To Read Or Read Again

Our bookshelves are sagging. One of these days they are going to fall forward, brackets pulled out of the wall by the weight of all the words.

We’ve taken lots of books to the thrift shop over the years. Some were awful, some were good, but not so good they became best friends. Those are on the shelves.

I know there are people who never re-read a book once it’s finished. But my family isn’t like that. When we find books that we love, we treasure them and read them over and over.

It’s like having a visit with a best friend you haven’t seen in a long time. They may tell you a story that you’ve heard many times over the years. But you want to sit with them, treasuring being in their presence again, even if you know how the story ends.

So which valued friends are weighing down my shelves?

Elizabeth Peters (and in her persona of Barbara Michaels). Mary Norton. Stephen King. Robert A. Heinlein. P.J. Parrish. L. Ron Hubbard. Agatha Christy. James Heriot. John Sandford. Victoria Holt. Elly Griffiths. James S. A. Corey. J.K. Rowlands. Winston Graham. Ann McCaffrey. David Weber. JRR Tolkien. Meg Gardiner. C. J. Box. Barry Lopez.

And on and on and on. I just pulled out a Harry Potter this morning. The book has been read by all three of us so many times that the binding is separating from the pages. Same with some of my Elizabeth Peters books that are almost thirty years old. Same with one book Brite and Fair by Henry Shute, which is almost a hundred years old and still makes me laugh out loud when I carefully turn the fragile pages.

A couple of the Elizabeth Peters books I’ve replaced with newer copies that are sturdier. But I still reach for the well-read ones. Because when I open the old ones, it’s not just the story. It’s the memories of all those who borrowed the book. It’s the finger smudges from all who have read it. It’s the treasures you find inside from dried flowers to breadcrumbs.

All things that show me the story is loved and part of a larger family.

So do you re-read books or are you unable to return to them after finishing?

And what old friends are on your shelves?

Hair and Loss

Warning: language

I’m losing a lot of hair. I mean, a lot. Way more than seasonal. The last couple weeks, when I brush my hair, there’s enough to over-fill my hand. Enough you can’t see the brush. During the day I can run my fingers through my hair and come out with handfuls. I find hair everywhere.

Our cat caught a dragonfly and stored it in the bathroom. It might have survived, there on the mat, if not for the hair wrapped around it. I tried for several minutes to unwind my hair from the dragonfly, feeling oddly teary.

So I did what anyone would do and went to the internet. Two things immediately came up.

Extreme hair loss several months after an emotional shock or trauma.

Health reasons such as something going on with the thyroid.

I decided to call the doctor and get my thyroid tested, because, after all, that first reason didn’t apply to me.

And then, one word. One punch to the gut. One breathless, all-encompassing weight on the heart.

Sam.

Eight months ago a lot of people went through an emotional shock.

The world lost a world-class kayaker.

A community lost a member.

Parents lost a child.

A brother was lost.

A friend was lost.

Last week someone posted a video of Sam on Facebook. He was being interviewed prior to kayaking a river in Kyrgyzstan. He was serious and focused. But right before the camera moved on, he smiled that famous Sam grin. I watched the video in sadness, but that unexpected grin for those few seconds made it all raw again.

So I’m losing hair and now I’m mad at myself. What right does my body, my soul, have, to claim emotional trauma or loss that makes your hair fall out?

I wasn’t his mother.

I wasn’t his sibling.

They’re the ones who wear that soul-deep grief. They’re the ones whose hearts will never fully heal. I actually thought to myself, you don’t have the right to that kind of grief.

How messed up is that?

But I do have the right to grieve. I do have the right to mourn. I do have the right to sit here crying as I type these words.

I have the right to go completely fucking bald if that’s what my heart needs.

I’m going to make a doctor appointment just in case. Probably. Maybe.

But I’m willing to bet those tests will all come out fine.

Because I’m losing hair from loss.

Because eight months later, nothing has changed.

Because Sam is still gone.

Hands

While visiting my sister, we went out to the front yard barefoot because she believes we should all spend at least thirty minutes a day in contact with the earth. I watched her wander the herbs and vegetables, plucking a leaf here, tugging up a vegetable there, until her hands held our salad.

It reminded me how much I have always loved hands. Ironically, that same sister is now housebound, recuperating from an injury. She has a lot of time…on her hands…and sent me the following email. I have edited it because it’s a personal but you should still get the essence of her voice.

‘I look at my hands these days and think they belong to someone else! You always have told me how much you like my hands. Sometimes I wish they were stronger and could twist open jars and grab hold of this or that. I think they have been somewhat neglected at times as I love to dig in the soil and pull weeds without gloves. The feel of the dirt and plants, rocks, bugs, whatever! is delightful to me and gardening with gloves is like being blindfolded and watching the sunset!!! These days my nails are unbroken and even. The cuticles are nearly invisible. No cuts and scrapes and thorns!  I’d better get out there in the garden! I’ll ruin my hands’ uniqueness and personality….’

Hiking Beth

My absolute favorite picture of this sister, and it even shows her hands. Look at how they drape so gracefully, relaxed, capable, and confident

I’ve always liked hands, watching how they manipulate their world. How people touch things, for instance. Like the way a person will pick up something with thumb and middle finger instead of first finger and how that makes the object look different. I love watching the husband use tools, mill out lumber, cook dinner. And watching my sister knead dough. Her hands as if they could feed the world.

DSCN0071

I like seeing how people choose to hold pencils and pens, how they tilt paper. I like watching another sister clean. She touches things almost cautiously, her hands moving toward an object slightly slower than expected, so that the object is given a sense of importance. So much more so than when I simply grab up whatever is nearby.

Zydeco 2

A nephew carrying his flower

This sister has the hands of a healer, even as she ironically now waits to heal. I asked her to pay attention to the way she touches equipment and patients when she returns to work. I’m willing to bet it’s the same way she approaches gardening. I’m willing to bet she’d rather touch without latex gloves.

Feet to earth, hands to souls.

I think my fascination comes from this weird phobia I have. It makes me anxious to have my hands still. If I can’t have something in them then I sit on them. To sleep they need to be weighed down, either under my husband or with part of the blanket wrapped tightly around them. It’s like I’ll float away or disappear if my hands aren’t grounded. As a passenger in a car, I hold the door handle or the emergency brake, or wrap my fingers up in the seatbelt. It took a few years for my husband to learn that wasn’t an opinion on his driving.

I think this is also why I picked my fingernails as a young child, peeling away the layers.

Mom and Lisa

Kept the fingers busy until I learned how to use a pencil. Until I learned how my hands could manipulate words.