I’ve loved books as long as I can remember…
Some of my earliest memories are of being read to by my mother. It was something I looked forward to with excitement, for books invited me into other worlds, and other people, and adventures that fueled my own fertile imagination.
Books became my vehicles, my anchors, my kites, and my best friends. I loved the way they smelled, I loved their different textures and weights, I loved their illustrations and the sound of their turning pages. As a young girl, I read books inside blanket forts, at the beach, under trees, in cars, in closets, and late into the night because I could not put them down.
To me, books became like magical keys that unlocked doors to everything I wanted to learn about, including myself. Books simultaneously satisfied and fed my natural curiosity. Every time I had a question no one could answer for me, I was taught to research the answer in books. As such, I developed a very intimate relationship with books, which inevitably became a huge part of my own spiritual journey over the decades.
The following is a little poem I wrote as I reminisced on the way my mother passed down her love of books to her children.
A Love of Books
by Catherine L. Schweig
by Catherine L. Schweig
There was a hierarchy to furniture-purchasing on a budget:
bookshelves indisputably came before a kitchen table,
in the home my mother made for us. And their colorful spines
glowed: fine gemstones we set into the tight prongs of our hearts,
facets of fierce fairytales and folklore, rhyming verse and pretty prose.
Mother fed us life with her enthusiastic readings, and primed us for its call.
There, on mother’s warm lap, I was given carte blanche to roam the world,
that waited patiently to be ingested, in exciting book stacks all around us.
As she read, I caught my breath in the quiet intervals when the pages
were turned, when chapters ended, when my little sister shifted her weight
on mother’s other knee. Listening to books as a child, I became conscious
of thumps within me; in synch with the concerns of a certain Lorax,
of Parisian orphans who had lost a dog, of the dragon who cried a river,
or the five year old at The Plaza Hotel. Another one! We would say, each time
a book ended. For my mother’s voice knew how to float us down
the Yangtze river, across the Hundred Acre Wood and into the gardens
of a family of royal elephants. And we wore mother’s voice like a soft shawl.
For there were books before bed, books when we rise, books when it rains,
books in the car. We couldn’t have been more enamored. It was love at first read!
And when we’d exhaust the books we had at home, we’d ride over
to the local library. Fast and frequently. Like devoted pilgrims to Mecca,
certain of meeting with enlightenment. Ah! The scent of books! Better than
any perfume, we thought. And mother liked the silence. If we were
quiet enough, we could hear the books calling us: like nuns to a convent
we would heed the call, sure to find parts of our souls between covers.
For libraries were sacred to us: quiet altars to endless pages and pages
of places we had yet to explore, people we had yet to meet, feelings
we had yet to feel. Mother made books our deities. I loved that about her
and the mysterious shelf in her closet where Baudelaire’s poems beckoned her,
and Kant, and Freire, and Schweitzer, and Gibran, which made them all
that much more alluring to my adolescent mind, when sitting on
mother’s lap was behind me, yet an endless turning of pages still lay ahead,
as I continued to dive through passages my mother opened to me, squeezing into worlds that would have remained obscured otherwise, without this love of books.
(I would love to know what some of your favorite books were growing up. And which books, in general have impacted your life. And if anyone recognizes the seven children's books I refer to in my poem above. Please leave your answers in the comment section below. Thank you!)
|The author being read to by her mother|
Catherine L. Schweig has practiced yoga in the Bhakti tradition since 1986. Her regular treks into nature, and relationships with others, are a valuable part of her spiritual journey. Passionate about inspiring women to honor their voices, in 2012 Catherine founded the Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry Blog, through which emerged a trilogy of poetry anthologies, the latest is Poetry as a Spiritual Practice: Embracing the Awakened Woman (Golden Dragonfly Press 2016). Catherine is also the creator of the Vaishnavi Voices Poetry Project. As co-founder of The Secret Yoga Institute, with her life partner, Graham M. Schweig, Ph.D., she designs yoga workshops, publishes in various yoga magazines, and co-authored Yoga in the Gita: Krishna & Patanjali, The Bhakti Dimension, (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2016) with Braja Sorensen. Catherine lives in Virginia with her partner, younger son and cat, where she also makes vegan, Waldorf-style dolls at Happy Hearts Dolls. You may connect with Catherine on FaceBook, or email her firstname.lastname@example.org
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