Getting a life – isn’t that the exhilarating challenge of living – truly living? To get a life – an actual life that has deep meaning, divine happiness and both honors and reflects the very core of who we are and the gifts we bring to this wide, wide world. I don’t know about you, but for me, the ongoing process of both being and becoming is daunting, stimulating, exciting, confusing, breathtaking, maddening and oh, so very wondrous.
A line from one of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver says “tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We each have one and what a question to ask ourselves. As I ponder that broad and deep inquiry, I find myself drawn to the reading of biographies. Books with stories that tell the journeys of others – the good, the bad, the ugly and the fascinating. If lives take place behind wooden fences, then for me reading a biography is a ladder I can climb that affords me a bird’s eye view on all aspects ordinary and extraordinary. It is a lovely, safe and inviting way to help me learn how to better live my own wild and precious life.
Even as a child I was always fascinated with the lives of others – family members, neighbors, famous folks and yes, even total strangers. Then, as now, I find it insightful to glimpse another’s life as I continue to work to fully get one of my own. I think this is precisely why I am not in any way particular about the biographical subject. From Mary Todd Lincoln to Michael J. Fox. From Willy Nelson to Nelson Mandela. From Georgia O’Keeffe to Barack Obama. From Barbara Bush to Su Dongpo. They’re fellow travelers with so much to share with me, with all of us.
As I read, I feel as though I’m there with them at every turn in their lives as I savor the words, the moments and the meaning that give depth and breadth and color to their (and my) existence. I agree with Fawn Brode who said, “show me a character whose life arouses my curiosity and my flesh begins crawling with suspense.” How true! Each book contains the story of a unique life that begs for its pages to be turned. So, perched on that tall ladder with a view, I hunker down with anticipation and my reading glasses in hand. I am in biography heaven!
So if your flesh is crawling with suspense as well, I invite you to come to Neill Public Library and grab some books full of lives from the shelves. We have a plethora of biographies for both kids and adults. Take some home to enjoy and I’ll do the same. Then, let’s see if we concur with the words of Mr. Mark Twain (whose life itself is a BIOGRAPHY indeed –capital letters noted) who said, “there was never an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside of the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy, a tragedy.” We have them here for you – biography upon biography. LIVES … GET ONE! (and read them as well).
by Kathleen Ahern
published 3/31/12 in Moscow-Pullman Daily News