Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dog Sleds, Igloos and Books

I have a secret.  I hate to admit it, as a book junkie it's rather shameful, but here it is.  There are books that I have owned for years that I have never read.  Books as in plural - yes, I'm trying to catch up.  But there was a time when my collecting capabilities exceeded my reading speed.  Not that I was ever a slow reader - let's just say my fingertips had glue when it came to books.  I collected - admired - shelved and forgot to read.  Because, like a kid with too many toys, there was always that latest book.  Now, as a writer I'm hanging my head at that admission.

So this week I was going through shelves, pulling out books and dividing up keepers from those that aren't keepers and need to find new homes and new readers.  And I am discovering books that I have always meant to read but never have. 
Not exactly the Artic - A prairie winter.

Nunaga was one of those books.  I'm embarrassed to say I've had it for longer than I've had the current house.  Which, let me tell you is many years.  I never cracked the cover of the book.  So I picked it up and opened its well-worn cover and was pleasantly surprised.  It's the true life account of a young man's career move to the Canadian Artic in the 1950's.  There are great places in this book where you get a look at life as it was - at the Artic when the Inuit still built igloos and dogsleds were still the primary mode of transport, at a point when everything was on the brink of change - and it's fascinating.

But it gets even more so when I mention to my mother that I'm finally reading the book she passed on to me to read with the assurance I could keep it.  She then tells me that the book has an unusual connection.  The book arrived in my mother's hands because a friend of my grandmother's was related to the author.  Now only an author could be excited by the unique route a book may take to get into the hands of a reader.  Even years after publication - it's still fascinating stuff, really.

But back to the path of how this particular book made it's journey through the hands of one of the most unique individuals I have ever met to finally find its way to my bookshelf.  It originally belonged to a market gardener in the Qu'Appelle Valley.  He was a Scottish immigrant, a widower who had befriended my grandmother and visited her often.  I remembered that I loved his laid back easy style but I also remember my grandmother bemoaning the fact that he was really not the man of her dreams.  In fact sometimes I think she preferred not to have him sitting on her couch for fear he might get it dirty.

But what can you expect from a literally "down to earth" long-ago widowed market gardener who has been living alone on a prime piece of land in cottage country without a single modern amenity including water.  Water - well, he pumped the water from the lake.  What he used for washing, you know as a child I never thought about it and I never asked.  I know he had electricity but no television.  And I remember his furniture was that old-fashioned, over-stuffed, stiff cushioned variety with intricately carved but well worn wooden arms - from generations ago. But all that is a sidebar to the stories he would tell.  And he topped it all off with his stories of "coming over" as he called immigration.   I remember he ran that market garden until well into his nineties.

With that one book, I expected a journey into the past, and another culture - never did I expect to touch the edges of my childhood.   Any unexpected moments in your day?



Anonymous said...

I suggest adding a facebook like button for the blog!

Lisa McManus Lange said...

Ryshia, what a neat, neat story about how that book came into your hands....Thank you for sharing that - I was just so intrigued! Lisa McManus Lange

Ryshia Kennie said...

Thanks for the tip - Anonymous.

Lisa - I found it intriguing too and it made me consider the untold journey of other books. Who knows what background stories are lurking on our bookshelves.