reading in the sunshine

I've had the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy sitting on my nightstand for six months. Both of my sisters told me that once I started I wouldn't be able to put it down.  I believed them and so I saved it, and then I think I just forgot about it.  I got used to seeing it there, unopened by my bed.

Feeling a little desperate for reading material, I grabbed it on my way to my daughter's swim meet yesterday.  In between races, she played with friends, and I read.  After the meet, my husband worked the early evening shift in our try-to-keep-the-two-year-old-in-bed night job, and I kept reading.  I'm an early-to-bed girl, but by 10:30 I was calculating the cost/benefit ratio of staying up to read till the end.

It took an act of will, but I eventually went to bed.  Instead, I let my kids watch two hours of cartoons after breakfast so I could finish.

It's been a while since I last fell head-over-heels into a great story.  It made me think about reading as a kid (the most perfect, magical books will always be the books we first loved) and all the reading I've done since.  A lifetime of words and stories.  A lifetime of living other lives, of seeing the world through other eyes.

Growing up in a family of six, I was the only reader.  These days my mother and sisters troll my shelves like the local library and even my Dad can't get enough of his Kindle, but, back then, I was the butt of many jokes. They couldn't really understand my insatiable appetite for books.

I think their favorite joke (at least, it's the one I remember hearing the most often) involved the fact that I read while at our Grandmother's west Texas farm.  Thinking about that farm, I remember jumping hay bales and making mud pies in the barn, but I've no doubt I plowed through quite a few books during those visits too.  My family loved to say, "Look at her! She'd rather read about a farm than enjoy one!"

I suppose there's some truth to what they said.  I could read about the hardships of Laura Ingalls' long winter again and again, but I'd never want to live them.  Still, I don't subscribe to the assumption implicit in this joke: that books give second-hand experience and thus lead to a second-hand, perhaps even a second-rate, life.

All this has recently come back to me because I've been reading my way through a stack of books on bee-keeping, chicken-raising, and other farm pursuits.  Lately, my small Florida vegetable patch has seemed like nowhere near enough, and I've been dreaming about raising (at least a little) of our own food.  I may be planted in the suburbs for now (no chicken coops allowed), but a girl can dream.

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals may be a far cry from The Hunger Games, but, today, I'm feeling a little sorry for all the non-readers out there.  Day-to-day, I may walk a fairly narrow path, but books like these have always set me in a wide-open place.  Here, there's adventure.  There’s heroism and triumph.  There are even a few bees and laying hens.  Just don't tell my community association.  I'm sure their bylaws wouldn't approve.

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