Life is a journey - pack books
Thomas Jefferson famously said "I cannot live without books."
I think I know what he meant. Books have been an important part of my life since childhood. When I was a little kid, I contracted a scary disease, and my parents were beside themselves with worry. They often struggled to keep things as normal as possible and that meant keeping my mind off my illness by entertaining me. These were the days when TV was in its infancy and there was very little for a young person to watch. So my parents settled on books.
Actually, we started out with comic books, and as a result, Wonder Woman quickly became my idol. I wanted that magic bracelet with a true passion! We eventually graduated to story books and through the six-month duration of the illness, I managed to become an early reader.
Once I was well, one would think I'd want to be outside playing, after being cooped up in the house for so long. But that wasn't the case, because I had been badly bitten by the book bug. I always thought the perfect hideout was inside a book. In fact, a love of reading has influenced my whole life. As an example, I can credit "Black Beauty" and "My Friend Flicka" with leading me to a life-long love of horses. I began riding at age seven and still think that the back of a horse is a fine place from which to view the world.
I have quite a collection of books, many of them yellowing and crumbling with age. I think I was influenced by an old English teacher of mine who once told me that there is space on everyone's bookshelves for books you have outgrown but can't give away. They hold your youth between their pages, very much like pressed flowers, she said, on a forgotten summer day.
The wonderful thing about books is that they take you away from yourself. They show you entire worlds and let you lose yourself in them. Those worlds can sing to you, quiet you, or excite you. There are times in life when reading is a lifesaving virtue.
Recently, a sunken ship was salvaged off the coast of North Carolina. It turned out to be Blackbeard's "Queen Anne's Revenge." What made this ship so special was that a rare discovery was made — pieces of paper stuffed into a cannon. Given the passage of 300 years and the warm water, this kind of discovery is almost unheard of. Researchers were able to trace the shreds of paper, which still bore legible printing, to a book about nautical voyages published in the early 1700s.
Dead men tell no tales, but their books might. The sailors were reading about sea adventures as they were living them. It's easy to speculate that they were wondering how others faced what they were facing, that they might be looking for clues to what lay ahead, that they were reading books in order to learn, to lose themselves, to have hope. Nothing has changed much in 300 years. I think that's still why we read them. We lose ourselves in books, but we find ourselves there, too.