Apr 18, 2010

I Can't Read!

Perhaps the pinnacle of my cheeky teenage years occurred in the high school library. In a moment of exasperation over the amount of disruptive noise we were trying to impress the girls with, the librarian yelled out, "I can't read!" Overcome with the preposterous idea of a librarian who can't read, I instinctively called back "I'll teach you."

As a young parent, the barrier to reading was noisy babies and messy diapers. But now in a quieter, TV-less life, there are long lovely evenings by the fire with a burgeoning bookshelf beckoning. But two new barriers to reading have emerged: habit and ignorance.

We're having to re-learn the habit of reading. As old evening habits of walks, tv/video, internet and work have cycled out (whether by choice or growing children), we've taken up games, long talks, creative projects, and twilight gardening. But reading has, for me, been harder. I still have the memory of a college girlfriend's family being so happy to see her "going out and doing things again, instead of staying home reading like old people" like she'd done every night with her last partner. As attracted as I am to all the books on the shelf, there's a part of me that feels like it's a retreat from real engagement.

But the bigger barrier is ignorance. The books I really want to read aren't romance novels; they're about manure, raising rabbits, root cellars, woodlot management - the back-to-the-land skills I so dearly want to Know. When I tried to read them last year, it was rather like reading the neighbour's Joy of Sex while babysitting at age 14. Titillating in a "what's to come" sense, but no personal context to really understand it. You can only read so many chapters about crop rotation if you've no crops to rotate.

Last night I opened the same "Pruning Simplified" book that left me cross-eyed by page 8 last year. This time, I got it. I had just finished pruning 3 fruit trees that afternoon, and was able to see in the book things I'd done right and wrong. Recognizing in their illustrations the difference between fruit and branch buds, I now look forward to finding it all on the next tree I take on today.

So, cheers to yet another unanticipated marker of progress - that I have experienced enough of this life to be able to understand the books about it. Now if I could just figure out that "Joy of Sex" stuff...

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