where the writers are
Finding Reading After the Fire
bibliomaniac
Amazon.com Amazon.com
Powell's Books Powell's Books

Coming out a a divorce reminds me of the images and footage I've seen of folks picking through their properties after a fire.  There's where the house used to be, the garage, the yard, and look!  There's a fork.  A clay pot.  A photo miraculously saved.  There's the front grid to the car.  Remnants of a life  remain, but nothing truly usable.

The good news for the divorced is that often they are happier than the folks with the burned out homes.  They pick up what remains and go to their new condos somewhere.  But, sometimes, they are on their knees, clutching the fork, weeping.  That's all that's left, they all think--fire victim and divorced person alike.  This is all I have.

Of course, that's usually not true as there are ways to put a life back together again, practical solutions for environmental or relationship disasters.  But at that moment, the fork is the symbol of all that is lost.  All that will never be again.

For four years, I was in the fire, burning away what was not needed.  Thank god some forks remained after the divorce was over and the smoke cleared.  Whoo, I thought, made it through that one.  But it has taken even longer to see how much had to burn and how much I had to find again.  It's like I had to submit a claim to the insurance company of life and say, "This is what I lost.  Can I have it back now?  I am sure I paid the deductible and then some."

One of the things I let go during the burn was reading.  This doesn't really seem possible as I'm an English and writing teacher.  So yes, I read.  I re-read the books that I was teaching--and even the new ones I ordered up, thinking they looked good. I read students' work and I read a few self-help books.  I read the The New Yorker, but never the short fiction.  I had no time for make believe.

But that kind of reading I used to partake in, the kind where I had  "book," the book that I was currently reading, the tome that I carried with me in case there was a free moment?  The book that carried me through a few hours on a weekend?  Not there.  My eyes wouldn't rest on those words, my body wouldn't relax into the reading mode.  I was on alert, defcon 5, moving and moving through the universe in a tense, vigilant state.  Who had time to read?  There was life to deal with on so many levels.

In the last year, reading for joy came back, just like that, slipping into my life somehow, a book in my hands, my body on the couch, the hours going by.  A book, that old friend, that guarantor of enjoyment, finally, back to me.  Like a thing I found in the fire, I held it to me, wondered why I had to let it go.  Maybe I had no imagination left, all of it focused on where I was going.

But for whatever reason, this year, the books have piled up, the stories in my head now, all of the tales like furniture I buy new and put in the new house, filling my life up once more.

Jessica