A book has been held, written in, and read by others.
My home holds books that have physically been in one of the most horrific prisons of the Civil War, Andersonville in Georgia. One of these books is a diary, which belonged to my great, great grandfather, Calvin Diggs.
Calvin maintained his sanity as a prisoner of war by journaling in this book and by reading and annotating in a miniature Bible that also sits prominently on my living room bookshelf.
These books, however, don't emit pain and suffering into my home.
Instead, they are a potent reminder to me of several things:
The healing power of books, journaling and going inward spiritually, connecting to the Divine within us.
Because of where they’ve been and what they were caught up in the midst of, historically, they also serve as a thread, woven from the past into the present that carry another powerful message.
It is imperative for us not to be divided within. When we are unkind to ourselves, allow our inner-critic to run the show, only love and accept certain parts of ourselves, we create division within.
When this happens, we project this same division out into the world and the suffering that comes along with it.
In the Civil War, of course, there was great division within this land. This division, however, began within the hearts and souls of individual beings and was projected out from there.
I don't think about that every time I walk past these books, I’m just thankful for this symbol and connection to my ancestors and our history.
Numerous books that belonged to this same ancestor’s daughter, my great grandmother, also decorate our shelves.
She was a musician and her grand piano sits in our living room. I have adored playing it my entire life. It has been moved from Boston to Chicago to a town in Indiana, to Memphis, Houston, Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Franklin (TN), Tulsa, and it now lives with me in Cincinnati.
I'm going to be writing a book about its travels one day. ;)
Here it is after I had it refinished and parts of it restrung, etc. The small black and white photo included at the top the was this same piano when it was painted black (built 1928.)
My children play it on occasion. My husband plays it and we play duets on it!
This piano has brought 5 generations of folks together in unity, light-heartedness and celebration. It has also helped me process emotions, express myself and settle energetically within.
The other day, I was watching my daughter improvise on her great, great grandmother’s piano. She is a musician, but since her main instrument is banjo, this was not a regular occurrence.
I took a seat, wanting to be fully present and immediately found tears welling up as I absorbed the beauty of the moment.
I witnessed her using the piano as a brilliant tool to process her feelings and this a gift I have always wanted to impart to my children. I always desired for them to have an instrument through which they can express themselves and move their emotions through.
For me, the piano was always a place of refuge when the world or life felt like a bit too much or I had some strong energy to move through. Running to and sitting behind my great grandmother's piano and playing it was always a reliable source of comfort. It still is to this day.
Back to how this connects to books….
as I'm watching my daughter create her own music, I reached over and picked up one of my ancestors old song books, written in 1927. As I flipped through the pages I notice that my great grandmother had written numerous notes in it from folk’s weddings she had played in almost 100 year ago. She played in silent movies and was a church organist as well.
There were notes from these various venues, events & ceremonies that she helped make special with her gift of music.
I never knew my great grandmother—never even knew my grandparents, but in holding that song book and in reading her notes, I felt such an intimate connection.
This book created that beautiful connecting thread for me.
I'm so thankful to be sharing our home with some of their physical books of yesteryear.
If you visit my website, you will see a few of the children's books that were also hers, some written in the 1800s, which she read to my grandmother & great uncle when they were young in the early 1900s.
Side note: If you haven't already, check out episode #1 called "Grab a Book and Your Little One to Plant a Seed That Will Last" as it touches on all of this and in the blog, where I post the transcripts, you'll see photos of some of the actual books.
While none of these family members were living when I came into this world, these books help keep their spirits alive. They are alive to me and my children. There's that connection, that energetic connection that you can't explain. It can feel like having these loved ones near.
Of course, you don't need physical things to keep the special memories attached to them.
However, sometimes it can offer you a different kind of support. It can feel as though loved ones are rallying around you.
All of this… through the experience of a book—the mere presence of a book.
A book is not something just to be learned from, something to answer questions about, be tested and asked to write a paper on that will then will be graded.
The biggest impression/sentiment I hope you can take away from our time together today is that a book is an experience.
A book opens up worlds.
A book opens opportunity.
It creates foundations.
Books take you on exciting adventures in lofty hot air balloons, creeping submarines and into the dingy bowels of pirate ships.
Books can take you to the center of the earth, onto the crowded decks of a boat carrying exhausted and heavy, yet hopeful immigrants.
Books can fly you to the moon.
They sink you to the depths of the ocean.
Books take us to worlds we've never seen.
And in doing so, a book is an experience.
Your soothing voice and cuddles round out the experience and make it that much more special, grounding it all into this reality.
Oh, but there’s MORE!
Books can be mile markers in our lives, stopping and keeping track of the days, weeks, months and years that otherwise can pass us by oh, so quickly.
These books have the ability to open both your heart and mind to connect with people you have not met, yet who are just waiting to meet you from a place far, far away.
Books help open that connection, weaving that thread all the way to that other person's world and sometimes heart.
A book allows you to experience all these things.
So a book is not just a book.
Physically infused into its fibers are the fibers of plants that were once alive and breathing.
Think about what that tree witnessed, that now makes up the pages of your book.
Where might it have once stood? Consider the sunlight, rain and nutrients that tree ingested. These elements are now generously housing the words that you are reading with your loved ones.
A book is so much more than what one generally thinks of as a “book.” It is truly an experience.
My desire for each of you is for you and your children to experience books in this way.
May you take those seeds, water them, give them sunshine and take them out into the world.
Connect with others.
Share that love.
Share that hope….continue weaving those threads.
May you embody and spread that “I think I can” spirit and go out and do what you came here to do.
Go out now and be who you know you authentically are.
And books, my friend, can help empower you and your little ones to do just that.