This bequest of wings

Quai d'Orléans Paris -- Photo courtesy of Moonik (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Quai d’Orléans Paris — Photo by Moonik (CC BY-SA 3.0)

“He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!”
Emily Dickinson

If you are reading this blog, it means you have at least one precious gift: literacy.  We tend to take it for granted, but throughout history, there have been eras where literacy belonged only to select groups.  Even today, there are still many people all over the world who are unable to read freely due to inadequate education, mental or physical disability, political oppression, lack of accessible reading material, or other obstacles to learning.

Today, whatever your circumstances or difficulties, I encourage you to celebrate your ability to read.  Take a few minutes to read something inspiring and set your spirit free from whatever is troubling it.  If you are able to do so, you can spread the gift of literacy by supporting your public library, volunteering with local tutoring programs, or simply by sharing the joy of reading with someone else in need of encouragement.

Although Dickinson chose a cloistered life, her poetry is a testimony to the freedom reading can bring into the life of even the most isolated among us.  I hope this bequest of wings will enable you to fly today!

One year ago today:

A garden and a library


  1. One positive aspect of the cloistered life, as that experienced by Emily Dickinson, may be; that her poetry, reflects the unique unblemished thoughts of a person uninfluenced or unfettered by a whimsical outside world.

    • Yes, I think the genius of Dickinson’s work is inseparable from the unusual nature of the life she led. I did not appreciate her fully until I was old enough to have experienced a bit of (not unwanted) isolation myself. Her window on nature is particularly vivid and without distractions. I thought of her often during the many happy afternoons I spent in our York backyard and wooded lot, watching baby birds, turtles, rabbits and other “critters” who seemed more predictably present in my world than our human acquaintances.

  2. raynard

    Julia, the late Vince Lombardi has a great bio book that I’m reading along with the 36 other books on my tablet. One day I’m going to have to ” show my face at the local library and always remember to” never call a librarian ” a bookie”.. lol be blessed

    • Raynard, I saw that Lombardi book in the library this past weekend; I’m not even a football fan but it did look interesting to me. You can show your face at the digital library by checking out your Kindle books for free through their website! The bookie I mean librarian can show you how to get started if you aren’t already getting your library books that way. But I still recommend some IRL (in real life) time at the library since nothing beats a good relaxing browse of bookshelves when you can take anything you like home for free (as long as you bring it back).

  3. MaryAnn

    Thank you! This post reminds me that I thought about getting out my books of poetry to peruse & enjoy. So, on to the “wings”!
    I do get such a thrill when I hear a child reading, especially those who were struggling. The children in my group who start out feeling like it is too hard or feel like giving up are the ones whose faces light up when it “clicks”!

    • Mary Ann, I’m so glad you are helping those kids get to the “click” moment – and it does come if we are patient and don’t make them hate or dread reading. As much as I understand how important it is to stress reading, I hope we don’t put so much pressure on kids that it becomes something they hate or fear. That’s one reason why I love to introduce kids to books in infancy, when there is literally no way anyone can be expecting them to do anything but enjoy them.

      • MaryAnn

        I totally agree about reading to infants. That is what hurts my heart so much, that the children I am helping did not have that joy of books at an early age.
        So, I look at the positives: these “babies” will have FUN reading with me!

        • That is for sure! And no wind-up toy could ever do that, so Paul should change his intro somewhat and tell people “she is better than a wind-up toy for kids!” 😀

  4. Sometimes I think I must have ESP, ha! I say this because, just yesterday, I was waiting for my Latte in Starbucks and reviewing their notice board. A notice from P.A.L.S. caught my eye. They are ‘Project Adult Literacy Society’ and were looking for reading coaches and math tutors for adults. I’ve never volunteered there before but it seemed like a good way to spend 2 hours a week and they’re downtown too. I’ll let you know what transpires 😀 I think you’re right, we do take it for granted, it’s second nature. When you travel, you get a feel for what it’s like to be lost and not know what things say or mean. It’s isolating and limiting.
    Here’s their Website:

    • Wow, looks like a great program! I think it’s so cool that you are willing to volunteer. You can try it and see if it’s a good fit for you and your student. No problem if it’s not, but it’s great to give it a shot. From what I’ve heard from other tutors, the primary problem that can sometimes crop up is when the student is unable to make it to the sessions for various reasons (work, transportation, etc.) but hopefully you will find someone whose schedules will fit with yours easily. I used to check out the ESL materials from the public library to use with Matt because they were so great for teaching concepts to a person with a communication deficit, which is common for people with autism. They have some really good materials out there. You are right that traveling where one doesn’t speak the language is a great way to get an idea of how much we take literacy for granted.

