April 1, 2006

Sunrise Over Rome


I've read so many wonderful books on airplanes. By chance, it seems. In fact, they're often new authors (to me). I've seen the book on the shelf before. Perhaps the cover called to me, or maybe I've been resisting picking it up, subconsciously afraid it won't live up to my expectations, not wanting to lose the possibility that it might. But, feeling high on my vacation spirit, this time I pick it up. "I've got wanderlust," I whisper to the book, fingering that promising cover. "Why don't you come with me?" And we're off.

I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on an overnight flight to Rome. I hadn't realized transatlantic flights could be so...well, magical. It was pitch black on the other side of the oval window. Everyone else on the plane was asleep and a delicious shiver went up my spine as I read the last line of that very first chapter, "One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours' time by Mrs. Dursley's scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the new few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousin Dudley....He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: 'To Harry Potter--the boy who lived!'"

Much of my traveling the past few years has been to Italy. Which only makes the experience of reading the books more romantic. Looking up from a particularly engrossing chapter and seeing the sun rise over Rome. That'll imprint the story in your mind permanently. I remember reading Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest on a hop from Rome to the island of Sardegna. I could only tear my eyes away long enough to order my aranciata. Not even the jet lag could get in the way of that achingly beautiful fairy tale. And again, the opening line sticks in my mind, "Three children lay on the rocks at the water's edge. A dark-haired little girl. Two boys, slightly older. This image is caught forever in my memory, like some fragile creature preserved in amber."

I guess these experiences are important to me because they are unchanging and they remain. Preserved like the fragile creature in amber. When I'm feeling low or blue, I can take them out again, the memory and the book, dust them off a bit and recall. Sunrise over Rome.