Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Power of A Book

We all have one, if we can remember back that far.

And I bet we can. Because I find that childhood memories, the ones we have, are so often the sharpest, the most poignant.

Everything could seem so simple in childhood. And yet, it wasn’t.

But we didn’t see the complications, not the same way we do now. Our minds weren’t geared to that. In childhood, there is (usually) the simplicity of innocence, our minds not tainted by the weight of worry that plagues us in later years as we assume more and more responsibility for our lives.

What is the “one” we all have? A favourite book, something we read that changed the way we thought or taught us something about the world that has stayed with us no matter how much time has passed, or how far we’ve gone from the home of our youth.

Something that made dreams seem possible, because we didn't think about impossibilities. We didn't think about limitations.

For me, one of those books is The Call of the Wild.

Not exactly a literary masterpiece, no doubt a book that makes some snicker. Never mind about that. That book had power, because it changed the way I thought.

I connected with it.

I always considered myself a dog lover. Bingo, a black lab, had come home a few months after I did, and I grew up with him. Many of the books I read as a child – beyond classics like The Narnia Chronicles, The Great Brain Series, the “This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald” Hall Bruno & Boots series, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web – were about horses and dogs.

How I ended up with a copy of The Call of the Wild, I don’t remember. All that matters is I did. About 8 years old, getting yelled at because I was hiding inside with my nose in a book, reading about dogs being mushed across the north while fortune-seekers sought gold.

Dogs that were abused, that died in the traces, that gave there all for the greed of man.

Nootka (in the junky parts of the basement)

I’ve been thinking about this, hearing the conclusion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race today. Some people think it’s cruel, but I have two huskies. There is nothing that will put you off your feet and on your face faster than leashing up the boys and stepping out the door. It’s in their heart to pull, to dig in, to try to outdo each other. They, quite simply, love to run. And they love to run against other dogs. It’s so easy for me to close my eyes and imagine the swish of the sled over the snow, to see the drive of the dogs yipping, anxious to get back on the trail.

Chinook and Nootka, when Nootka was just a pup, in the storage room.

All I know is, my boys would love it. Absolutely, positively love to pull with a team.

The Call of the Wild did a number of things for me. For one, a deep love and respect for huskies was born. Like I said, I own a pair.

Nootka and Chinook

I retained the desire to travel to the north and see the Yukon and Alaska, which I’ve done.

And a dream was born, to be a writer.

That’s the power of books. It doesn’t have to be a “literary masterpiece”. It doesn’t have to be an award-winner or a best-seller.

But it can still have the power to influence your life.

Those are the really great books.

And I bet we all have one – a book we read at some point in time that may seem silly to others, but has meant so much to us.

One we cherish and still keep a copy of on our bookshelves.

The Call of the Wild is one of mine. What’s yours?


Bernita said...

Too many books to pick one.

Bad books told me "you can do better than this crap."

Good books make me yearn to pass on that same elusive magic - even if only in a fractured way.

E. Ann Bardawill said...

Dune, by Frank Herbert

Christa M. Miller said...

Anything by Madeleine L'Engle. I reread her books now and I see so many of the ideas I hold now, just never realized how much of an influence they had on me. Chronicles of Narnia probably came in a close second, though I haven't read those in years.

And ITA about the huskies. My dog LOVED the snow. He was so graceful bounding through it. I would take him out in a snowstorm just to watch him run. *snif* I miss him. Stop posting about dogs, willya Sandra? :)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sorry Christa.

I'll try to stop...

Erik Ivan James said...

I'm sledding right along with ya, Samdra. Another of my all time favorites is the "All Creatures Great and Small" series by the Vet James Harriot(sp?). Deep in my heart I always wanted to be a Vet but didn't have the grades in math & science to get accepted.

Probably tomorrow, I will post my little story about the stray we took in a few weeks ago. Hopefully you will stop by.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sounds great Erik - I continue to drop by to see if you've had a moment to post. I won't forget you!

Boy Kim said...

Geez woman! I can't remember the book I was reading before the one I'm on at the moment.

Trace said...

My first Stephen King novel was carrie, when I was 11. I'd read other books before that but that one really stuck with me. I was so hooked on that book, I couldn't put it down. Then came Salem's Lot and The Shining, Christine and The Deadzone. Of course all the others. I love him. LOVE. HIM. Mostly the older stuff.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

I loved Call of the Wild as a kid, too. I also loved A Wrinkle in
Time mainly because the main character was an awkward, insecure girl that was very real to me.

I don't know, I have many books that pull at my heart.

JamesO said...

I read John Masefield's The Box of Delights when I was way too young to understand what it was all about, but I always remembered it as this wonderful, magical fantasy world just on the edge of our own reality. I think that's what has influenced me most of all - the idea that there really are fairies at the bottom of the garden, and vampires in the city, werewolves in the forests, ghosts and ghouls lurking under the bed. It's only because we're grown-up and sensible that we can't see them anymore.

Or at least, we're meant to be sensible.

I think.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Don't forget leprechauns.

I have one.

Daniel Hatadi said...

I'd have to say Orson Scott Card's ENDER'S GAME. It shows that even a child can change the fate of the world.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, there was a book called Twenty and Ten, if memory serves - totally forget the author - but it was about 20 kids at a school run by nuns who decided to hide out 10 Jewish kids during the war.

That book opened my eyes to all kinds of stuff - history, social issues, situational ethics. I wish I had a copy of that book.

Guess I'd better say "Hi Boy Kim" before he throws a hissy fit like yesterday!

Don't forget - you promised me you'd read Rankin next. Mortal Causes or Black and Blue.

James Goodman said...

The Gor series by John Norman. My dad loved these books and every time he finished one, he would give it to me and after I read it we'd talk about it. My dad was on the road alot when I was growing up so I really looked forward to those discussions. I used to memorize everything i could about the story to have that much more ammo to talk about. I was way too young to read that level of book, but it sparked the fires for reading at an early age (I couldn't have been more than six or seven).

i would follow my mom around the house asking her what this word or that word meant or how do you say this word. After a while she gave me a dictionary. After about a half dozen books or so...I didn't need it anymore .

When I call him this weekend I will have to ask him if he remembers Tarl Cabot and the Priest-Kings of Gor.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

The dogs are beautiful. I have an Akita/Husky.

Boy Kim said...

Hi, Sandrabbit.

I did promise, didn't I? I'm over half-way through Flehsmarket Close, which I said I would be reading 'cos it's the only one I have.

Christa M. Miller said...

Oh hon, I was kidding. I love seeing your pets - they are beautiful animals!

George Forgan-Smith said...

LOL, but isn't life always like that. BTW I have been trying to find a good alaskan malamute breed do you have any ideas? Nancy

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh very cute!

Alaskan Malamutes in Australia...nope. Not offend. But I'll ask my friends from down under that lurk here and see what they say!

That picture, really, is beautiful.

Alaskan Malamutes said...

LOL, but isn't life always like that. BTW I have been trying to find a good alaskan malamute breeders do you have any ideas? Nancy

Darksky Kennels said...

True, but sometimes life can be like that... BTW have you seen my great new puppy from Darksky Alaskan Malamutes?