Thursday, March 31, 2011

a gift

I wanted to start this post by saying:
Thank you so much for all your comments recently—for your support, and for your kindness! 

I feel moved and blessed, in that warm, indescribable way,
where all I can say, again, is, Thank you, and 
know that you know what I mean :)

It's been quiet here for a few days 
my boy has been sick…

Not anything terrible, just a fever and a cold,
but sick enough that he needed (deserved!) to be pampered
with a quilt and a pillow on the couch
and lots of fetching and carrying by mum
a book from upstairs
and can I have some tissues
and oh, I feel bad, I need a cuddle
and a cloth on the forehead
and much time on the computer
and movies in the middle of the day.

It's been four days of staying close to home,
missing BAND even (which never happens),
and lots of quiet time.

I took the time to slow things down too.
I suppose I could have cleaned the house,
or organised some things,
planned stuff that needed planning,
fixed stuff that needed fixing,

but because the computer was taken up most of the time,
and none of us felt so hot,
and it was that sort of energy in the house
—of slowness, do-nothing-much-ness—

I took the time

to read.

A whopping 650 page book about the time of the Tudors in the 16th Century, no less!


YEAH. No yummy kids' literature for me, or funny Terry Pratchett novel
but some serious, hard-slogging historical fiction. A book so dense and complicated that at one point I read two pages, realised I couldn't work out who was talking, and had to go back and read the two pages again.

But I didn't give up!
(well, I kind of couldn't, as it's our BookClub book and we meet tomorrow).
So, as my kids lolled about on couches, and read, and drew on Paintbrush, and played Poptropica, DragonFable and Timebuilders on the computer,
I squared my shoulders. Picked up the book (which could have been used as a corner stone for a skyscraper. The thing was huge).
And said, Bring It On.

Funny thing was, I ended up hooked.

I ended up completely entranced by the language, and by the idea of people living as they did back then, totally bound by the whims of a King and the people in power. I got so sucked into that world that when I finished the last page this morning
it was like waking up.

To find the world, my 2011 world, was up and about, getting on with things
while I was traveling slowly through England in 1536, through the city and the woods and along the river Thames,
eating rare apples and wine,
and peering over the shoulders of great men as they rewrote the religion and laws of the people.

And I thought,
That's what books should do.

Take us deep inside a world that's hard to wake from.

Where after you've finished reading, you're surprised to find people aren't wandering about in doublets and hose
wearing ermine cuffs and long riding cloaks.

Where you spend the whole day thankful that no-one's dying of the sweating illness or being burned as a heretic.

Where you actually weep over your main character, the one you've totally become attached to,
not because anything happens to him in the book, but
because you look up his history and you find he doesn't make it out alive.
He doesn't get a happy ending,

And you literally, consciously wish you could travel back in time and save him.

That's where books should take you.

Deep and hard inside another space
and time

so you care and wonder and weep

and you carry that world inside you afterwards

and you are never the same again.

And what's so wonderful is,
my boy just went through the same journey

with Watership Down,

one of my favourite books of all time.


My boy finished it on the couch the other day, snuffling and snuggled up in his quilt.
Days later, he can't stop talking about it. He's there with the rabbits, every day, talking about Hazel (his favourite character), and how relieved he was that Bigwig survived being tangled in the fence, and how glad he was that Woundwort the "bad-guy" didn't get killed off.

And I remembered
how when I was nine I finished Watership Down,
looked up,
and blinked.

Kind of stunned
to find the world still spinning,
and I wasn't, in fact, a rabbit.

I've never forgotten reading that book—it was like there was life before Watership Down, and life after. And now I see my boy moved the same way. Moved and changed forever.

Which makes me think,
and feel deeply:

what a gift words are


  1. Missed hearing your words Helena. Nice to see you post.

    Hope your boy is feeling better and better.
    Your book has gotten rave reviews but I am not much of a period piece kinda reader. Sad but true.

    Hmm maybe Kei would like Watership Down. Lovely story. If I could get Kei to talk about a book like that...although she does it with plays, her Webkinz adventures and so many things. I need to make sure she just blooms where she is right? :

    Huggles friend

  2. I know that feeling. The book is over, but you still want to know what everyone is doing and how it all REALLY turned out.

    I remember bawling my eyes out at Little Women when Jo (is that the one?) died. Oy, the agony.

    I loved Watership Down.

  3. I love Wolf Hall!! One of my favourite books of the last few years!!

    Hope you are all well now :)

  4. Missed you too Helena! Books are amazing in their ability to pull you in. I do tend to avoid the "hard slog" books, but I venture out of my comfort zone every now and then. I loved Watership Down too, and the Secret Garden!

  5. ahhh.. so you think I should give that Wolf Hall book another go???

    xx simone


I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.