Friday, September 21, 2012

Immersed in words

Ever feel as if you were drowning in something, anything, but that whatever was drowning you was a good sort of immersion? 

That’s how it’s been for me recently. On the Friday before Labor Day, after working together at my home all week on the news site we produce, my co-editor and I took a road trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Mo.  Though we didn’t read that day, other than book covers, museum wall plaques and the skimpy menu at a luncheon stop we’ll not include on another trip, or write, it was, nonetheless, a literary adventure. 

Honestly, how can you be surrounded by Little House memorabilia and not feel connected to words, to storytelling? 

The following week, I was off on my own adventure—embarking on a homecoming to the region where I lived for more than four decades, sifting through old family books and papers at my parents’ home, and taking my first biplane ride. I couldn’t wait each day to do my own storytelling, and I whipped up a number of blog posts to capture the joy of the experience.

Back home again, I spent a great deal of time keeping in touch with members of a different family—one I’ve never met, kindred spirits who share an admiration for the author Richard Bach and an appreciation for the magic he makes with words.

Just as Richard and his more-real-than-fictional character Donald Shimoda gathered around a campfire each evening, I’ve enjoyed time spent catching up with Richard’s family of readers who, like I do, miss his blog as he spends time in one of his least favorite places, a hospital,  after an Aug. 31 plane crash.

Instead of manuscripts and blog posts, we’re using our words to comfort each other, talk about Richard’s touch on our lives and the stories we all hold dear. 

But, I can’t be around literary spots, literary sorts, and not feel that tug that’s pulled at me since I was a child—that of a good book, so I’ve read, more than usual. 

A friend led me to the work of Andy Andrews. If you haven’t read “The Noticer” or “The Traveler’s Gift,” I recommend them. They help to remind us of the things that are most important in life, provide a roadmap for our adventure here.

And, because of an online bookseller’s mailing error, I received my copy of “Becoming Clementine” early. It’s the third book in Jennifer Niven’s series about a can-do-anything woman named Velva Jean. If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because Jennifer’s mother, Penelope Niven, wrote a 700-page biography of Carl Sandburg, the most comprehensive look at his life ever. 

Jennifer, though, is not riding on her mother’s coattails. With a nonfiction arctic adventure  story, a biography, a memoir and three novels to date, she’s an author worth paying attention to. She’s got a lot more up her sleeve—and it all promises to be bestselling material.

So, yes, when that book arrived on my step, I took it as a sign that I should stop everything and read it.

I did. It was worth it—more on that in another post.

Last Saturday was Wilder Days in Mansfield, so I was back on the road again for another dose of Laura. I had the privilege that day of meeting William T. Anderson, who has done a great deal of research and written or edited a number of books about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. 

You guessed it! I am now immersed in Wilder. 

These two women could take everyday happenings across three generations—Laura’s parents, hers and husband Almanzo’s, and Rose’s—and turn them into something enchanting, educational and entertaining. 

Pull a dictionary off the shelf, open it to any page and what will you find? Words—standing alone, waiting to be called upon.

But put them in the hands of a gifted writer, be it Laura or Rose, Richard or Andy, Jennifer or Penny, or William Anderson and what do you get?  Wonder, adventure, inspiration.

Oh, words—the magic they make when woven well. 

Tis no wonder I get immersed in them so. 

© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012  

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