Pause: It’s National Book Lover’s Day!

Inspired by my friend (and longtime Slice of Life participant), Erika Victor, I have been following along with Kim Haynes Johnson’s Dictionary for a Better World Word Plan.

The Plan is a series of prompts for the months of August and September which — each day — takes a word from the book to look at, as well as a day of national significance.  Most of these days are fun things to commemorate.  I am bummed that I missed National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, but that’s what I get for only checking in with the Plan now and again.

Today is National Book Lover’s Day, and the word for the day is “Pause” (on pages 70 and 71 of the book).


National Book Lover’s Day

first edition of Walden by Thoreau

I love that National Book Lover’s Day is on August 9th each year, because that is also the day (in 1854) that my favourite book of all time — Walden, by Henry David Thoreau — was published for the first time.  (The first edition is pictured at left).  Walden literally saved my life and continues to enrich it, through the friends and Thoreauvian family I have met as a result.

Never read it? Pro tip: Read the first chapter (“Economy”) last. The first chapter was mostly meant to be delivered as a lecture, and without the human delivery can be a bit of a hard slog. Go straight to “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.”

My favourite edition? Hands-down, it’s Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition, by Jeffrey S. Cramer.  And if you order it from the link above, you will not only support the work of the Walden Woods Project — including their annual professional development week for teachers, Approaching Walden — but you can ask Jeff Cramer to personalize/autograph it for you!  What’s not to love?


Pause

As I sit here at my writing desk with the window open, I cannot help but smile at the sound of the rain.  The rowan and birch trees just beyond the glass seem grateful for the water pouring down.

The last few weeks have been unbearably hot and humid, and we are all pausing to breathe a sigh of relief at the long-awaited break in the weather.  Even Gracie, our rescue German Shepherd from an arid corner of northwestern Texas, was doing a bit of a happy dance as she went out to do her business a few minutes ago.

It’s good to have this reminder to pause and reflect at the workings of the natural world around us.  I’m sure Henry David Thoreau would approve.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Nose in a Book

“Karen can often be found with her nose in a book” was a frequent comment in my childhood report cards.  I smile now, remembering, because that is exactly how I am sitting now — with my nose buried in a book.

I live in a small city on the east coast of Canada, and I am well-known in several circles as a fervent Thoreauvian — one who is more than just a mere fan of Henry David Thoreau, but practically an evangelist.  My Facebook is as decorated with Thoreau as the back of my car is with Thoreauvian bumper stickers.  In short, people know.

So when a friend had come into his possession a copy of a Thoreau ex-libris volume dated 1882, he knew I’d be interested.  “Interested” was putting it mildly.  So he dropped it off at my husband’s computer shop, and my husband brought it in to me just as my online writing group settled in to weave with words.

I rest my nose against the edges of the pages, and there is that heavenly old book smell — of old tables, of ancient church choir rooms, and of vanilla.  (My friend, a museum conservator, told me that the chemicals that break down in old paper are closely related to the chemical composition of vanilla.  I believe her.)

The first thing I did was open it up to see the library markings.  Some people loathe such things, but I am delighted by them.  Like marginalia, these relics show the journey of a book.  How many people had read it along the way to me?  The fact that it is marked “St. John” and not “Saint John” tells me that it was probably withdrawn before 1950 or so.  Where did it go after that?  How did my friend find it?

I now see the Introduction was written by Henry’s friend (yes, we are on a first-name basis) H. G. O. Blake, and I feel the warmth of recognition.

Then I realize the book was published thirty years after the date of the first entry, and twenty years after Henry died.  Suddenly this tome feels all the more precious — an intimate link between me and the man himself.

Last week another friend saw a hard-to-find two-volume set of Henry’s journals in a local used book store, and snatched them up for me, saying I could pick them up and pay him when convenient.

I am blessed and grateful for my friends, who not only know how much Thoreau books mean to me, but go out of their way to put them into my hands.

Henry would approve, I think.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.