One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

for the love of books and teachers

Recently I re-read Watership Down, a wonderful, magical story by Richard Adams. My high school history teacher was retiring after my junior year, and I suppose was cleaning out his things, and toward the end of the school year he placed a huge stack of books on my desk. He knew I loved to read, and Watership Down was one in the pile. I must have looked at it in a confused manner, because he proceeded to tell me that it was a great read and that I would enjoy it; I merely thought it was a children's book about bunny rabbits (despite the thickness of it). It took me a while before I ever really got around to reading it...I suppose I didn't really take it seriously. Once I began, I could hardly tear my eyes away from the pages.

Book lovers--if you haven't read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon yet, I'm telling you to stop reading this post right now and go out and get it. It is one I literally felt I could not put down and it became a part of my physical being until I came to the end. Some other favorites of mine that I will re-read time and time again are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and Jane Austen novels. Some of my favorite memories growing up include my grandfather teaching me to read (one of his favorites to read with my sister and me was Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are) and my mother reading James Herriot and Laura Ingalls Wilder to my sisters and me at the dinner table. One of my all-time favorite literary heroines is Anne of Green Gables.

Back to Watership Down. I already had this old, tattered (yet beloved) copy of the book that was gifted to me by my history teacher. I was visiting my friend Genevieve when she lived in Los Angeles, and while passing the time in a shop while she was at work one day, I noticed another edition of Watership Down. The  cover featured beautiful artwork of a pastoral landscape and a rabbit, and also had a "new introduction by the author." I was excited to read the introduction, and I'm one of those suckers who will buy something for its beautiful packaging or label, and I also am one of those who thinks you can never own too many books. Naturally, I purchased a copy. (In case you are wondering, the publisher of the edition I own is Scribner; the cover design is by John Fulbrook III; it is the first Scribner trade paperback edition with Richard George Adams' introduction copyright dated 2005).

Rereading books is like catching up with old friends. I always find something new (or at least come across things I've forgotten!) when I travel through the pages. I'm reminded of why I love the book and how it's touched my life. Thank you, Mr. Johnson, if you ever happen to read this, for giving me that first copy of Watership Down. You've had a major impact on my life in more ways than one, as have most of my favorite teachers. One never forgets his or her favorite teachers, and I have so, so many to thank for inspiration, including (but not limited to!)--and in no particular order--Ted Hunter, Al Johnson, Sarah Wright, Sheri Little, George Eckart, Miles Engell, Jane Lubischer, Nick Haddad, Gregg Wiener, Scott Ritchie, Dayle Cutts, and Beverly Alt. My only regret is probably never fully expressing the extent of my gratitude and appreciation to most of these individuals. I imagine that many people don't realize the impact their teachers have had until later in life, and I wonder if any of those teachers ever fully realize the full extent of their wonderful work. Regardless, (good!) teachers are to be treasured and cherished.

I'll close with one of my favorite parts of Watership Down. (I've tried to make sure it's not a spoiler for those who have not read the book yet! This means I've omitted some lines.)

"Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger's ears were shining with a faint silver light. 'Yes, my lord,' he said. 'Yes, I know you.'

'You've been feeling tired,' said the stranger, 'but I can do something about that...We shall be glad to have you and you'll enjoy it. If you're ready, we might go along now.'

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. ...Hazel...stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits...

'You needn't worry about them,' said his companion. 'They'll be all right--and thousands like them. If you'll come along, I'll show you what I mean.'

He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."

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  1. Thank you! Always looking for good books' suggestions & I haven't read this one!

  2. Good to read, Nat. Watership Down is one of many books that I consumed as a child that I don't remember much of and didn't fully "get." I loved reading so much from an early age that I read even when I didn't understand what was going. This is a reminder to pick up some of those books again. Come visit me in the middle east! I know it's not LA, but.... :)

    1. Thanks, Gen! Ah, if only I were rich and could travel abroad all year long! I'm set to go to England next year and definitely hope to see Cali. Just need to nail down the dates!