Getting ready for my bookstore prep, thought I’d share this as my fiftieth eve approaches.
It goes back to my seventh grade English teacher at South Jr. High in Boise. She had the class write up letters to ourselves, seal them in an envelope with our names and year on it, and give to her for a safekeeping. All she asked was that we’d come back for them after high school graduation
I’m not sure how many others came back, but I made it a point. I remember watching her sort through the boxes, labeled by year, from all the classes she’d taught, handling each box with a graceful dignity.
The lid from my year was lifted, she flipped through the envelopes like a card catalog until she had mine. She asked if I’d stay to read it, not wanting to know the contents, but just curious as to my response. Rereading a letter to myself with only a difference of five years was strange, the things I found important, the questions I asked. Looking back there are questions should’ve I asked her, but those are the questions of an older, not younger, me.
The letter’s been lost in the ensuing years of moves and deployments, as has the memory of the exact contents, but I still recall the reading proper, the feelings it brought up.
Thinking of that letter helps enforce my practice of keeping a journal and being able to randomly pluck one from the pile, cracking to a random page. Trying to maintain better breadcrumbs, especially after finding MS can lead to some memory issues.
Along those lines, I’ve a habit that I’ve been doing every ten years since my thirtieth birthday, but this particular reread involves books by others.
I do annual rereads often, usually for a holiday, like reading Martin Luther King on his birthday, Rabbie Burns on Burns Day, Bobby Frost and other poets just because. The obvious stuff. But there’s other reads that hit me harder than others, and deserve a bit more work.
The reads that changed my perspective on life the most were “Life without Principle” by Thoreau and Meditations by Aurelius.
I reread both often, but I’ve made it a point every decadal birthday to go out, find and buy a new copy. Then, pencil in hand, I reread and mark up the points that interest me. After all that’s done, I’ll take the older copy, or copies, and compare to see how my train of thought has changed I since the last reads.
If you have a favorite book that you’ve writ up the same, it’s a unique time capsule. Do the same passages still capture you? Why don’t older highlights make the same impact? What’s happened betwixt to cause the change? All sorts of questions can come to mind. Sometimes there might even be answers. Some you might even like.
And that again is how I’ll be spending my birthday on Columbus day, my fiftieth, this tumultuous year. With everything that has been going on this year, falling back on a routine of reflection seems to be a sound and comforting plan.