It’s summer now in Fairbanks. This is the season almost all of us love: the city turns green, and we feel like we’re living in a garden. The sun scarcely goes below the horizon, and we’re hit with a daylight-induced mania. We can garden, canoe, and comfortably spend time outdoors.
I’m a bicyclist. Though not yet hard-core enough to bike all year — it does get quite chilly here — I manage to ride for the warm half of the year, roughly mid-April to mid-October, and it makes me happy to get out in the sun and to use my body nearly every day.
But I’m not quite happy.
This morning, I looked at the side of my bed and saw the book I’m reading: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I tried once as a nine-year-old to read it; it seemed boring. So now I’m giving it another shot, and it seems much better. However, there doesn’t seem to be the time I want for it.
From wake-up to departure, I’m eating breakfast, reading the news, preparing my lunch, showering, and getting dressed. At my lunch hour, I’m usually too tired to read much; it’s easier to nap. From arrival at home to bedtime, I’m playing with my kids, eating dinner, washing dishes, and putting kids to bed (though sometimes I’m at meetings instead). By bedtime, I’m able to read, but not in quantity: usually, after a few minutes, the book falls out of my hand as my head lolls over to one side.
What I really miss is the time I spend on the bus during winter. Between work and home, it’s about a twenty-five minute trip either way — so, by taking the bus, I secure myself forty to fifty minutes of reading every day. Even with that, I often felt that my progress through books wasn’t speedy enough. But now? I’ll be working on The Hobbit for a month, maybe two. There’s a good chance that I’ll lose whatever pacing the book has and start to find it boring — just because I can’t read it fast enough.
I know, I know: it’s all about my choices. To make more time for my reading, I could choose to skip the local newspaper, or spend less time with my wife and kids, or forego personal hygiene. Obviously, I could give up biking and take the bus again, but — let me be plain — when you face a lengthy, forbidding winter like ours, you’d have to be a complete jackass not to spend as much time as outside, during our beautiful summer months, as possible.
I’m not looking for something to scrape out of my schedule to make time for reading. What I really want to convey is this:
- One major advantage of riding the bus — that is, aside from the money you can save on car payments, gasoline, parking, repairs, tire changes, and the inevitable tickets — is that it gives you time to read. Not audiobook “reading”, but the kind that demands your imagination, allows easy re-reading, and invites contemplation. If you are already spending half an hour twice a day to warm up your car, scrape your windows, drive, and park, then consider taking that hour back as a time when you can read just for yourself.