on Read a Book Day

I love swimming, but I have crappy breath control.

When I was training regularly, it embarrassed me: I breathe every third arm-motion, which for a swimmer is like panting hard when strolling around your block. With focus and intention, I could get up towards five strokes, but real swimmers breathe once a length. Pay attention at the next Summer Olympics; you’ll see.

For my sitting-on-the-bottom-of-the-diving-well feeling, for my true and complete submersion, I use books. Narratives, usually, but sometimes accessible non-fiction.

I love this feeling. Though after I left girlhood, I seldom indulge in it.

It’s so pronounced an effect that one of my favorite stories from my ‘library degree’ is about refusing to read Harry Potter. I had ‘two (girls) under two’ at the time, and that quality of complete abstraction doesn’t mesh well with, “Mama! Mama! Mama, LOOK.”

it doesn’t mesh well with a standard for-hire work-week, either. Or graduate studies. Or having other people in my house…maybe it’s the roles I inhabit, but I seem to be always-interruptible.

When I’m under, I don’t want to come up. Even when the book ends.

***

In most ways, then, picking up Traveling with Pomegranates as I sat down at 11:30am for my lunch was a poor decision. I have schoolwork to do. I have handouts to make for the study I’m facilitating, handouts needed tomorrow. I am not ‘caught up’ with all the actions left on hold while I was traveling. I already have 10 pounds of actions to put in 5 pounds of time.

But I’m hungry. Hungry in a way that cookies don’t work for, hungry in a way where digital snippets leave that same sugar-queasy gut.

And look: Traveling with Pomegranates is the joint memoir of a woman turning 50 and her newly-graduated daughter. That’s like me!

***

My self is watery. Swimming is my favorite way to move. Rain on my skin delivers benedictions. Slipping under the surface with a book — or a stack of books — is how I heal myself when I’m roughed up. Soaking in the flow of words and story, I smooth out, plump up, become flexible again.

Traveling with Pomegranates didn’t make my list of things that need to be done. But now I see that it’s the most important thing. Today, anyway.

 

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