Gunga Din and me
I grew up in a family of devoted readers. My history with books began with my mother reading to me, and most importantly, reading to me at bedtime. I read so many books as a child. I loved Grimm’s Fairy tales and I remember savoring Pippi Longstocking books, and as I grew my tastes grew with me. In second grade our teacher would end each day by reading to us. “Gulliver’s Travels” carried me off on strange and splendid adventures. I still remember the pleasant feeling of my teacher’s words building pictures in my mind. I’d close my eyes and I was standing on the stage of a grand world theater. of adventure, mystery and wonder. I coveted adventures: expeditions into the African jungle, climbing Mt. Everest, or submarines diving deep into the ocean. At some point during my first trip to the Amazon rainforest, I reminded myself that I was finally seeing that which once I had only imagined. The Amazon had the burden of living up to a child’s vision.
My parents never put any restrictions on the books I read, the TV programs I watched, nor the films I saw. Once, when I was still in elementary school, my mother met me at the public library and was waiting as the librarian checked out my selection of books, which included “Mein Kempf” and Winston Churchill’s “The River War” . She chastised my mother for allowing me to read such books at my age. My mother was outraged and reminded the woman that there were countries where no one could freely read anything and brought up the example of book burnings even in our own country. I grew up watching old WWII movies on TV and it was perfectly natural for me to want to learn about the people and places depicted in the movies.
I wasn’t much for poetry but I did have a few favorites such as Carryl’s “Walloping Window blind”, Kipling’s “Gunga Din” and Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”. I was so excited when I discovered movies about Gunga Din, and the Light Brigade. They made the words of those poems come alive. My tastes became more sophisticated as I became a teenager and I preferred poems by Bob Dylan and Lawrence Durrell. I tried writing poetry as a teen. That didn’t last long. I had not written a poem since I was a teen until recently when I wrote a few rhyming ditties just for fun.
In elementary and high schools I did the usual writing assignments. I don’t remember anything significant. When I was a teen, I did create a character and his world. He was an inept, British adventurer. The only one who read his story was my best friend, who passed away from cancer before she was forty. In college and grad school I had to do a lot of writing, but it was all academic. I continued through the years writing articles for journals and heavily detailed reports and grant proposals. Somewhere along the way my taste for casual writing disappeared.
It was during my recent recovery from cancer that I considered writing. A friend suggested I start a blog because I had so many adventures as an anthropologist. So, I signed up for wordpress
but I didn’t do anything for a solid year. Not even pick a theme. I received an email from wordpress
congratulating me on my one year anniversary. I quickly set up the blog and my first post was about cancer treatment. No one read it. So I changed the blog to one for gardening and everything else. Soon after I started my second blog– the one I originally wanted . A blog of non-fiction, fiction– any genre that suits me at the time. The thing that drives me most to write is twofold. First is the importance of making clear those things which many people find too complex to unravel on their own. If I can induce one person to say, “aha, that’s what that is” or “that’s how that works”, then I’ve done well. The second, is to leave behind a piece of me, somewhere in cyberspace– my foot print in the cooling lava.
If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Cicero
I have a lot of free time. I write when I feel like it or when a writing challenge is due. I work in my garden and I read a great deal, as I always have. I feel that I owe my imagination to H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H Rider Haggard and Rudyard Kipling. Imagination is the key to writing. Mine was helped along by Allan Quatermain, Tarzan, Captain Nemo, Gunga Din and a whole cast of characters who showed a child less than perfect lives, but admirably lived. I’ve felt an association with Gunga Din ever since my brother first called me that when I was a kid, fetching things all day long for my older brother. He always called me Gunga Din when he had an assignment for me. He still does.