“We have a hungry heart,” said the poetess Mary Oliver. Published in this month's O magazine, this gem was shared by Maria Shriver who conducted the interview.
Like so many others, I often find myself in the firm grip of desire. Sometimes, I don't even know what for. I can remember my teenage son, staring at the open fridge coming up blank, moving on to the freezer and then the cupboard containing the cereal. Sometimes he would joke and say, "there isn't any food." I, too, graze for fillers, the greatest of which is popcorn. Why this became the answer I do not know; I only know that it goes in a bowl with melted butter whenever I feel this particular affliction coming on.
From there it can go from bad to worse, but before I turn this into a confessional, let me just say that books are better than popcorn, always have been, and always will be. Sent to my room for a nap, all the way up to the second grade, I picked up the Bobbsey Twins, and pretended to read it. In the midst of filling my hungry heart, I suddenly realized something quite strange. I could read! It was the most electrifying moment of my young life. When I came to a word I could not sound out, or could not understand, I looked at the rest of the sentence and quickly learned that it was possible to ascertain the meaning.
Proudly informing my family of this marvelous feat at dinner, I was met with one great big, who cares? As the youngest child, my vast leaps of development were simply a matter or course and the family, by and large, remained consistently underwhelmed. Well phooey, I tried again at school. The teacher who was impressed picked up a book near at hand and asked for a demonstration. Quite confident that I would meet the challenge, I got right to the point. Not only could I read, she told the class, I could read with expression. She was at that time dividing her little charges into reading groups and I went straight to the head of the class.
Why do words have such an effect on me? Why do they fill me? Why did I first take up the task of writing a diary, soon to be followed by stories and compositions? Why do I have this compulsion?
It beats, popcorn, or obsessive cleaning, or any other more harmful activity. Erma Bombeck said that housework, if done properly, can kill you. Reading satisfies my endless curiosity; it edifies and enlightens, and yes, it also entertains. It is available, plentiful and constant. What if I were stranded on say, a desert isle, with no books, pens or paper” What then?
I would write poems in my head and retell stories to myself. My heart will never be so hungry that I am at a complete loss. There will always be an answer. I read my way through everything. Then I write. I love words. I love the English language. I am addicted to it and proud of my habit. Books fill my life. Words float across my consciousness. I am in love with them.
My heart is full. I am not alone.