The busier I get, the less time I have to read. With hundreds of books in the house and millions more out there, it pains me to say that. And it feels like an ache in my soul.
For the last several months I’ve spent most of my waking moments (and several more when I should have been sleeping) working on or thinking about the festival I was coordinating. Hardly a balanced way to live, but the success of the event and rave reviews almost made the sacrifice worthwhile.
Because I logged a lot of time driving, I turned to my growing collection of audiobooks to feed my need for distraction. I grew to love the beauty of Michael Chabon’s words in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. At times I laughed out loud. I marvelled at his lyrical word paintings. I vowed to search out more of his work. Now waiting on my night table is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the book for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. I’m loathe to start it if I have to read it in dribs and drabs and stolen moments. I think It’s worth waiting for my annual retreat to Canmore in November.
But the book I listened to over and over again in the last few weeks was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I snapped up an audio copy even though Hilary had given me the print version several years ago when I was treading troubled waters. I dutifully read it, marked passages, and promptly forgot it. Couldn’t really understand why everyone was raving about it.
As I faced challenges and setbacks with the event planning, I found myself drawing strength from the story of Santiago, a shepherd boy in search of a treasure. The book is deep, meaningful, and metaphorical. The minute I finished it, I replayed it. Again and again. It gave me hope and courage and the belief that I was on the right path. It reminded me of truths I already knew but had forgotten or abandoned. It shone new light on the idea of omens, the lessons in betrayal, and the need to follow our dreams and our heart’s desire.
The language was simple and the concepts repeated over and over. The English translation of this 1988 work by Brazilian author Coelho was done in the early 1990s. As I listened to the book it dawned on me that perhaps I learn better through auditory means. Yet the tangible print version allows me to underline and read and reread a line as often as I want or need to.
Just as It’s easy to have eyes skip over words and paragraphs, so too is it easy to have traffic or intrusive thoughts prevent the absorption of the message. Maybe what I believed to be a new insight into how I learn is really just a reminder of mindfulness and intention. Another reminder in our frenetic world, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.