BLOWING A NEW PATHWAY IN MY BRAIN:
The first story that blew a new pathway in my brain didn’t happen to come from a book. I was seven and my mother would occasionally tell one of us a bedtime fantasy agreeably centered on our very own adventures. On that occasion her story had a bit of Grimm’s Fairy Tales darkness (likely her way of suggesting to me some behavior modification), involving me crossing into a fabulous land where all that was available to eat were the sweet treats of one’s heart’s desire. Homey pies and fairy confections, Cool-Aid powder that you licked out of the palm of your hand, cream puffs and hot chocolate and whipped cream. Eventually, however, I wanted real food and there was nothing to be had: no juicy red tomatoes or corn-on-the-cob dripping with butter, no hearty casseroles, no hamburgers, not even any fruit….and no way to get back home to them. Trapped in pastry Paradise! I began to feel a bit panicked. The startling thought had begun to creep in that one’s desires, held too tightly, could take one into an unexpected gilded hell of no return. Oh my!
I read like a fiend in high school. Devoured everything in sight: Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, Tolstoy, the haiku of Basho, the romantic poems of Robinson Jeffers, J.D. Salinger, and finally when everything in our little rural school library was exhausted I even read the few bodice-rippers hidden in the back shelves (my version of reading cereal boxes as a last resort). Savor, illumination, delight, but not knocked sideways by any. More that literature simply became part of my oxygen.
THE BOOKS THAT WOULD ACCOMPANY ME TO A DESERTED ISLAND, WHERE I WOULD SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE CUT OFF FROM PEOPLE AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS NORMALLY NOT FOUND ON DESERTED ISLANDS:
The practical aborigine in me would demand The Ashley Book of Knots, maybe Gregory J. Davenport’s Wilderness Survival. For sure Laurie Shimizu Ide’s Hawaiian Shell Lei Making and Marie McDonald’s Ka Lei: The Leis of Hawaii (how-to) and Na Lei Makamae: The Treasured Lei (pure inspiration), plus Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester.
Then from body to spirit: The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Wearing the Body of Visions by Ngakpa Chogyam, The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by Paul Foster Case. For pure entertainment: Anthony Trollope’s The Warden and Barchester Towers because his “complete appreciation of the usual” (as Henry James called it) and his lapidary eye for humor in human foible I find endlessly repeatably delightful.