I went out for a nice four-mile walk today. It was not sunny nor was it especially warm but it was good to get out of the house. I thought about wearing a mask and I had found some disposable masks in the bathroom. But less than a minute after I put the mask on, I knew that it was going to be a failure when the mask fell off, making it obvious that I am such a pinhead.
No mask, but I went out anyway because I needed to run this errand. I stepped out of the house and the weather was well… okay, not too hot, not too cold… and not at all sunny… and I ran my errand and returned home. A four mile round trip. It was a quiet and peaceful walk. Almost no traffic. Although the people have abandoned the streets, the gardens were teeming with life. Daffodils and crocuses were blooming because no stay at home order and no quarantine could prevent spring from coming.
At home, I checked my emails and I found that the blogging challenge for today was to write a book review. In any format that I liked, so I’m just doing it as part of this journal entry. Since this stay at home order began, I’ve spent a lot of time reading. The books have taken me away from the isolation and into other places and other times. That’s what makes books so magical.
I had started at the beginning of the pandemic with A Beautiful Young Woman, by Julian Lopez. It is set in Argentina probably at about the time of the dirty wars, and it is a story told from the perspective of a young boy who has a very close relationship with his free-spirited mother. What he cannot see, mainly because he is just too young, are the dangers lurking so close to home. His mother sees them because she has to protect her son, and she is terrified. Eventually, she disappears, and the joy of his childhood are ripped to shreds, along with the photographs and books and the security of home.
The book is about feelings more than events. It’s the first novel by an author that I had never heard of until I just randomly got a copy of the book one day when I was in downtown Buffalo. I was at the library, the great big library in the sky, and I had just walked out with a book by one of my most favorite authors, Isabel Allende, when I thought, well, I’ll take a peek at the little free library. Yes, this tiny library sits just outside of the great big library in the sky.
A young man holding a bicycle saw me and said that he knew what I would like to read. He had such an air of confidence about him that I was sure that he had to be right. He opened the door of the little free library and retrieved A Beautiful Young Woman. It was a thin volume. I looked at the cover and wasn’t sure. Then I looked at the description on the back. I wondered how this young man knew what was in my heart after knowing me for about two minutes.
I thanked him and we parted. I took the book home and set in in a bookcase and forgot about it. Months later, I saw the book sitting there, looking as lonely as I was, and I put it on a pile of books to be read.
The next book on the pile was Eva’s Story, by Eva Schloss with Evelyn Julia Kent. This book was given to me by my sister. She also knows what I like to read. The man’s knowledge of my reading needs was instinctive. My sister’s was based on a lifetime together.
This book took me to wartime Europe in the 1940s. Eva Schloss was a teenager who was born in Austria but who, with her parents and older brother Heinz, fled to the Netherlands when the Nazis took control of Austria. For a while, life was good in the Netherlands. But then, the Nazis came and Eva and her family had to go into hiding. Just like Anne Frank and her family.
Well, Eva and Anne were friends and classmates for a while. Until they both had to disappear. And both ended up being betrayed and deported to concentration camps. Anne died, and Eva survived to tell the tale of nine months in Birkinau with her mother as her friend and parent, followed by rescue by the Russians, and repatriation.
The book was a personal story of a teenaged girl, determined to survive some of the most horrifying conditions possible. There is much that is horrific about this holocaust tale but the story is not completely bleak. The love that Eva and her mother (whom she called Mutti) felt for each other is stronger than the cruelty of the death camp.
Eva attributes her survival to luck and good timing. And to the kindness of strangers, such as the Russian liberators who shower the concentration camp survivors with tears and food.
Eva, who became a photographer, has written another book about her experiences. She said that she never had any intention of writing about the Holocaust as she was too traumatized to talk about it. But, in the 1970s and 1980s, she saw that there were other holocausts, massacres, and ethnic cleansing and she decided that people needed to hear her story.
Eva Schloss lives in Amsterdam and she travels the world as a public speaker.
In my isolation from my invisible enemy, I set down the book, bathed in tears at Eva’s struggles, but filled with joy (that thing that we talked about yesterday) at the resilience of humans.
The day that I finished Eva’s Story was the day that I needed to get out and to explore the beauty of my world. And, of course, maintain social distancing. A solitary walk in Buckhorn Island State Park fit the bill. It was peaceful and I was surrounded by the healing powers of nature and fresh air.
As I walked home, I heard music, and I stopped in front of a house. A young man named Michael was sitting on the porch, singing and playing his guitar. I’ve seen Michael perform in local events. A high school senior, Michael already has a professional career as a singer-songwriter. So I stood on the side of the road, and I listened to Michael’s song. He sang with feeling and he brought his song to life. When he finished, I applauded happily. He said that he didn’t expect to see anyone there so he extended his song.
I thanked Michael for the gift of song. He said that music is the thing that is most needed during a dark time.
Music and books to get me through the darkness created by an enemy that can’t even be seen.