I think of myself as a voracious reader, but lately, my reading has been scattered, and I have been yearning for a reading retreat. I fantasize about heading to the North Shore for several days to read. I would want a view of the water and a comfortable chair and ottoman because I like to read with my legs stretched out in front of me. A fireplace would be nice. Good simple food, hot chocolate, some wine, and a shawl wrapped around my shoulders.
And, of course, a big pile of books. I would bring more books with me than I know I could read in the allotted time, but a book lover is always concerned about finishing a book and not having another one right there. Read the last page of one book and immediately open to the first book of another. Or there is the anxiety of bringing a book you are sure you will love only to discover you don't like it at all. Be prepared, is my motto, and bring a stack of possibilities. (I know that issue could be solved by reading E books, but I cling to the feel of a book in my hand.)
Louise deSalvo, author of The Art of Slow Writing, Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity, refers to "in and out" reading. Reading a few pages in-between other activities. I think of that as "stolen reading." She recalls the luxury of falling into reading when she was a child, bringing home a stack of books from the library in the summer and sitting on her porch and reading as long as she wanted.
The summer before sixth grade I read so much my mother said I wore out the upholstery on a chair. How delicious were those days of total reading immersion.
So what is preventing me from doing that kind of reading right now? I don't have the water view, but I certainly have more than one comfortable chair and ottoman in quiet spaces. Hot chocolate and wine are available. Plus, I have more than enough books to stack at my side, awaiting their turn.
I have been making different choices about my time. I do read in the morning during my morning meditation and devotion time, and usually I read a bit before turning off my bedside light, but more and more I put my head on the pillow and close my eyes as soon as I crawl into bed. What has changed in recent months is how I spend my evenings. We have been eating our dinner on trays in front of the tv (I can't believe I am admitting this!) and have immersed ourselves in one series after another on Netflix or Acorn. We just finished watching season one of The Great British Bake Off, for example, but we also loved Restless and George Gently and Foyle's War and Partners in Crime and Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Being able to watch one right after the other and as many as we want is seductive. One of us will say, "Just one more," and there we are for another hour.
In conversations with others in our age category I have discovered we are not alone in this new attraction and I don't feel a need to justify it, but like everything else, when I choose to spend my time in this way, I am not choosing something else.
Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic says, "If you can't do what you long to do, go do something else." I may long for a reading retreat, but I also know I don't want to take more time away from my writing. That happens enough as it is. Going away for a chunk of time just isn't in the cards right now. That means it is time to make some different choices.
This week we are eating at the dining room table, and after dinner I gather my current pile of books and move into the room we call the Snuggery, our sun porch, and I read ALL evening and even read more when I crawl into bed. It is divine. I am immersed in a novel called The Tortoise and the Hare by an English writer in the 40's and 50's, Elizabeth Jenkins, previously unknown to me, but I am also reading Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir and a memoir by Sandra Gubar, Memoir of a Debulked Woman, Enduring Ovarian Cancer. I have another book in the stack, The Last Gift of Time, Life Beyond Sixty by Carolyn Heilbrun, but haven't started that. Yet.
I am not saying this is what I will do every evening, but I listened to my yearning and realized what I needed in that moment was to make a different choice. I did that, and I can do that in the future.
What different choice could you make right now that would touch a yearning within you? I would love to know.