UnknownSometimes you read/hear/experience something–and it’s cause and effect–you just have to write about it. It happened when I walked a labyrinth at the Redemptorist Center in Tucson. Went right back to my room and wrote about it. And it happened on Thursday when I read this excerpt from Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life.

“Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next ten years. If you do them the favor of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom, then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.”

The whole passage is both lyrical and visual, but the part that sent shivers down my arms was “then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.” Titles rippled right along after Conroy’s words– Gone with the Wind, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Yes, I reread those books to renew their place in my heart. They influence how I look at love, passion, and survival. They show me how characters are revealed in a gesture or phrase– “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” “I am Heathcliff”–then they settle down in contented residence in my heart.

The first unexpected reward was sharing this quote in my writing group at Atria Bell Court Gardens. The confidence and instant responses to the quote stuck with me and I wanted to share them before the memory faded as another one of those neat experiences that drifts to the bottom of the writing pile in the face of my caving to the constraint of TO DO things.

Back to Atria. We were discussing the need to sometimes step away from our writing and do something else. Paint. Walk. Do a puzzle. Read. And the connection that good readers make good writers.

I read the excerpt and asked, “What books reside in your heart? Immediate answers. Hemingway. Elmore Leonard. Edgar Allan Poe. Faulkner. Moby Dick. Gone with the Wind. The final lines of “Annabel Lee” quoted with assurance and love. Two other quotes from beloved books. In addition to being totally impressed with the fact that the quotes were memorized from three, four, or five decades earlier, was the smiles, the softening of features that accompanied the delivery of the lines. These books are beloved.

The second reward was when Kate shared an exquisite satirical poem written as an instant reaction to a newspaper article. “I just had to write something about this,” and she did. Right then. It was sharp, clever, and right on target for the subject of the article, (which is material for another blog). Her Nike-like “Just do it” remark inspired me to write–now–about Pat Conroy’s excerpt and how it affected me.

What books reside in your heart?