Books Are a Form of Alchemy
Books have been my steadfast companions forever. They were my first friends, and they’ll be there with me at the end.
Reading was always a way to escape the unpleasantness of my life. Thanks to the stories I read, I was able to travel to wondrous new places, both real and imaginary. I could move forward and back through time, meet historical figures long dead, and other characters who have never existed.
Books are a form of alchemy.
-a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
Think about it. Books are nothing but a collection of pieces of paper filled with simple lines, and yet they have the ability to transport the reader far away from their own reality.
There is truly something magical that happens when a story is so richly woven that its threads reach out, gather you up, and tug you inside.
I liken this process to those 3-D pictures that require you to un-focus your eyes, just enough so that an image, previously hidden, suddenly appears in front of your eyes. An image so clear, so real, that you want to reach out and touch it.
This is what happens to me when I read. Those magical lines on the page disappear so completely I am swallowed whole by the story.
Not always, sometimes a story doesn’t quite have that certain je ne sais quoi that captures me. But when it does…
Not everyone has the ability to lose themselves in a story like this.
A study from July 21, 2009 in the journal Psychological Science, links previous research on how the brain processes images and written words to the way we process actual physical actions. When we read a simple verb, such as kick, or run, a part of the brain lights up similar to when we actually perform those activities. A similar thing happens when we read longer passages, but this is not the same in all individuals.
The research suggests that the reason some people are so easily lost inside a story is because their brains simulate the events of the book in a similar manner to how they process events in the real world.
These are the people who are able to vividly visualize the story they are reading.
The ones who think in images.
But not everyone processes the written word in this manner. This might explain why some people enjoy reading more than others.
I am definitely someone who thinks in images, who sees the story unfold as it happens.
I don’t really have the words to describe the process, all I know is that it’s nothing conscious.
I’m simply immersed in the reality of the narrative so fully it becomes as real to me as the world I exist in. The words on the page disappear into the story that is unfolding until I no longer have any awareness of the physical act of reading.
I live the story along with the characters. The scents, the sounds, the sights, they are as vivid and clear as those that physically surround me. Sinking deeply into the narrative, the world around me disappears until all that remains is me and the story.
I see cerulean skies, and slate grey water, lush fields of emerald clover, and dusty prairie hills.
I feel the cool caress of a misty day against my skin, the hot, dry, breath of a desert wind, and the bite of a frosty day.
I hear the timbre and cadence of each character’s voice, so clear in my head I can identify each character simply by the way they speak.
I smell the smell the sweet perfume of spring flowers, and the tang of peat smoke.
I’ve been known to yell out warnings, exclamations of dismay, and cheers of triumph. And let’s not forget the tears. So. Many. Tears. These characters are so real to me I feel their pain as my own.
My dear husband, a non-fiction reader who has sadly never been swallowed by a story because he doesn’t think in images, is constantly telling me, “Settle down. It’s only a book!”
It may only be a book to him, but to me, it’s a portal to another world.
Sometimes, when I’ve been stuck inside a story and I’m suddenly yanked out, whether by a voice calling to me, or a tap on the shoulder, I emerge completely disorientated. It takes a moment to gather myself and realize where I am, and how much time has passed.
If you haven’t already had this happen, I wish for you all, at least once in your lives, to have a story enfold you in its depths until you are completely and utterly lost inside.