We are finally getting days of heat and humidity, the kind that will have clouds piling up by noon and dark skies by two or three. The wind begins to pick up and you hear the thunder. It means working in the yard come to an end and it’s not the best time to head out to run errands. It may last a couple of hours or it could carry on into late evening. When I was young we had family friends who lived in Cape Cod and we often vacationed there. Late afternoon thunderstorms were not uncommon and I remember cleary sitting in an upstairs bedroom and reading by lamplight as a thunderstorm boomed overhead. I read a lot even then and this was actually a very enjoyable experiennce for me.
To recreate this experience on these more recent stormy afternoons I light a candle, make a cup of tea and pull out some childhood reading. I still can read these books with great enjoyment. For a brief interlude they are familiar light reading, the equivalent of comfort food and a diversion into a less troubled world. Around missummer I may return to Rabbit Hill which climaxes on the summer solstice. Written in 1944 by Robert Lawson, the story chronicles the adventures of animals living around a vacant farm onto which a new family moves. There are aspects of it which are dated, and some of the characters are stereotyped, but it’s a quick read with a great message about sharing and generosity and respect for wildlife. This is a good choice for those quick pop-up storms, as it’s quite short.
My all time favorite book with animals as the main characters, another candidate for summer storm reading, is the Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. The characters in this English classic are really fully developed and there is no dumbing down of the story. The infamous Mr. Toad is portrayed as his own worst enemy, seduced by technology to his undoing. There are summer chapters, like the very first, where Mole abandons his housecleaning in disgust to answer the call of a beautiful day and meets and becomes friends with the Water Rat. Most of Toad’s adventuretake place in summer as well, which is a good thing as they involve being tossed ito a canal and driving around in open topped cars. There are winter chapters, too, but unless I am reading the book straight through, I like to save those for around Christmas time or when the storm is snow rather than rain.
Another children’s book I use for summer escape is At the Back of the North Wind by Scottish writer George MacDonald. A young boy is befriended by the North Wind personified by a magical woman who takes him with her on her travels. She does good things but also seemingly bad things and the book is never simplistic as so many children’s stories are these days. It belogs to another age, but that’s what makes it a good book for and afternonn or evening’s escape. I know that MacDonald wrote other children’s book and I would like to explore them but not in a watered down or abridged editions. Fortunately, Project Gutenberg has MacDonald’s work available. Reading of the laptop does not have the same quality as reading from a book but for older worksit is often the best choice.
Last, but certainly not least, I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure stories, like Kidnapped and Treasure Island. My grandfather introduced me to Stevenson and other Scottish writers as well as many other things Scotiish. Kenneth Grahame is also Scottish, there is a definie pattern here. Most of the time my recreational reading is mysteries, science fiction or ghost stories and other occult fiction. While I was writing this I looked at my bookshelf and realized I am still favoring Scottish authors. Ian Rankin, Val MacDermid, Arthur Conan Doyle Ian Banks and William McIlvanney are all there.