I met this week with a book club in Blacksburg who had chosen What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader for their monthly reading. It was a bit of an unusual setting since I did not “present” but simply sat in the circle, more for the purpose of looking with them as an observer at the issues raised by the book than to explain or defend the way I framed the topics.
It was gratifying to know the message had reached receptive minds and that my intentions for the collection of essays have been in part realized, on this small scale and over the short reach from Floyd to Blacksburg.
To begin, seated in the comfortable sun room of one of the members, each participant told a little something about themselves–which was very interesting for the varied histories, nationalities (England, Netherlands, Eritrea) and perspectives each brought to the discussion. But it was also revealing of their perceptions of the book as they briefly described what they gained from the reading.
The most consistent perception of the book as a whole seemed to be that it spoke to our relationship to nature, and I think I’d agree that is its central message. Members told of how important free-range outdoor play had been in their own lives, then in the lives of their children. Several spoke of the pressures and constraints of careers that carried them to places that were not theirs or of having found the “sense of place” spoken of often in the book.
Several heard in the book the plea for a return to what matters–to those things we hold within our grasp but could easily lose–in our communities, in our economies and in our responsibilities as earth-citizens. One said she saw part of the book as “missionary work” but that it did not feel heavy-handed as each short piece began and ended with the personal story of my own struggle with the issues of life-in-balance in real time and place in Floyd County.
I could easily say much more. Maybe someday, I will. For now, just a note here to say the connection with readers, and more, the conversations that were rooted in this small volume of collected hopes has given me courage to stay the course. Thanks, ladies.