3 minute read
Next month, I will turn 65: a point in life when one realizes that the rearview is longer than what lies ahead. The decision to enter Arizona State University’s DBH program after 30 years in journalism raised a few eyebrows among former colleagues. My own perspective is one of evolution, stemming from a love of learning and deep affection for the written word.
I come from a bookish family. My parents’ house was filled with books, stacked in cases from floor to ceiling. The first book I learned to read was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I still remember the feeling of discovery sounding out vowels and consonants: random markings on the pages became words! Just like that, I had entered the elite society of readers. I could travel the world, go back in time, explore other planets or the ocean’s floor, simply by opening the covers of a book.
The house I grew up in had been built in the 1920s. It was a stucco affair, with dozens of irregular corners and oddly shaped windows. One of my favorite spots was a nook in my parents’ bedroom. A step that led up to it was the perfect height to sit on, and a window at the end let in light. Walls on opposing sides were lined with bookshelves.
On several of the lower rows sat my beloved Encyclopedia Britannica. On any given day, I would pull out a volume simply to see what topics it contained. I never ceased to be amazed by how many subjects began with the letter, Q: exotic places such as Qatar and Qidong, birds including the brilliantly colored quetzal and the familiar woodland quail, quartz and its related gemstones, foods ranging from quiche to quesadilla, and from the world of physics, the quark. Imagine: an entire universe beginning with a letter that most consider to be the alphabet’s oddball.
By adolescence, I was fully entrenched in Russian fiction, from Tolstoy to Dostoyevsky. From there I shifted to France, for who could resist Proust? After reading Swann’s Way, the madeleine pastry acquired mythic status: my first encounter with the concept of involuntary memory.
As I write this, I sit amongst my own floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, containing volumes dating back to those childhood days in Ohio, my college years, decades of journalism and now healthcare. As with my parents’ books, this collection is an evolving autobiography of its owner. Each new volume seems to ask as many questions as it answers. There is always something great and unread in the queue.
I may never travel to Qatar or Qidong, see a quetzal, or completely understand the complexities of a quark. But I am grateful for their acquaintance, and for literary travels far and beyond.