Today, we hear about Victoria Clarke‘s experience of reading with Wirral residents
I Do Not Like Blue Cheese and Spam!
I meet all sorts of readers in Wirral from the reluctant to the voracious. They provide me with countless moments that reinforce my love for and belief in reading. It’s particularly good when a new reading group member displays an openness to engage with sometimes complex or ambiguous ideas in a poem, story or novel. One such gentleman attends a Wirral GIR pub group and is always happy to read the poem through a few times. He enjoys paying close attention to the meanings of individual words. Reading with this gentleman always motivates and inspires me to re-think my own perceptions about our reading and my approach to facilitation. In a recent session we read Robert Frost’s much loved poem “The Road Not Taken.” When we came to the last verse, this gentleman had lots to say.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The verse prompted him to tell us he is somewhat of an adventurer and that when presented with a choice, he would always take the road less travelled. He also agreed with the sentiment of the poem: you can only know the road was right or wrong after you have travelled down it. We proceeded to talk about the nature of experience and to quote my fellow reader:
“What is experience but a series of mistakes?”
After the session had ended, I started to think about the significance of what he had said. I once read that life can only be understood in retrospect. Part of the very process of living requires us to make decisions based only on the information we have at that time. And of course we can learn as much from our failures as our successes. Built into our biology is the capacity to take risks and in taking risks we learn.
In the spirit of this, I reflected on another session I had facilitated this week with a group of pregnant teenagers. We were reading a children’s book, “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr Seuss. One young woman asked what it was all about. We discussed the possibility that it was concerned with advising kids that you can’t say you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it before. Nor indeed do we know the road was the right one until we look backwards after experience. Perhaps Dr. Seuss was attempting to make adventurers of us all. Tomorrow I might sign up for hang-gliding or try blue cheese and spam…..