it was no more, and I rejoiced, fully immersing myself in another world, happy to be the victim of this book.
My enemy was fear. Fear that in a moment my focus would change, and I would lose myself again in the world of necessity and want. The fear tremulously knocked upon every door in my mind, echoing and threatening to overwhelm. Bravely, I fought my way deeper into the book, refusing to return to the mundane. Eventually, the knocking stopped, and I stood before a great calm sea. Free of my shackles, small in a great world I did not understand. I liked it that way.
Soon the rest of the books followed. I greedily memorized their personalities, thirsty for the sweet nectar of their stories.
I was once more surrounded by friends I had thought had abandoned me. Dustfinger and Bastian and Hermionie. Suzie and Meggie and Eben. Cwlwch and Olwen and Beowulf. I embraced my apparent external solitude and reentered the hallowed hall of my imagination, the heroes of old waiting to welcome my return.