I don’t know what started it, but I’d like to think it was The Lion and Blue, by Robert Vavra.
And, really, that’s what an origin story is, isn’t it?
A bit truth, a bit legend, a bit fantasy, a bit self-serving.
The truth part is that I recall my mother reading The Lion and Blue to me. I recall those beautiful, brilliant blue butterfly wings, and the sad, lonely lion. I recall hoping for the happy ending that would bring butterfly and lion back together. And I recall always feeling slightly bittersweet about how it comes together in the end.
The rest, the part about it being the book that inspired me to be a writer, may be legend. I’m not sure, but I don’t think it matters.
It is quite possible that it did feed my love of writing poetry, though.
I would like to imagine that my poetry is borne from somewhere deep inside, somewhere that formed around the stanzas of The Lion and Blue, somewhere where I still hold the feeling I had when I first heard my mother reading it to me as I looked at the illustrations, the feeling of my spirit soaring as the words came together perfectly, one after the other.
I have the same feeling now when I write. It’s the reason I write.
Perhaps it all started with The Lion and Blue.
There were other early formative books, too. Winnie the Pooh and A. A. Milne’s poems, especially. And L’ile aux lapins by Jorg Muller, a book in French about two rabbits who escape from a rabbit factory.
My mother was always reading, often several books at a time, always buying me books, and always buying books for others, too. I’m so glad I had that as an example to follow.
From an early age, I can remember trying to hide somewhere, to become invisible with my book, so that my parents wouldn’t interrupt whatever story it was I was tumbling through breathlessly.
Who wants to iron or clean or weed when you can travel to other worlds?
It was also that I was so insecure, so shy, so self-conscious as a child that reading gave me an escape, took me out of my mind and my world and dropped me somewhere else where I didn’t need to think, where I could follow the thoughts of another. It took the focus off me.
Today I read not to escape but to enjoy.
To be inspired in my own writing.
And more than that, to feel my spirit soaring the way a magnificently crafted sentence makes it soar. There is nothing else quite like it.