The Last Road

Living every day like it's the last… because one day, it will be.

How I Met Mia

Posted by Rystefn on August 11, 2008

I didn’t stay gone so very long, really. Well, that should be obvious, I think, since here I am typing… well, I guess that’s not so obvious to those of you who don’t know me so well. When I say that I’m going off into the woods, or to the beach, or sailing, or any of several statements of the sort, I mean that I’m getting myself seriously gone. No phone, no internet, no CD player, or hand-held video game… Just me and the world. Well, that’s the plan. Sometimes there are other people there, and sometimes I don’t avoid them. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I strike up a conversation. Most people don’t wander off into the deep woods, fifty miles from the nearest city, and the people that do are often interesting sorts. This weekend, I met Mia out there, and I was reminded of why I don’t always hate everyone…

I’ve met a lot of people in my life. Sometimes there’s an interesting story, sometimes it’s very mundane, and sometimes I don’t even remember, really. Like most people, I suppose, now that I think about it. With Mia, it was pretty memorable. We met because of a book.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Without the book, there’s a fairly strong chance we’d have traded a few words, but that likely would have been the whole of the encounter. With the book, we shared the better part of an evening. When you’re so far away rom civilization, there are pretty much always still marks that humanity has been there before you, if you care to look, but some things you just don’t expect to see for one reason or another. A 62′ flat panel HDTV, for example. A sword thrust through and anvil and into a stone. A book, slightly worn but in excellent condition, is one of them. Books don’t last very long exposed to the elements, especially out in the damp East Texas woodlands. When I saw one, just sitting there like it was Barnes and Nobles, and not outdoors a hundred miles from the closest library, it sruck me as more than a little surreal. For a moment, I questioned if I might be hallucinating it.

The book in question turned out to be a historical work about the Hawaiian royal family near the end of their reign, just before the dissolution of the monarchy. Not the sort of thing and out-of-season deer poacher would likely be carrying, nor your average Get Away From it All type. I glanced over a few pages, then looked up to see a pair of bright blue eyes not six inches away. It’sa rare day someone gets that close in the woods without me noticing, but I freely admit to being distracted by quite a lot at the time, and not being as alert as I usually would be. I was stunned. By the display of outdoorsmanship, and by the spark or curiosity and glimmer of mischief in the eyes… “That’s my book,” she said quietly, taking it out of my hands.

Then she punched me in the neck.

Well, technically, it was a spear-hand, but that doesn’t fit the rhythm of the story so well, does it? There was a stunned moment, that fel like an age, as my brain cought up to what had just happened. There was a book on the ground. I knelt down to pick it up. I flipped through it. There was a pair of eyes half a foot from mine… I hadn’t stood up yet! That’s right. A seven-year old girl snuck up on me and hit me in the neck with a spear-hand before I could react. The humor of the situation was not lost on me. It had been a week since I’d spoken aloud at that point, and several days more since I’d so much as smiled… but despite everything that has been happening in my life, I was overwhelmed by the hilarity of what had just happened. I was paralyzed with fits of laughter. Her mother ran up from somewhere to see what was going on, but all I could say to her questions for a few minutes was “That was awesome!” and fall back to laughing again.

She probably would have been terribly frightened of the madman in the woods if her daughter wasn’t laughing and giggling almost as hard as I was.

Eventually I explained that Mia had jumped out and startled me, apparently thinking I was going to make off with her book. The mom (is it sad I don’t remember her name now?) was a bit angry at Mia for wandering off, a bit more upset that she’d jump out at a stranger like that (I left out the hitting part), and apologetic to me, even though I explained over and over that I wasn’t upset in the slightest.

Anyway, the point of the story is this – have you ever met a girl that young who cared so much about a book? Have you ever met a girl so young reading that kind of book? How many young girls do you know who are both avid outdoors types AND dedicated readers of history books? The girl had a passion for learning anything and everything, and her family went to great lengths to feed her appetite for knowledge. As long as there are people like that still in the world, there’s hope yet for humanity… although she could use a quick refresher course on risk assessment, I think.

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10 Responses to “How I Met Mia”

  1. imrryr said

    Hmm, it’s sad, but I don’t even know any adults my age (27) who read these days. And by that I mean something more advanced than the Harry Potter books. However, in regards to your question, I remember one man on a forum I frequently visit did mention that his girl (I think she around 10 or 12) was reading every book in his personal library and then excitedly telling her classmates about all she had learned the next day at school. He was very proud of her, although he was a bit worried when she started reading Behold the Man but apparently she loved it and no one at school gave her any trouble for talking about it. It makes me wish that the local library was better stocked and that my father’s library consisted of more than the collected works of Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern when I was a kid.

    But as I was saying, I think that parents with children like the one you met are quite possibly the luckiest people on earth… but only if they’re smart enough to appreciate it. And children are truly lucky when they have such encouraging parents. It does give me hope for the future.

  2. Rystefn said

    I’m a big Moorcock fan, and that’s one I think everyone should read… well, maybe not everyone, but most people. It’s pretty well right up there with Stranger in a Strange Land for powerful Sci-Fi.

  3. Imrryr said

    You know, now that I think of it I’m not surprised to read that you’re a Moorcock fan. I’ve read a number of his books in the short time it’s been since I discovered him, but I haven’t got to Behold the Man yet… I did get the gist of the plot when I read Mike’s take on the small “controversy” that the book created.

    Now I’ll try to stop slacking off for once and grab a copy.

  4. Rystefn said

    I’m enough of a Moorcock fan that I stalked some poor nerd in Age of Conan for three hours and killed him repeatedly for not knowing who Elric was. Yes, yes, I’m a nerd, I know it.

  5. Rystefn said

    Well, in all fairness, this isn’t a place dedicated to the fantasy/sword and sorcery genre, so you have an excuse.

  6. imrryr said

    The poor sap was probably a World of Warcraft player.

    Well, at least you’re a hardcore nerd. Some of my roommates are PvPers and even they couldn’t handle the player vs. player slaughter in Age of Conan.

  7. Rystefn said

    Yeah, a lot of people have that problem. It was even worse on the dedicated PVP servers where I played. My problem with the game was that two months after launch there were still class abilities that did nothing, quests you couldn’t finish, and bits of the world you’d fall right through if you walked on them. Luckily, I kept my CoV account active. That game became a spectator sport around here, actually – it’s even fun to watch other people play.

  8. Rystefn said

    Start with the Elric saga if you’re into dark fantasy. That’s the stuff he’s most known for, and you can’t really call yourself knowledgeable in the fantasy world without a passing familiarity. I’ve never been in a public library that didn’t have at least three of the books. Behold the Man, of course, as previously stated. If you’re into cyberpunk, there’s some fun stuff he does with the Eternal Champion concept.

    Also, if you’re into that sort of thing, HawkWind made a whole album about the stuff called Chronicle of the Black Sword.

  9. Imrryr said

    Improbable Bee, if it helps, the Elric reading order goes something like this:
    ‘Elric of Melnibone’,
    ‘The Sailor on the Seas of Fate’
    ‘The Weird of the White Wolf’
    ‘The Vanishing Tower’
    ‘The Bane of the Black Sword’
    ‘Stormbringer’

    There are also a few books that were written later that come between those I’ve just listed, not to mention that some of the books have been published under different names. I personally started with the 7 part Hawkmoon series, since all the books were available at my local used book shop. It’s a good and fast-paced series but I have to admit that Elric is a more interesting protagonist than Hawkmoon, so if you can start with Elric I would recommend that too.

  10. Rystefn said

    Well, happy birthday… as happy as it can be. *hug*

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