catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 3 :: 2012.02.03 — 2012.02.16


A gentle nudge

I have been alive long enough to discover that words, story and consequently good books are what I am inspired by more than most (or perhaps any other) tool, concept or project. Many people recognize this inspiration I am writing about. I could bore you with an extensive list of books that have impacted my life in often small and occasionally large ways, but I won’t. However, I would like to share with you three books that have inspired me at particular times, in particular moments to take action in mysteriously beautiful and significant ways.

Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver

I had the pleasure of reading Small Wonders while backpacking in Ireland with my husband this past May and June. Through the process I was struck by how creatively and thoughtfully Barbara portrayed being a mother, growth, writing, learning and living a well-balanced existence in general — so much so that while reading it over the course of a month, I found myself thinking, “This is what I want for my life. I want to be a mother. I am ready to bring a new life into this world, and I am not dreadfully afraid to lose myself by having a baby” — all new and refreshing ideas for me. And whether it was a conscious or subconscious choice (an accident, or divine providence perhaps), it was at some point during this wild Irish adventure that my husband and I conceived our first baby who is due to be born at the end of February.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I recall Mrs. Reed’s English class taking an unexpected turn for the better as one by one the book To Kill a Mockingbird was distributed to each member of the class. Oh, the importance of that moment! I would never have been able to tell you how profound that seemingly ordinary day would end up becoming. The dull drone of the florescent lights flickered above and the white brick walls reflected their numb, cold existence while a great ambition was awoken within my heart and mind. For the next few weeks I would battle with Atticus, Jem, Scout and Boo Radley as they fought to defend human dignity and a sense of wonder in a time and a place where it seemed next to impossible. These moments take place without our ability to imagine what their effect will be. It was while reading this book that I discovered how deeply I longed to write and to read. From time to time, I wonder if this part of who I am would have developed had I not read this specific novel. Of course there is no way to know, but I can tell you with certainty that reading this story was life-changing and thus began my wild search for and consumption of good literature.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

How many people have been carried away into the epic battles, friendship and persistence of good found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? My epic adventure with Frodo and the rest of the gang began as a young girl with my brothers over the course of several years as my dad devoted hour after hour of reading to us before we went to bed or in the morning before school. Did he realize the way these pages would forever be a part of our identities?  Did he know that these images would sink into our impressionable minds and carry us through the crazy world we were born into? His decision to give to us in this way provided an opportunity for us to realize his love for us, explore the limits of our imaginations and discover worlds that are found in no other place but storytelling. This seemingly simple and yet abundantly powerful act is one that I intend to share with my little boy.

I have had several conversations with people who have felt guilty about their love of reading.  They confess to feeling like they are wasting time. Others I have talked to cannot see the point in reading fiction because they do not see how it is beneficial to their individual pursuits if it is not altogether factual. I would like to argue that these ideas are potentially dangerous and certainly not accurate. How could I stop reading when the books I have read up to this point in my life have held such powerful roles in my decision-making? There is just no question when I weigh out the pros and cons — the con being I may have wasted a few hours on a book that ended up not doing anything for me. What will the next book I read guide me toward or away from? To recognize the potential power of storytelling is to recognize how important one’s choice of books and word consumption in general really is. My advice to any who would have it is to always be in the habit of reading and to choose wisely what words you take in as well as the words you distribute. I have come to believe that there is no such thing as a dormant story.

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