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Wield the Sword of Words and Its Riches Will Be Found Within Books

Shakespeare is credited with the origin of the idiom “the world is your oyster”. It first appeared in his play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. Oysters easily open with a knife to reveal the pearls found inside.

In the play, the character Pistol says, “Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.” With that, the world met the future idiom.

I was never a fan of his writings. They were written in the same language style as the King James Version of the Bible. To me, trying to read and understand either was like self-inflicted language torture.

My niece devoured Shakespeare. I often wished she’d been around when I was trudging through his works in school. She could read his works and distill them into easy to understand narrative. She cracked the Shakespeare oyster.

Books have always been my oysters.

I struggled to learn to read. Sight reading was not a learning method for me. It was when my mother took hold and taught me phonics the written word was finally revealed in all its glory.

I was in grade four when I picked up my first novel to read. It was Catherine Marshall’s “Christy”. I read all 550 or so pages. My teacher tried her best to direct me to another book. She insisted that this one was too advanced for me.

Hello red flag in front of bull. I read it. I loved it. Then I read more of her books.

“Christy” introduced me to the world of the Appalachians in the early 1900’s. I learned about poverty and hardship. I learned how those who struggled in that world didn’t let it bury them. They found ways to survive and even thrive within the limits of their world.

In “Julie” I followed Marshall’s character Julie. Her father buys a small town newspaper during the Great Depression. There she develops into an investigative journalist. Her reporting would uncover secrets that would help save the community.

Then I found her book “To Live Again”. Marshall takes the reader on her journey through grief and loss after losing her husband. She had to deal with her grief and learn to handle the unfamiliar. Like family finances, single parenting and job hunting.

The husband had been a very popular Chaplain to the United States Senate, Peter Marshall. I learned to the understand how one door closes and another opens in this book. After being asked to edit a volume of Peter’s sermons Marshall discovered the world of writing as a career.

She went on to write “A Man Called Peter”. Another of her books that I devoured. The book remained on the New York Times best-seller list for 170 weeks. It held my attention. All her writing did.

In “A Man Called Peter” I met a man who was not only a man of faith. He was a man who lived his faith through actions and example. Something I’ve tried to make part of my life path.

Those early books became a pattern throughout my life. I’d find an author or a subject that grabbed my interest and I became obsessed with learning more. I’d round up every book I could lay my hands on to learn all I could. Libraries and bookstores have always been my favourite spots to be.

Although, these days, I spend more time researching on the web than I do in Libraries. Online book stores get more of my time than brick and mortar stores. When I’m out, I’m drawn to browse in bookstores. Treasures not always found browsing online can appear displayed on shelves.

Another author I explored as a teenager was Pierre Berton. A Canadian non-fiction writer, Berton shared my love of history. When he wrote a book the research was extensive. History came to life at his fingertips. He shared the details weaved into story form rather than dull facts.

I added a new ability to my arsenal while reading his tomes on the building of the national railway and the War of 1812. The habit of keeping a dictionary nearby.

I was pretty sure Berton never found a ten dollar word he didn’t enjoy putting to work. I often found the need to look words up while reading his work.

I not only learned the subject of his work, I got to expand my vocabulary.

Berton was born in the gold rush town of Dawson City, Yukon. His mother had moved there from Toronto in 1929 to teach kindergarten. Laura Beatrice Berton wrote a book, “I Married the Klondike” about her experiences in the north.

I loved the book. It led me to read some of the works of Robert Service who had written the preface to her book. Service was often called “the Bard of the North”. Among his creations were “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. I have never been a poetry fan but those ones were memorable for me.

See, when you crack the cover of a book, it’s like cracking an oyster with a knife. Easy to open and you’ll never know the treasure inside until you do.

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