Monday, July 28, 2014

Marking the Kindred: Experiences While Traveling

Lucy Maud Montgomery once claimed that she was a "book drunkard" ... a very apt term for those of us who can't seem to stay away from books. Even while travelling, I found myself drawn irresistibly to them. I helped lead our eighty-four campers into Colorado Springs to visit Garden of the Gods, the Air force Academy and Focus on the Family and of course made my way to the bookstore if there was one. At Focus on the Family we had a chance to visit Odyssey and Whit's End, the art gallery, or the bookstore; I utterly ignored the WodFamChocSods and came out of Focus quite a lot poorer in cash though richer in books with Tramp for God (Corrie Ten Boom's after-story), A Man Called Thursday and The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton, as well as a copy of The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis that I was given for my birthday (July 20). At first I was concerned about space in my suitcase, but having toted along two pairs of shoes for a friend which I had deposited in CO Springs, there was enough room.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about travelling is getting to mark and observe other readers. There is little more satisfying that hearing the stewardess announce that all cellular and electronic devices must be turned off during take-off and landing and settling back into your not-so-comfy chair with your paperback and a smile. I also like spying on what these fellow book-drunkards are reading. We had a rather long layover in Reagan International on the way home and it was only as we were called to our gate that I noticed a cheerful-looking older woman with a copy of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand on her lap; how I wished I'd seen the pair before! We could certainly have had a very interesting conversation. After getting situated on the plane prior to landing at Reagan, I noticed that the man sitting beside me not only had a prosthetic, bionic-looking leg, but his other leg had chunks out of it too, and he was reading a book called The Four-Hour Work-Week. The cover was embellished with golden palm-trees, leaving me to wonder A.) what sort of life he'd led so far B.) what he was planning to do with his life next. He texted someone named Kristen before takeoff and after landing, so I can only guess she's his S.H.I.E.L.D. contact and he spent quite some time at a place like Tahiti. (Phil Coulson's son?)

I just love speculation. I haven't forgotten last year's experiences with dropping a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh onto my seatmate's feet and having him fold himself like a Jacob's Ladder to collect it for me, and it sets me to wondering what sort of person my reading choices mark me out to be? It's such a fascinating thing to think on and wonder over. For instance, I was reading The Weight of Glory at the same time this man was reading about working four hours a week. He stole a look at my book, I peeped at his. I mean really, people, it's like optic eavesdropping: it happens. And yet for all his peeping and my peeping, we never actually spoke to each other. Had he never heard of C.S. Lewis? One would think that if he had, he might have said something friendly such as, "Such a great book," or: "I love C.S. Lewis." And if he hadn't heard of Lewis, what sort of shell had he grown up in? I, on the other hand, might have extended my remark on his really cool leather bag to include his strange choice of reading material and inquired further into Tahiti. But no, I turned shy and didn't wish to bother him anymore (he didn't respond with much animation to my compliments of his tote of choice) and kept to myself.

I recall reading an article recently wherein the author spoke on being a bit daring and extending our interactions to the point of commenting on an article of clothing, a piece of statement jewelry, or the book they are reading. It is amazing what sort of random and yet not random connections it is possible to have if one is willing to extend the right hand of fellowship.Also at Focus, I purchased a t-shirt with the phrase "It is well with my soul" emblazoned on the front in a pretty font. I bought it specifically as a pretty and fashionable conversation-piece, hoping to elicit a remark or two to see who might recognize the song and provide with me a counter-sign. The one who ended up making my day was a TSA agent. She remarked on loving the shirt and the sentiment, but what was even better was her remark that the story behind the song was precious. I'd found a kindred-spirit without even trying.

So be willing to start a conversation or be the conversation; find your fellow book-drunkards and hymn-recognizers and be available. It's such a rich feeling to know there are people like you in every corner of the world. 


Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Colorado Springs. I've got a tangible reason to envy your travels this time; that's right around the area I researched for my Mrs. Meade stories, and I would so love to see those mountains in person.

In all my visits to the library, I can only recall one occasion where a librarian commented on something from my stack of books—she said she loved Mrs. Mike, if I recall correctly—and I muffed it. I couldn't think of anything to say except perhaps a vague "Really?" or "Hmmm?" and a smile. After that I made a resolution that I'd think out a response for possible remarks about every book I was checking out or in...but it's never happened again.

But you're right; whenever you see someone with a book you've just got to (unobtrusively) crane your neck and try to see what it is, and guess whether they're enjoying it and if so, what kind of person that means they are.

Rachel Heffington said...

"The mountains are magnificent, Georg, really magnificent." But truly ... they are. To spend a week on Cheyenne Mountain was bliss itself, though I did work my tush off.

Andrea Monsma said...

Sometimes I wish fellow book drunkards were more outgoing. As a group we are typically pretty shy. It would be nice if we could work up the courage to chat with fellow traveling readers more often.

You never know... If you had talked to the man next to you perhaps you would have discovered that you were actually sitting next to Phil Coulson's son... ;)

Rachel Heffington said...

Man. Now I'm curious. ;)

Anonymous said...

<3 <3 <3

Jack said...

I did much the same on my flight home. I sadly had to take my Nook with me as I had so many books I wished to take for a whole month of reading and not the space, therefore, no one could remark on the cover of my books. But getting on and off the plane, peering around during the flight, and waiting for my next plane gave me plenty of chances to spy on other peoples' reading materials and come away with some interesting deductions. Sadly, I did not run into anyone from Tahiti.