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Why I read

February 6, 2013

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For my Literature for a Living Planet class I wrote the following, as a response to Terry Tempest William’s “Why I Write.” 

So…why do you read? Why do you write?

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WHY I READ

I read because of what happened one night, long ago, while I waited for a train. Rain blurred the windshield of my mother’s Toyota Corona, and I crouched on the passenger seat watching the world pop into focus when the windshield wipers swished by, only to be lost again in the deluge. In moments of clarity I studied the illuminated words on a nearby building, and landed on one with four bright red letters.

BANK.

The word coalesced in my mind and I blurted it out. I could feel my mother’s smile in the darkness, and I smiled too as she hugged me.

I was 4 years old.

I read because my mother smiled. Read because the bright neon letters came together to make a new meaning. They were more than a B, an A, an N, and a K. They were bank, with mysterious vaults filled with gold. They were the place where people I didn’t know gave me lollipops.

 
I read because as soon as the letters snapped together to make meaning, they couldn’t do anything else. Words and new meaning jumped out from everywhere. I read signs. Cereal boxes. Classified ads. My grandfather’s poetry.
 
I read because at the pivot point of every epiphany there was a book. The transcendence of my own ego on a night of Jimi Hendrix, Zozobra, fields of yellow flowers, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

I read because of sentences that stun: “And each successive shot was another loud, fateful rap on the door of my undoing.”

And paragraphs that sing: “Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

I read because books smell like home but feel like adventure. Because the dust that flies from them, when I lift and ruffle the pages, dances in the sunlight.

I read because I can fly. I read because I can die, and live to see the other side. I read because words were once mysteries, and I unlocked them one stormy night. I read because stories beckon me and offer up their mysteries as I crack them open to the light. I read because books show me new ways to see and new ways to be.

 
I read because I write…because I breathe….because I live.   


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