Since June, in addition to my full-time job at the library, I’ve been working what amounted to a second full-time job preparing for the launch of “The Oblate’s Confession.” But this past week, thanks to Christmas, I was finally able to take a few days off. Which meant that, for the first time in almost half a year, I found myself with a little free time. Immediately, as quickly as my legs would carry me, I went into the woods.
Have you ever read Richard Louv’s “The Last Child in the Woods”? If you haven’t, I would heartily recommend you do. Louv’s book examines the effect certain modern anxieties (that Lyme disease, for instance, lurks around every corner, that our country is overrun with criminals) have, however unintentionally, had upon our children. It is Louv’s contention that overprotective parenting has reached a point that a preponderance of our children are now denied the unhindered, unstructured access to the natural world all preceding generations of human children enjoyed. Louv believes such access is essential to healthy development. He cites compelling evidence linking today’s epidemics of obesity and Attention-Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder among our young to that age-group’s unnatural separation from the natural world.
I am not a scientist. I have no idea whether or not Louv is right. All I know for sure is that I need the woods as a drowning man needs air, that if I am to remain healthy, if I am to remain in touch with myself and the world, I need to sit for extended periods of time in the woods with no purpose other than to be there, to listen to the wind move through the tree-tops, to watch a woodpecker slip into its roost-hole for the night, to smell the musky scents of leaf-mould and deer, the delicate scents of spice bush and partridge berry.
And so I thank God for this Christmas, the space it has given me to sit in the forest with nothing in mind and find myself inexplicably replenished by the experience. I wish you such happiness. I wish our children the same.
Kirkus has just given me a starred review! Quoting from that publication’s website, the Kirkus star is only “awarded to books of exceptional merit.” Needless to say, I’m in seventh heaven. This is turning out to be one glorious Christmas!
Christmas looms with all its attendant pressures—cards to be mailed, gifts to be purchased, bank balances to be worried over, family gatherings to be enjoyed … and endured—still, at this time of year, despite all the schmaltz and materialism, my step inevitably grows lighter, my heart appears a little more obviously upon my sleeve. Somewhere, somehow, the spirit has once again caught me unawares and worked its special magic.
Of course some would say I should have capitalized that word “spirit,” while others, scoffing, would tell me we’re just culturally hard-wired to feel this way at this time of year. Who knows who’s right? I’m just thankful for the gift.
I wish you all a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
On Monday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m., in the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library, “The Oblate’s Confession” celebrated its official launch to a standing-room-only crowd of 175+. I gave a brief reading and then folks lined up to purchase and have me sign copies of the novel.
Truth be told, after that the rest of the week is a bit of a blur, with signing events for me in Rehoboth, Del., Washington, D.C., and, yesterday, here in Easton at The News Center (where my old college roommate, whom I haven’t seen in years, surprised me by showing up completely unannounced).
At the launch, my wife sold 60-some-odd books, and I probably signed over a hundred (many people brought copies with them they had purchased earlier from Amazon or elsewhere). Our two local bookstores (The News Center here in Easton and Mystery Loves Company in Oxford) have already sold out of their first order of books and have had to re-order. And on Friday, at the grocery, a lady came up to me to report that, earlier in the day, her doctor, having noticed the copy of The Oblate’s Confession protruding from her purse, told her she was the third (!) patient he’d seen that day who was reading my novel. The people of Talbot County have been very kind to this old duffer. I thank them all.