The Joy of Reading


No book had more influence on me than Heidi. I love this story so much that I still have the book. This is the only item that survived my turbulent childhood and unstable adult years. It’s old, and the Korean translation is really bad so I no longer read it. I tried watching it as a movie, but the movie just won’t do the justice.

I romanticized sleeping on a bed made of dry hay.

I pictured myself running around with my shepherd friend amongst the sheep.

I envisioned me on a mountain top drinking freshly squeezed goat milk.

None of those dreams came true identically. I did sleep on a bed made of dog beds once upon a time in my island living, and I had a dog that looked like a little sheep that I loved to death. Though I never had a taste of a freshly squeezed goat milk, I did have the most amazing goat cheese made with local goat milk while I lived on the Big Island. So in many ways, my Heidi fantasies did come true.

However, I never thought that I would be suffering from the exact same illness(homesickness) as Heidi did for a decade.

My homesickness ran so much deeper than Heidi’s. It wasn’t something that could be fixed by going back to living with my grandpa at his peaceful mountain house. I know no such love. I never experienced grandpa’s love. My paternal grandfather died long before I was born, when my dad was only 17. My maternal grandfather died when  I was very young. I heard he was an alcoholic.

Nothing could fix me. Medication made me feel worse. Alcohol drove me even madder. Cycling helped for a while but eventually my road bike became the tool to aid me in shortening my life. I got hit by a car. I fell off my bike on a fast descend and broke my teeth and had a concussion. But I survived all the accidents.

I was a dangerous one even when I was young. I was seven when I first tried drug overdose. I swallowed the entire bottle of aspirin. My reason? I was angry at mom for I-don’t-even-remember-what now.

But I had books. I always had books. Books saved me. One book after another, I was being led to the path of life until Jesus came to me through a bible in my late 20’s. That final book has arrived, but I am still an avid reader.

My sister asked me today if I am not bored. “For you, it’s always work, then the house with us, and then church. Aren’t you bored living like that?” 

I don’t think she realizes what journeys my mind takes on every day. When she asked me that question, I was lifting my dumbbells in front of the mirror checking out my small biceps. I was taking a brief break from my intense reading. I was reading an article about an old man from Ikaria island in Greece. He defied what the doctors said about his fatal cancer and outlived by more than 30 years after moving back to his hometown and adopted a new life style of leisurely island life. At age 97, he enjoys his island routine. He’s healthier than he was when he was in his mid sixties. All he did was moving back home, back to the island.

I think reading stories like that is purely fascinating. I don’t think I can hear any interesting stuff like this even if I go on a first date with the hottest guy in town. I was working in the evening at the cafe the other day and while I was sweeping the floor, I unintentionally eavesdropped on a couple while they were talking. Trust me, I do mean what i mean when I say unintentional. I have no interest in what other people talk about. I am usually occupied with the conversation that goes on in my brain. Their conversation was forced upon me by no other reason than our physical proximity.

The guy was asking the girl sitting awfully close to him, “Do you have a cat?” That’s how I knew that they were on their first date. I would at least expect the guy to know whether I have a cat or not-actually so much more than that information- before I lean my body on him like that, but that’s just me. I walked away fast, after capturing more than I wanted to capture without even trying. I was glad that I have no obligation to silly first dates like that. How nice it is when you have no other desire than to be one with your God.

One of my many attempts in seeking the union with God, and one that works every time, is the act of reading. God dwells in good stories. I believe that stories have their own fates, their own purposes, and their own reason of existence, raison d’être. I believe as God sends us here on earth, God also sends stories that He inspires his faithful writing servants to create through Him, for Him. I know Heidi was one of those stories. I know the story of this old man who is cancer-free now and enjoying the greek island living at age 97 is one of those stories.

So no, I don’t get bored. Plus, when I am bored, it’s very recognizable. It won’t go unnoticed. My sister would know. Because when I get bored, it brings out some very fatal results. Last time I got bored with life, I tried to end my life. So I need to be careful with this tendency of mine. I found no better remedy for that than God and His stories.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Nicholas says:

    “One of the best known Desert Fathers of fourth century Egypt, St. Sarapion the Sindonite, traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of lie – for he was himself a great wanderer – Sarapion called on her and asked: ‘Why are you sitting here?’ To this she replied: ‘I am not sitting. I am on a journey’.” (Kallistos Ware)

    1. lilyboat says:

      I absolutely love this story. I picked out St. Rose as my catholic name, because of the way she led her life. She lived in her room, never getting out, only focusing on her life of prayers- she left only to help her neighbors during the day. I have a thing for a voluntary confinement. 🙂

  2. When I was about 10 or 11, my favourite book was Heidi. I put my bed by my window and I used to make my mom buy big kaiser buns and gouda cheese and pretend I was Heidi sitting underneath her bedroom window, looking out over the alps and eating her favourite cheese sandwiches 🙂 I read that book over and over again. I agree that the movies don’t do it justice. My spiritual director speaks of the providence of books……….the books that resonate with a person so much that they change that person’s life.

    1. lilyboat says:

      Oh they surely change our lives! I think my books shaped my brain. e.g. when I was heading into one of my most major depressive episode, I was reading many books by the depressed authors. But I feel that even those books came into my life for a reason.

      I am more picky with what I read now! Glad that we have another thing in common in our likes!

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