The Most Important Book ~ An International Authors Day Post

If I were asked to describe the father I barely knew, the words that followed (take them as you will) would include references to Ansel Adams, Roger Miller, and Bill Murray. I'd smile as I recalled backyard picnics and homemade ice cream, guitar music and cigarette smoke. He loved animals, collected cameras, and was always ready with a good-mannered joke or a helping hand.

Of course, you'd have to take such rose-colored memories with a grain of salt.

I was ten he died of lung cancer. As everyone who has lost someone is bound to understand, processing grief can be a difficult thing for a child. Even now, it's little more than an uncomfortable series of foggy images without context. More than enough to make me recognize the fallibility of memory.

In all of it, the one thing that stands out -- bright and warming like a campfire in a darkened wasteland -- is my mother. So strong and stately, she carried all of us through a very difficult time by doing one of the most important things any parent can do for a child.

She read to us.

Night after night, my sister and I would climb into her bed and huddle up at her side like toddlers, wanting to see every word of every page as she relayed each story, one chapter at a time. I may not remember our first Thanksgiving or Christmas without dad, but I remember the first book she read to us as a form of comfort. I didn't know it at the time, but it would become my biggest influence, the reason I'd later write about talking foxes and otter pirates.

Watership Down by Richard Adams.

I was too young to recognize the undertones of anti-communism and political angst, of course. I only knew that, like all great books, it not only pulled me into a grand adventure, it also had the magical properties of reaching into my young brain and making sense of my emotions.

It recognized where I was:

"My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today."

“Like the pain of a bad wound, the effect of a deep shock takes some while to be felt. When a child is told, for the first time in his life, that a person he has known is dead, although he does not disbelieve it, he may well fail to comprehend it and later ask--perhaps more than once--where the dead person is and when he is coming back.” 

Taught me how to move on:

 "This was their way of honoring the dead. The story over, the demands of their own hard, rough lives began to re-assert themselves in their hearts, in their nerves, their blood and appetites. Would that the dead were not dead! But there is grass that must be eaten, pellets that must be chewed, hraka that must be passed, holes that must be dug, sleep that must be slept.”  

“Rabbits...are like human beings in many ways. One of these is certainly their staunch ability to withstand disaster and to let the stream of their life carry them along, past reaches of terror and loss." 

And it assured me that even the smallest and most seemingly helpless of us have the skills we need to overcome:

"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”

My parents made me into the person I am today. The constant intertwining of art and music, humor and storytelling, produced a person who couldn't avoid being drawn into the creative world. They are the reason I became a writer. Watership Down is the reason I became a writer of anthropomorphic fiction. 

If ever there comes a day when even one person is able to say that The Sons of Masguard somehow made their way a little smoother, or their emotions more accessible and easy to understand, that will be the day that I will begin to feel as though I've paid something back into the wonderful world of fiction, which has always been there for me, as it has for countless others.

So thank you, Richard Adams. You amazing human being. Thank you for writing about rabbits and loss. Thank you for being there for a little girl in need of comfort.

This International Authors Day appreciation post goes out to you.

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  1. Otter pirates, you say? Sounds swashbuckling! I wrote a book about pirates vs. ninjas, so I'm always curious to read more pirate and ninja stories. Happy International Authors Day!

  2. Oooh, pirates vs. ninjas, the age-old debate! It probably comes as no surprise that I fall on the "pirate" side of the argument -- unless the ninjas happen to be turtles, in which case my tomboy fangirling overrules my better judgment. Thank you kindly for the comment, Laura! Happy International Authors Day to you as well!

  3. What a touching post! Thank you for sharing :).

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. It is important to be reminded that the processing of grief can be the catalyst for being creative.

    1. That it can, even if it's one of the more distressing ways of going about it. I'd imagine opium is a much kinder muse. Thank you for the comment, Teresa!

  5. Beautiful memorial post. Loved the descriptions of your memories of your dad, even if you're not sure they're true. They reminded me some of my dad, only he smoked cigars when I was young. :)

    I never read Watership Down. I know my brother loved it when we were younger.

    Good to meet you in this blog hop! Writer’s Mark

    1. Thank you so much, Nancy -- it's a pleasure meeting you as well! I'm grateful to hear the post spurred memories of your own, wonderful family.

      Happy International Authors Day!

  6. Incredible post, thank you for sharing your story with us :)

    1. And thank YOU for stopping by to read it, Minerva. Warmest regards!


Leave ye scrawlins 'ere, but mind that ye treat one another wi' decency, yeah?