Thursday, August 11, 2011

Full Disclosure

This is a disclaimer:
If you've read any of my posts about books,  I feel that in good conscience (wink), I should let you know: I’m not an English scholar, I’m not an author, and my resume doesn't include teaching as a previous occupation.  The only authority from which I speak is one of my own experience...

So why the time and energy given to discussion about books? 

Here’s a snippet of my story:

I’ve been a lover of literature since high school.  For my 15th birthday, my dad bought me The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.  For my 16th, The Complete Poems and Plays of T.S. Eliot.  My high school literature teacher allowed us to dissect and discuss U2 songs as an introduction to poetry.  The spark was ignited.  I was mesmerized by the alchemy that occurred through taking individual, common words, and rearranging them in such a way as to create something much more powerful than the sum of themselves. 

In college, if I had had my “druthers,”  I would have majored in English or Philosophy.  But I came from a pragmatic home, and a degree in Business was a much more practical choice.  No complaints – I ended up with a (wonderful) career in corporate America, but my love of literature laid semi-dormant for another season of life. 

When the decision was made to homeschool our younger children, I became immersed in a new sub-culture.  As with any sub-culture, there was both good and bad, but the good was really good.  During our first year of schooling, I attended a large homeschool conference and book fair with a dear friend.  We stumbled upon Jan Bloom’s booth, which held thousands of beautiful old books for sale.   Hearts beat faster as we feverishly plundered through the shelves in search of hidden treasures waiting to be claimed. Jan had written a book on books, and was an alchemist in her own right.  She would talk about each book as if it were her own child.  As she carefully took each one off of the shelf (“held be center of the spine, not top, which could do damage”), she would chronicle the history of the author and the list of its sibling books.  With a twinkle in her eye, Jan ushered us into each story, introduced us to the characters, and prepared us for the adventure on which we would be taken.  Within a span of minutes, I had experienced the heart of C.S. Lewis’s observation of friendship:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

My love of literature was aroused from years of hibernation.  Yet this time, I was not alone.  My friend and I continued to learn about, revel in, and search for great books.  Book fairs, library sales, and an occasional antique mall produced well-stocked home libraries.  We were fortunate enough to bring speakers like Jan Bloom, Sally Clarkson, and Sarah Clarkson to Charlotte.  These women poured into our lives, and the lives of our friends and children.  The culture and substance our children’s childhoods have been indelibly altered as a result.

To whom much is given, much is required.  I’m acutely aware that I’ve been entrusted with a treasure of great value.  In the months to come, I will occasionally be including among my posts some thoughts, observations, and suggestions of books for both adults and children.  I'd like to thank you in advance for graciously overlooking inevitable mixed metaphors, occasional apostrophe errors, and accidental misplaced modifiers.  I also want to be upfront in letting you know that few of the thoughts contained in those upcoming posts are uniquely mine.  They are a melding of the teachings of others.  My hope is that the ideas, resources and experiences that I share are added to your own.  And from those primary elements, the Great Alchemist can transform the common into the extraordinary.

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