Before Google, before ask.com, before we could find all the answers in a device in our purse, there was the dictionary. I was reflecting on my favorite books for today’s blog and realized that I have always had a dictionary nearby-no matter what book I was currently reading.
I love reading at a level that requires looking up a new word. Just yesterday, at a Matisse exhibit, one of the signs explaining the details of the painting referred to the model as an “odalisque.” Out comes my phone: it is “a woman who is in a harem.” Matisse visited Northern Africa and that trip influenced his art in a distinctive way, including the frequent use of the “odalisque” in settings reminiscent of those he had seen while there.
I love to read. As a child I would always find a place to seclude myself from the day to day and escape with a book. One such book was To Kill a Mockingbird. I discovered things about myself as I imagined I was the different characters in the book: Scout, with all her pretending she was tough, had a heart that could understand Boo Radley. I wanted to be her. I understand Boo and his desire to sometimes just fade into the woodwork. And, Atticus, I so wanted to be like him, humble, wise, forgiving. The Ewell family, Bob and Mayella, helped me to understand that sometimes folks can be downright evil. When Mayella enticed African American, Tom Robinson, into her yard I felt a sense of dread, knew nothing good could come of this. Reading this and other great literature has helped me understand some of the characters I would eventually meet in real life-helped me be more open, more cautious, wanted to be closer, knowing I need to step back. All of this because Harper Lee sat down and put together words and told a story.
Oh, and I did have the dictionary nearby when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I had to look up chifforobe-I had never seen that word in print. There was one in every bedroom I had ever seen as a child (closets, apparently are a rather modern idea) . It is what Mayella used to entice Tom into her yard.
” You come in here, boy, and bust up this chifforobe,
and I’ll give you a nickel. “