It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Elizabeth Gilbert. I had the great pleasure of meeting Ms. Gilbert at a Vroman's Bookstore signing in Pasadena a few months ago. She is exactly, precisely as you would imagine her to be: full of life, laughter and genius.
Several days after meeting her I curled up with The Signature of All Things and 175 pages later, in the wee hours of the morning decided I had to go to sleep. I savored the cliff it left me hanging on for a few more weeks and sat down for what turned out to be, yet again, another 175 pages. I think I got up once during each of these marathon sessions. I was yanked into a world from which I did not want to depart, an adventure I didn't want to escape.
Any great book transports you to places you've never been. The crescendo moment of this book for me (not that there aren't many, but the one that took my breath away) sent me to a memory I hadn't visited in a long time.
I was in Venezuela with an old boyfriend. The main purpose of the trip was windsurfing for him, but very generously he set up a waterfall tour for me. On this one adventure we took a canoe tour. We paddled to the opening of a cave, and were instructed to get out of the canoes and into the water. We got onto our stomachs and into the shallow water, which was too shallow for the boats and too slippery for walking. We were told to ignore the baby anaconda swimming with us. What?! Baby anaconda? Apparently they were harmless, but my adrenal system didn't catch that fact. I was nearly breathless and my teeth were firmly clenched.
We shimmied quickly until we came to an opening leading us to the most breathtaking waterfall I have still to this day ever seen. We were in a round deep clear pool, surrounded on every side by shiny black rock covered with scintillating green vines, ferns, mosses, etc. The water was the perfect temperature. I looked up to the top of the raging waterfall and felt called to climb it. Slippery rock and lack of climbing skills didn't stop me. I had to go. I reached the top after some harrowing slips. It was so loud it sounded like I was inside a jet engine. I looked down at the others and as I did I saw a rainbow. Not just any rainbow, mind you. My feet were encircled by a rainbow. I lost my breath and stood completely still. I blinked several times. No change. A perfect circle around me.
I then took the tiniest step to the right. No change. Left. No change. Wherever I went the perfect rainbow followed. I then screamed and gestured for the others to come up. They balked. I insisted. Some of them were complete strangers but they could tell something magical awaited them. Soon we were all crammed together at the top of the fall and we each had our own perfectly sized and fitted rainbow encircling us.
I felt like a superhero that day, rewarded for overcoming my fears. The heroine of The Signature of All Things is a superhero in many ways, and inspires me to be bigger, better and stronger every time I think of her.
I don't think anyone who reads this book ever wants it to end. I made myself stop 50 pages short of the end because I wanted it to last. But I couldn't wait more than 24 hours to snuggle back in with it.
There is a lovely dog character in it too, which has its own superpowers and magical qualities, so I think my dogs were happy to pluck the images I was reading from my brain as they were by my side for every page.
I had no idea this book would inspire me to be a better person. Nor did I know it would take me on such a superhero adventure. And I didn't know I needed it to dip me back into a profound life-changing memory, but I did.
I hope you have a book to catapult you into some superhero magical adventures this new year. If you don't have one, check out this adventure.