"The word is a flame burning in a dark glass." Sheila Watson
My daughter is hooked on reading and currently working her way through the Harry Potter box set. She wakes up early, turns the light on and wakes up her brothers, and starts reading. Persuading her to do anything else involves endless nagging and sometimes bribery. She reads while she eats, while she cleans her teeth; she even tried once to get in the shower with her book. She reads until the absolute last moment before we leave the house, on the bus, before school starts, on the way home, and all evening. I miss her; her brothers miss her: "I want to play with her but she's reading Harry Potter again." But I'm also a little jealous. I wish I could read with that intensity and devotion. I haven't done that for such a long time. I remember setting aside whole days for reading, filling half a suitcase with books and devouring one a day on holiday. I loved disappearing into another world; I loved escaping the one I often found too much to bear. Books provided me with escape and comfort, but they also helped me to understand the complexities of relationships and emotions, and the messed up dramas of our existence. So when people say to me, "I don't read fiction", or even "I don't read books", I'm flummoxed. I literally don't know how to respond. For me, that's like saying "I don't listen to music" or "I don't look at beautiful things". I don't get it. Watching my daughter take her first steps was incredible (and terrifying), hearing her say "I love you" for the first time made my heart skip a beat, her beautiful drawings fill me with delight, but witnessing her learn to read and falling in LOVE with reading is like seeing her whole world blossoming.
So I've realised that, although I don't read like that anymore, writing has taken on that role for me. It's where I go when I can't bear my reality, when I just cannot understand what is happening in my world. When I'm ecstatic or sad, lonely or overwhelmed, I start writing and it gets me through. It helps me unpick it all. Sometimes I want to stay in that fictional world, or to visit more often, and that can be hard, but at other times, I'm happy and ready to come back to reality, refreshed, and with a new insight or outlook. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not have those other places to go.