As summer nears, my anticipation grows. These are the months I nurse my addiction to books, indulging my list and pairing sun and hammocks with words. There is a method to my self-spoiling: I add potentials to my wish list throughout the year, so that I will not forget the titles that sound so intriguing when I’m talking to someone, listening to a podcast, or browsing in a store. Going through the list is equally exciting as beginning to read my first selection.
Summer triggers memory for us all. Watermelons remind us of seed spitting contests, picnics with red juice trickling down our chin, elaborate carved centerpieces on tables bursting with barbequed meat. Popsicles on last day of school, just before the neighborhood pool opens and summer camps commence.
Summer represents a slowing down, an ellipse to the previous pace of life… a time to read well-crafted words in hammocks.
Summer signals an end: for mothers, an end to the school year, an end to routine, an end to early morning lunch packing. For me, an end to maternity clothes and subsequently the most expensive month of the year – 3 kid birthdays are celebrated in May, plus my own.
The book list is a practice in soul care and self-reward.
G.K. Chesterton said, “There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read.”
Summer awakens souls to cultivate fallow parts and revitalize soil hardened by the year’s brutality.
My soul hardens in the pace and routine of life, the unrelenting days of sameness. It grows more agitated as Spring approaches – restless, distracted, inattentive.
I sit in my red chair, coffee near, books stacked high. My addiction compels me to read, but my restless soul wants only to consume. Give me a book to read! is a far cry from Let me read a book! My soul speaks of the difference.
In summer, I nurture those spaces so that my soul grows strong and deep again. I also reward myself for surviving the year – May birthdays and bag lunches. We all need healthy self-rewards.
The treasure in these little rewards, the bound-up words which breathe life, is in the very back. I sit in the red chair and flip to the last pages, looking for the section I most enjoy: the acknowledgements.
Every book is a story unto itself. It was shaped by voices other than the author’s and brought to life by many more. Whatever we know of its origins are often alluded to in these brief remarks. Friends and family and mentors are praised. Agents and editors and publishing teams thanked. Early readers and manuscript groups or musicians and cafes are given gratitude.
Acknowledgements punctuate the end of a project, and speak to its beginning.
If there is a sacred section of books, perhaps this is it. At least, the most sacred. The closest to a prayer. A wellspring of appreciation. A recognition of the journey and the many who contributed along the way. It signifies a smallness of self, a humility. I find them to be absolutely beautiful. For who would any of us be or what would any of us create were it not for all the stories and actors in our lives?
This summer, I will have a new stack of books with these sacred sections and they will be the first to receive my attention. I will most likely shed a few tears, feel warmth toward the author, and flip back to the beginning with renewed vigor and focus. I will read the book to cultivate my soul.
And I will cling to the metaphor: the most beautifully spoken endings point to a host of well-lived beginnings. As I wrap up another year around the sun, graduate kids out of schools and say goodbye to another season of life, I will frame it within a different lens. Good endings are sacred because of all that came before.
Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at www.bethbruno.org.