Our reading aloud to each other was accidental. The TV was inconveniently located in our tiny kitchen, with its hard chairs. We preferred the living room, listening to the radio. I mentioned a poetry event I attended that featured Mary Oliver. Robyn was familiar with her poetry, having read one at her late husband's memorial. I read Oliver's "West Wind" and reread it out loud to her. Quite spontaneously we began to discuss it. Much to our delight, we seemed smart and literate.
Reading aloud has become a lost pastime. We can feel grown up reading to our children and flounder terribly reading to an adult. Childhood memories of mispronouncing words in class and being reprimanded by the teacher and teased by fellow students haunt us. I felt self-conscious in my first attempt with Robyn and I stumbled over the language. But a simple "Am I doing OK?" kept me going.
I enjoyed hearing what Robyn had to say. I was startled at how differently she viewed the piece. She was expanded by her analysis and language. I saw her shed an old skin and grow into a new one that sparkled with curiosity.
A word or a phrase sparked us to articulate thoughts safely aired in the company of a true listener, someone you trust to receive and hold what you say, and to let you finish, completely.
For us, reading to one another paves a way to be together — rekindle our relationship, an activity to look forward to where we share a world of words and ideas and give thought to complicated subjects. We look forward to our reads; a time away from electronics, time to be intimate, to relax and to clean out the fogged lenses through which we see each other.
"Please read to me", "Whose turn is it this evening?", "Do you want to start?, "Where did we leave off?" have become invitations to begin something anew, to join us to the literature and to each other.
With a Perspective, I'm Michael Zimmerman.
Michael Zimmerman is a telecommunications consultant living in Marin.