Saturday, March 07, 2009

Saturday Soliloquy-- My Hole-in-the-Wall

When I wrote my "Power of Words" post last week, I enjoyed myself so much that I thought I might turn it into a semi-regular feature called Saturday Soliloquy. Whenever inspiration strikes, I'll talk to myself about the magic reading has brought to my life. Hopefully you'll enjoy these pieces, but even if you don't, I'll enjoy writing them. You might think that a rather cavalier attitude, but let's face it: this blog is as much for me as it is for all of you!

Inspiration struck me sooner than I thought. I've been watching the Tombstone rose on the fence begin to bloom, and the indescribable fragrance of the sweet acacia blossoms has been wafting through the open patio door. I know you snowbound folks may not want to hear it, but spring is coming here to the Sonoran Desert. For the past week, the sparrows have been racketing about. Their noise level is so high that Denis can plainly hear it without the benefit of his hearing aids. When he asked me why they were making so much noise, I knew the answer. As I sit here at the computer, I have a clear line of sight out the window and into the backyard. A birdbath is right out there, and I have to admit that I probably sit here and gaze out the window more than I should, but nature is constantly providing me with free entertainment, and I don't feel that I should ignore the show.

Why are the sparrows so noisy? Because it's time to attract mates, build nests and raise more young ones. The sap is flowing in the trees, and it's rising in my feathered friends as well. Evidently the male house sparrow believes that he who sings loudest wins fair maiden. Watching this season arrive has made me think of other places, other times, other springs. And, as usually happens, books entered into the equation.

I grew up in a house at the edge of a small farm town in central Illinois. By the time February rolled around, I was beginning to wonder if spring would ever get here. By the time March arrived, I just knew that spring was going to be cancelled. I was always wrong. Somehow, some way, spring always managed to show up and chase away my dire winter blues. Once again, I would be able to read outdoors again.

I don't know why I've always been such a fan of reading outdoors. I suppose I like combining two of the great loves of my life. Once spring was in full gear in central Illinois, I had favorite spots in which I liked to hide myself and my favorite book for an hour or two. I was a bit like Butch Cassidy heading for the Hole-in-the-Wall. Right now, watching spring come to the desert, I've been reminded of three of my favorite reading hideouts.

If I knew that my mother was going to be calling me in to do some sort of chore soon, I didn't waste my time in heading for one of my hideouts. I went straight into the backyard and stretched out underneath the cherry tree to read and lie on the huge carpet of wild violets that grew there. Somehow, lying there surrounded by birdsong and all that delicate fragrance made reading my book a rather mystical pleasure. I even think it worked to my advantage. Since I was in plain sight, Mom could look out a window and see me. She could see that I wasn't trying to hide or to shirk my responsibilities, and I think it made her remember her own childhood and her own enjoyment of reading. I wouldn't be at all surprised if she let me read a bit longer than she'd intended a time or two.

If I wanted to hideout while I read, there was a big apple tree in the backyard. I'd strap a pillow, my book, and a bottle of water to my back and climb way up to my favorite spot. After positioning the pillow for maximum comfort, I'd wedge my bottle within reach, and spend a few minutes scouting out the surrounding territory before beginning to read. I was quite young when I discovered that most people don't look up when they're looking for someone. What better place to hideout than in the high branches of a big leafy tree? I tended to read more adventurous books in that apple tree. I sailed with Magellan around the world. I was in one of the boats on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I was a mountain man high up in the Rocky Mountains with no one to talk to but a grizzly bear. The last time I went back to my hometown, I was happy to see that the old apple tree was still there, and I hoped that some other child was benefiting from its protection.

Without doubt, my favorite reading hideout was my forsythia cave. Forsythia is one of my favorite springtime plants. There were several forsythia bushes growing wild along the back property line where we lived. One spring when I was nine or ten, I was creeping around the yard pretending to be an Indian scout. The forsythia were in full, riotous bloom, and I was drawn to them like they were True North. I'd seen very few things more beautiful than they. In exploring their perimeter, I noticed a small gap between some branches. I got down on hands and knees and crawled through. After ten feet of crawling, I found myself in a secret golden cave. I sat there, mouth agape, and looked all around me. At that moment, no one was richer than I. I was King of the World, and I had a Cave of Gold to prove it!

I carefully crawled back out, making sure that no one was around to see. I went into the house, grabbed an old blanket, made myself a sandwich and a Thermos of ice water, tucked my current book into the blanket, and headed back to my discovery. Looking around to see if anyone was watching, I crawled back through the tunnel, spread out the blanket, and began a feast of words illuminated by the purest golden light. No one ever knew where I was. I kept that cave a secret until today. The hours I spent reading there are among my most cherished memories.

If you've followed me this far, you haven't minded my talking to myself. It might also mean that you have your own cherished reading hideouts. Do you? Would you share them with me? Please?


  1. Lovely post! And this is exactly the right attitude: "let's face it: this blog is as much for me as it is for all of you!"

    I grew in a family of book lovers. As such, if you were reading it was if you were in suspended animation and you were generally left alone. My parents didn't call you in to do chores and even my brothers didn't interrupt me.

    Whether I was in the apricot or mulberry tree, on the couch, sitting on the swing set, or in my room, I was allowed all the reading time I could stand!

  2. I second Beth and you: blogging should always be for one´s own pleasure!
    This post was certainly also a pleasure for me, Cathy, and one day I may follow it up by writing about my own wonderful childhood with a mother who really understood and loved her little bookworm. But this visit is only a short coffee break from what I should be doing: correcting English essays. But with bait like this, I´ll be back :D

  3. Beth--sounds like heaven. I was an only child and my mother was a single mom raising me on part-time jobs and a widow's pension. We both were bookworms, too. But...sometimes you just have to put the book down! LOL

    Dorte--I hope you finish your "have to's" so you have plenty of time left to spend on "want to's". I'll look forward to reading about your own childhood!

  4. Cathy, I promised myself I would just do a quick skim as I am way behind with my blogs that I want to read, because of our big Blog Literacy Tour. However, I was soon hooked and enjoyed your post so much. And then of course, I had to join in!

    My three favourite places to read were:the mulberry tree when the berries were ripe, so reading and food were handy; the jacaranda tree in bloom -like your forsythia cave, but high up and purple; and under my bed covers with a torch when I was supposed to be asleep. The latter was uncomfortable, and I could have done with a snorkel for breathing, but it was such an illicit pleasure to be doing something illegal and getting away with it.

    I would also read under my bed, with a candle. How I never set fire to the house, I don't know. Maybe the reason I love reading so much is it was so often tied to breaking my mother's laws?


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