Friday, May 25, 2012

Books open doors and minds with hope and renewal

"An Open Book" 16x20 mixed media

I’ve always been an avid reader. From the moment I discovered the Public Library and got my first library card, I’ve been in love with books; only now I have a Kindle, and I download my favorites.

Still, there’s nothing like the smell and touch of a good book. They open up the world to a whole new dimension of thought and feeling. Books expand our knowledge and build empathy for other human beings and other cultures. Books make us weep and feel the pain of someone else’s life and circumstances. Books build bridges.

I was in Sixth grade when I read “Les Misérables” for the first time. Some critics view it as a “sappy” novel, but what do they know. The book and the Broadway play have charmed audiences for generations. The words and the music touch people’s hearts. The story breaks through our crusty exterior and gives us an outlet for our own pent up frustrations.

"Through her Eyes" drawing

I adored “Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck. People in my church had more or less banned it from their reading lists deeming it too vulgar and too filled with curse words to be of any value. I heard their disdain long after I’d already read it and loved it.

I went back to the book and read it a second and a third time. I loved it even more after each reading. Sure enough, the swearing and the vulgar language were there. I was reading about poor farmers and transients in the 1930s at the height of the biggest depression in history. They were not just hungry, they were starving and destitute. They were uneducated, poor, and desperate.

"Emma's Birthday" Drawing

What I gleaned from this book changed my life forever. I discovered that it was the women who held everything together. When their men had lost their jobs, their livelihood and their self-esteem, the wives, mothers, and sweethearts lifted them up and encouraged them.

The women scrounged for food and sustenance. They nurtured their children and cast out fear. They gave their loved ones hope and a belief that things would get better. The last chapter clinches Steinbeck’s theme.

"Mother and Child III" Oil Brush Drawing 12x16 framed

A starving woman has lost her baby. She is filled with grief and engorged with milk, the wellspring of life. She weeps. She stumbles to find her way in a dark world. The first person she sees is a man sprawled on the ground in the last grips of starvation. She lies beside him and offers up her breast, the last vestige of nourishment within miles. He takes of this life giving fountain and the book ends reminding us of the cycle of life and women as the life givers and nurturers of society.

The book is classic! To have missed reading this book because of words and actions I or others may not have approved would have been tragic. My life was lifted and enlarged by the reading. I gained a new appreciation for my own significance as a mother of six children and for women everywhere and the contributions they make to the home, the family, and to the world.

"Broken" 11x14 mixed media, framed SOLD

Books are the doorway through which blind men pass and then they see. Books open up our eyes and our minds to the promise of our own potential. God bless the writers who enlarge our spirits and our minds with the fruits of inspiration.