  5. Julia, thanks for sharing this interesting look at books/reading…I’ve always loved books and reading. I don’t even remember learning to read, but I remember my mother helping me with words I didn’t know. The gift of literacy…thanks to my Mother. Mother didn’t care about sitting to read but she made use of her ability to read…she was a great cook. And loved cooking and sharing the results. 🙂

    • Your mother sounds like mine, who read mostly non-fiction and could figure out how to cook, knit or sew pretty much anything just from reading about it. The only time I saw her reading “for fun” was at night in bed just before she went to sleep, and even then it was usually some sort of book about healthy living or positive thinking or something inspirational. If you learned to read from your mother rather than a school classroom, you learned the importance of reading before you started school, without anyone having to tell you it was important. That’s how lifelong readers are born. You are lucky to have had a mother who was a great cook, too – although the importance of eating is much easier for most of us to pick up! 😀

  6. Michael

    “He ate and drank the precious words.” What is the quote-“Libraries will get you through the times of no money more than money will get you through times of no libraries.” Something like that. I have found this to be true.
    Next week we break ground for the new library in our little ghetto neighborhood of Skyway.
    I have fond memories of ordering little books for $1.25 from the Weekly Reader in the third grade? I waited in such ardent anticipation for their arrival. I used to love the free reading period. And though at times today I have to read George Will’s editorial page a couple of times to gain a modest comprehension -I still get a kick out of the written word.

    • What is PGFT? I couldn’t figure it out. I remember being envious of friends whose schools did those book clubs; ours never participated but when my sons were in school, theirs did, and I bought books through them to my heart’s content. They really are great bargains and we still have some of them. George Will is one of my favorite writers, and has been for decades, but he has always sent me to the dictionary more than any other author. He uses words with surgical precision, which makes it fun to read him. I met him in person once and he is surprisingly modest, almost shy, though he is an (equally surprisingly) dynamic public speaker.

  7. LB

    It is true, we do for granted our ability to read … because we’ve always been able to read and we taught our children to read. But so many can’t. Even in this day and time. Thank you for calling attention to the fact that illiteracy is still a problem!

    • You’re welcome, LB. It’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that the good things we “all” enjoy are not really available to everyone. I can be so insensitive when I just assume that my world is the same as everyone else’s. Hope you have a great holiday weekend!

  8. Michael

    That is cool you met George Will. I need to read some of his books on baseball as I understand little of the game and have many friends who do. I also read him with a dictionary in one had and he has such an amazing grasp of American History i.e “When Truman sent troops to Bosnia in 46 it was with the intent to rally the people around a Democratic standard.”
    PGFT is my attempt at a Raynardism-LOL- Praise God for all that. Similar to PTL praise the Lord.
    Record heat yesterday in Seattle as it got up to 92. Too hot to handle. Ice cream for dinner. Actually it was cottage cheese fruit salad with blueberries and raspberries from the garden.

    • Michael, I really enjoyed reading Men at Work (one of Will’s earliest books on baseball) and it did help me understand the game a lot better than I did before, which is not saying much despite my lifelong affinity for it. Part of what I love about the book is its focus on four individual players as a template for explaining the skills necessary for various positions. It didn’t hurt that the much-neglected topic of managers was focused on my all-time most admired baseball manager, Tony LaRussa (who also is an animal lover, founded a rescue organization, and promotes animal therapy for people in need of cheer). Will’s book also spent some time on perhaps my favorite aspect of the game, baserunning. Here’s a quote from the book that has stuck with me over the years: “It has been said that baseball connoisseurs consider baserunning the purest baseball achievement because it is the facet of the game in which luck matters least.” I love watching runners steal a base or beat a perfect throw. I couldn’t be a baseball referee because I would always err on the side of the runner. When it comes to all things baseball (and really, I guess, pretty much all things) I echo your Raynardism “PGFT” 😀

      It is so hot here that even waiting until near-dark to walk, it was still almost unbearable. Pass me those garden-fresh berries (without the cottage cheese, please)!


  1. This bequest of wings | puisidancerpen

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