Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Wonder....

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is the music. There's something about music – any kind of music – that can put me in a certain mood. And Christmas music never fails to make me feel cheery, and wistful, and Christmasy. And often, it brings back memories.

When I was about 12 I read Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved. I can't even tell you how impacting that book was for me. I read it so many times the cover is coming off and the pages are worn and dog-eared. I'm not sure if I could pin-point why I loved the book so much.... the fact that it was about two sisters, maybe, like me and my own sister, or the struggle of feeling plain, or just of growing up. Whatever it was, I loved that book.

There is a scene in it where one of the singers sings a song in a Christmas show. This is how the main character describes it:

"Mr. Rice's hands went down, and from the center of the back row Caroline's voice came suddenly like a single beam of light across the darkness.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
Why Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I
I wonder and I wander out under the sky.

It was a lonely, lonely sound, but so clear, so beautiful that I tightened my arms against my sides to keep from shaking, perhaps shattering...

When we left the gymnasium, the stars were so bright, they pulled me up into the sky like powerful magnets. I walked, my head back, my own nearly flat chest pressed up against the bosom of heaven, dizzied by the winking brilliance of the night. 'I wonder as I wander...'"

Since reading that book, the Christmas hymn I Wonder as I Wander has never been the same. There is a beautiful melancholy to it I didn't feel before, and never do I hear it without visualizing a lonely, sad girl wandering under a black sky bright with stars, looking up.

Books are like that. They worm their way into your lives in ways you sometimes don't even notice.

I wonder....about you. Can you remember reading something specific in a book that's changed the way you see something in real life?


  1. My copy of Jacob I Have Loved is worn and well-loved too!

  2. Well, vampires and the Northwest are forever one in the same for me after reading Twilight.

    Is that what you wanted? But really, I'll have to think about that question. I know that there are snippets of books that stand out in my memory almost as if they were my own.

  3. "your happiness fills you up but the happiness of someone you love, spills over."
    From Garden Spells.
    I stop and think before eating an apple. Read the book and you'll know why. it was a FUN read.
    Also, I have NEVER read Jacob I Have Loved and I'm obviously missing something awesome. It's now at the top of my must-read list.

  4. There was a book called "The Keeping Days" by Norma Johnston that I loved as a kid. Made me want to be a writer. Can't think of a specific scene, but I loved the whole book.

  5. That is a good hymn for sure.

    I would say that the book 1984 had a huge impact on me, probably more than any other book (save the Bible).

  6. The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder was that for me as a child. I identified strongly with the main character and longed for a velvet room of my very own. As an adult, I named my first blog after that book.

    As an adult The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck was the one that impacted me the most. The first sentence "Life is difficult." helped me realize that I wasn't the only one living with hardship of some kind. The entire book was freeing and empowering.