Thoughts come to mind last night and this morning, on books, reading, writing.
Read recently that in ancient times almost all reading was done aloud. I think it was probably done more slowly too. It was a group activity, communal. Non-isolating. Nice. I imagine that the reading part of things felt group-ey and cozy, and then, afterward, the individual’s thought processes, going on alone and in privacy in the person’s head, the cogitations ABOUT what had been read, felt complementary and a fruitful offshoot from the communal reading experience. Verbal processors would also have felt free to discuss together with others the readings that had taken place, even down to quoting and dissecting exact phrases and words.
Looking at the timeline in the front of my Bible this morning I see that papyrus to make paper and ink for writing were discovered by the Egyptians as long ago as 2500 B.C. The first libraries then appeared! I love a good library. Have one on my Kindle, these days…
Six years old, my whole remembered world France and Sakbayeme, makabo soup with liquid Maggi sprinkled on top for dinner, hot boiled eggs in Mom’s 50s’style, individualized breakfast egg cups (it was 1963), and climbing in the guava trees with my African playmates.
We’d stepped off the airplane in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and been driven home to Grandma’s house, where we would live for the first few weeks of my parents’ first home assignment, from Africa.
Got out of the car, Grandma walks down the porch steps and out over the grass, past the hollyhocks (hock dollies to my blonde baby sister, later) approaches and gives me a hug! Her long, thin, shiny, pure bluish-white hair is pulled up on top of her head in a puffed-out tiny knot, 20’s suffragette-style. She has a crisp, ironed cotton button-down dress. She smells like fresh laundry.
There’s a pretty mama cat on the broken porch step with two half-grown kittens nearby, strolling and watching ; my sister and I rush up to them and start talking to and petting; Dad cautions us to be careful, they might bite, he says.
We all move slowly up to the porch, little by little, Mom and Dad and Grandma talking the whole way and us three little kids darting excitedly around, touching things, but staying close. In through the creaky old screen door, the small country kitchen with even smaller scullery, from almost a hundred years ago even at that time, beckons. Mom is lingering a minute on the porch, exclaiming over the fragrance and looks of the blossom-laden lilac bushes; Dad is wrestling our suitcases in to the house. Grandma is giving me another hug, and exclaiming over what she is calling my “beautiful ‘shiny copper penney’ HAIR.” I am feeling so loved, so content, and so excited about our new home with my GRANDMA.
It was a long school vacation time. Our next-door-neighbor family was going away to the seashore for two weeks of yearly holiday. The mom came up to me and asked me if I would like to earn a little pocket money daily feeding and also daily walking, on the end of his chain, their pet “baby” gorilla.
I happily said “yes” and received my instructions for my new responsibilities with conscientious attention. The particular “baby” gorilla in question was much loved by all the kids and teenagers, lived in a large chicken-wire cage/home in the neighbor family’s back yard, and had a general reputation for being tame. I was a fanatical animal lover, had several pets of my own, though none as exotic as a gorilla, and I thought I already had a great relationship with this tame gorilla.
Well! From the very first morning, the gorilla, who had been quietly growing from babyhood, and now was eight months old, (I wonder how old that would equivocate in people years?) demonstrated a HUGE mind of his own and, instead of walking pleasantly around the grassy yards on the end of his long metal chain, would PLANT himself in the grass and start getting mad at me, working himself up into a rage, then CHARGING me down the length of the chain, wrapping himself around my bony bare shins, and biting on my legs!
Maybe he was missing his family? Probably. Not that used to me, I guess. A few mornings of that and, I’m afraid poor Baby Gorilla didn’t get taken out each day for the rest of the two weeks! He got fed super well though.
The Prayer of the Tortoise
by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold
translated from French to English by Rumer Godden
Un peu de patience,
A little patience,
I am coming.
One must take nature as she is!
It was not I who made her!
I do not mean to criticize
this house on my back —
it has its points—
but You must admit, Lord,
it is heavy to carry!
let us hope that this double enclosure,
my shell and my heart,
will never be quite shut to You.
“For Our Children” by Amy Carmichael
Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying;
We are praying for our children.
Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril;
Father, hear us for our children.
From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand, pluck them;
Father, hear us for our children.
From the worldling’s hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Father, Father, keep our children.
Through life’s troubles waters steer them;
Through life’s bitter battle cheer them;
Father, Father, be Thou near them.
Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children.