on rebellion, illusions, and reading in trees

I learned to read in the nook of a tree.

My brother and I both had reading trees of our own; his was more naturally suited to climbing and reclining, a low-slung cradle of smooth branches. My tree took effort. It was a second child’s tree; you had to work harder and accept a measure of discomfort to claim your prize.

But still, a reading tree it was. I spent hours perched perilously, knees scabbed, hair knotted, book open, thinking.

I read then as I read today, which is to say slowly and with lingering pauses. I have always been inclined to wandering. If Lindy, Tom, and Ben popped through the mulberry bushes to Whangdoodleland, then I would gaze into the nearby lilacs, scanning for an opening. When Richard Bach levitated a feather using the power of his own mind, I stared hard at a yellow pencil on the floor, just in case. This is the kind of reading you don’t do amongst company, unless your company happens to be a tree.

I have few memories of reading in school, which is not to say that I didn’t. But I don’t remember those books, mostly because I was required to do things with them like turn pages and write summaries. (Thus fell Johnny Tremain.)

I read quickly now, usually because I must, but sometimes because I might not get another chance. Go, go, before they find you, read before the light fades and the leaves cool and you no longer see the ground beneath the branches.

But when you learned to read inside the pit of a giant peach, on the porch at Villa Villa Kula, thumbing your nose at Bokonon, “reading fast” tends to fade. Increasingly, defiantly, I am reading slowly again. Outside. In the company of trees.

Maybe that’s what reading has always been for those of us who love it: A quiet rebellion against a world determined to call us inside, too soon, for supper.


  1. Jennifer Kirby says:

    What a beautiful post. Thank you! Some of my fondest memories of being a kid are when I was reading. I know you understand. Thanks for sharing!

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