Rocking Chair Reading

In one daydream, I am sitting on a covered porch that faces south toward a vast cornfield. There is a gentle breeze that blows and if I look up at the corn, I become distracted by the waves that seem to ripple through it. Beside me, on a small table, is a sweating glass filled with the perfect lemonade. In my lap is a thick book (like the one I am currently reading, Volume I of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative) with a bookmark slipped in after the first four or five pages. Glancing down at the book, I see I have 800 pages before me. The sun is just above the distant horizon in the east. There is not a cloud in the sky. The air is cool, but not cold. I’m sitting in a rocking chair. There is a padded cushion on the seat and a gentle, rhythmic rumble on the planks of the porch as the chair pendulums back and forth.

In another version of this daydream, the porch faces the Penobscot Bay or the Bagaduce River in Maine. In still another, the porch is screened in, and facing a fishing lake deep in the Vermont wilderness. A steady rain is falling and another thick book sits open in my lap.

Sometimes, when driving, I’ll pass a large meadow. In the distance, I’ll see an oak tree, and in the shade of that tree my imagination conjures a rocking chair. I find myself longing to be in that chair, book in hand, and a quiet afternoon before me.

The reality is somewhat different. The chair is not a rocking chair, but a rail chair. We bought it thirteen years ago, when Kelly was pregnant with the Little Man, thinking it would be a good chair for sitting in while rocking the little man to sleep. It is cushioned and comfortable, and came with an ottoman that itself rocks along with the chair. Having long grown out of the need for being rocked to sleep, the chair ended up in my office after we moved into this house a few years back. Instead of being surrounded by a wide porch, it is surrounded by bookshelves

My rocking rail chair
The rail chair (glider) in my office

I do a lot of reading in this chair, and there is a reality that never comes up in my daydreams. For instance, if I am reading, say, a thriller, I’ll find myself rocking faster and faster as the tension builds, often to the point where the chair reaches its limits, abruptly stopping and giving me minor whiplash. It happens again and again, but I can’t help it. My rocking matches the pace of whatever it is I am reading. It is probably a good think this is a rail chair and not a rocking chair. If it was, I imagine I’d have already flipped myself over backwards several times.

In my daydreams, all I hear is the sound of the wind through the corn, or the rain pelting the lake, and perhaps the hum of the rocking chair on the floorboards of the porch. In reality, I often hear the television from the living room, which is right next to my office. When we moved into the house, I wanted to put in French doors that would provide some separation from the office to the living room. That hasn’t happened yet so my reading is often disturbed but the sounds of Murdock Mysteries or Pink videos on YouTube.

Finally, in my daydreams, I set out to read at sunrise, and watch the shadows move across the land while the sun passes over from east to west and my bookmark finds its way deeper and deeper into the book I am reading. The glass of lemonade is always full. I never feel the need to empty my bladder. And by the time the sun has set and there is no longer enough light left in the sky to make out the words, I feel incredibly satisfied with just how much reading I managed to do. The reality is far different. For when the TV is not on and the house is quiet and I find myself sitting in the chair with a thick book open in front of my and a cold A&W Zero Sugar Root Beer on the table beside my, as often as not I find that I read five or ten pages, and then fall asleep in the chair.

That never happens in my daydreams.

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  1. Jamie,

    Hope you enjoy Foote’s Civil War Trilogy. The audiobook is narrated by one of your favorite readers, Grover Gardner. I found that listening to the audio while following along in the book really added to my enjoyment of the story.

    1. One of the reasons I decided to listen was because of Gardner. So far I’m enjoying it but I find the descriptions of battles hard to envision, even with maps showing some of the troop movements. I think this is a shortcoming on my part. I had the same problem reading Atkinson’s The British Are Coming.


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