Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comfort Books

“I’ve taken this out from the library so many times,” my 18-year-old daughter told me, a happy smile lighting her face as she settled in the passenger seat. “I just love this book. It’s my comfort book.”

‘Comfort book’, I thought, like comfort food. Hmm.

… a comfort book is one you return to to re-read, despite a hectic schedule that would seem to prohibit the re-reading of even prescription instructions.

… a comfort book is one with dog-ears, cracked spine, and smudges in the margins from repeated use.

… a comfort book is one you will take to your favorite reading spot and bury yourself in its pages, oblivious to the world – or sit at a lunch table, book propped against the nearest sturdy food container, and hunker down behind it, hiding away in its world to escape from your own.

You get the picture.

I realize that in a world where reading time has been diminished by the electronic media, social networks and lack of interest, there is concern about getting people to read a book at all. People who are reading usually protest they can’t squeeze multiple readings of the same material into their hectic lives.

BUT – we watch our DVDs repeatedly. We have favorites. And who among us can state truthfully that they don’t watch TV reruns? “7th Heaven”? “I Love Lucy”? “M*A*S*H”? It’s about comfort, familiarity, and feeling good.

It’s putting Mozart or the Rolling Stones on the stereo or iPod, sitting back with an apple or some Oreos and milk, and opening up a book to a familiar scene, returning to a place that intrigued us, gave us joy or prodded our intellect in some satisfactory way.

If I can’t get my hands on a new book by a favorite author, I’ll re-read one. DO NOT ASK me how many Agatha Christies I’ve re-read. I started re-reading favorites by her when I was still a teenager. I will re-visit Pern to ride ‘between’ on dragonback, cook with Goldie Schulz, garden with China Bayles, quilt with Bennie Harper Ortiz, and bask under the Tuscan sun with Frances Mayes. I will even build houses in a town of schoolchildren with Tracy Kidder. And – through less often – travel almost anywhere with James Michener and Isaac Asimov.

Of course, the shorter books are easier. They are quicker to read and easier to put down if I remember them well enough. Longer ones take, well, longer. Still, in times of life that are difficult or even just mildly stressful, familiar faces and places that can be delved into at a moment’s bread are truly comforting. I don’t count the time spent in re-reading against my new-book reading time. Instead, I count it as re-grouping time, stress relief, self-indulgence. I don’t go to spas, or get my hair or nails done; I don’t party or even dine out frequently. I don’t go on retreats. But I read and re-read my favorite books, my comfort books. What are yours?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flowers Currently Blooming at Blackwater

Pink camelia in the woods across the causeway.

Daffodil closeups.

Daffodils and beginning Stars of Bethlehem by fallen tree across Little Cross Creek.

Coming Home

I've not posted to this blog in a while. Too many things have been happening, one in particular that I had to think about before I was ready to write.

We sold the house!!!!!

Our Nashville house finally sold, and we closed late in January. We actually finalized the offer on December 31st, answering the prayers of a lot of people that we sell by the end of the year. This was a second piece of good news; I started a new part time job the beginning of January (a job I thoroughly enjoy, by the way). It's only three weeks ago, so there is still dust settling as we complete our first month with only 1 set of mortgage payments.

Wow. Not used to that.

So. The question on everyone's mind is, how do we feel?

That's what I've been pondering, how to describe what we feel.

Relieved, for sure. Our future was looking pretty bleak. And I sure did make a lot of homemade soup these last few months!

Awed, because now we can really think of Blackwater as home, and you know how I've raved about this place. We'd been feeling a little nervous, as if the repercussions of our financial stretch could have resulted in our losing it. After all, the economic climate is making everyone imagine a Foreclosure Bogeyman lurking behind their front doors. Now we're feeling more assured, and we can enjoy the beauty we're blessed with this spring.

We were walking the dogs in back yesterday, and I stood looking up at the pines and around at the magnolia saplings and thorn olive bushes and gardenia bushes, the irises and peonies poking up, the crocuses and daffodils blooming, and I actually felt giddy that we get to own this place. We get to feel excited about it again.

We get to feel .... normal about our lives. We live in one place, instead of having one foot in Nashville and one in Fayetteville. We can commit to the place and the people here. Life is no longer about what has to be done there, or what left undone here. We can actually live and plan for here.

And while this was going on -- this huge hurry-up-and-wait on the house sale, our lives were quietly taking root around us. Now they are sending up tendrils in new and unexpected directions. The girls are making college visits and college plans. My new job has taken me to a section of town where I've discovered the sweetest group of people who have a similar take on the importance of diversity that we have. David is getting involved in planning and working on Blackwater, and photographing everything in site OR sight. (He even actually likes some of his own photos!) We have, thanks to the Internet, reconnected with old friends from Nashville days, as well as adding new friends online. Our universe is expanding.

I pull in our cul-de-sac, swing up in front of the magnolia and redbud that blend at the corner of our property, and switch off the engine. Getting out, I check to see if our woodworking neighbor across the way is home, or if the neighbor next door has his dogs out. I stride up the newly-swept walkway under the saucer magnolia whose buds are turning purple, checking the flag waving from its pole in back. The dogs are at the windowpanes, watching me. A lizard darts across the bricks of the front wall. It's 1:00 pm as I turn the key in the lock.

A few hours from now I'll pick up the kids. We'll come back amid discussions of what went on in school and who has the better music on their iPod or MP3, and we'll circle the cul-de-sac again, checking for Dave's car in front of the garage. We might even arrive at the same time as him; it happens. Then we'll all troop into the house together.

We've come home.