Reading the Times

WE’RE SITTING TIGHT here in Seattle, at the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus, while news of Boeing’s 737 Max crisis, the Democratic primaries, and the stock market’s volubility swirl around us.

How to stay calm in these stressful times? Curl up with a good book.


From its first sentences, a good book opens a door into the story and you are welcomed in. Everything in the ‘real’ world – from big concerns, like global warming and homelessness, to the quotidian, like the dog’s teeth that need brushing, and piles of laundry, and unpulled weeds – everything fades away. You may find yourself with that other Laura, settling down to sleep in the loft of a Little House in the Big Woods, or howling with a wolf pup on a faraway mountainside, or summoning an owl messenger to Hogwarts with a certain boy wizard.

Stories give us a chance to live forward and backward in time; to inhabit other places, be they real or imagined. We can put on the skin of a dragon or a fox or another person. In stories, we can experience things that are way too scary or infuriating or heartbreaking to experience in real life. If, subsequently, our own lives serve up fear, or anger or heartbreak, sometimes it is a story that helps us through, offering information and comfort.


The wonderful irony is that while a story can offer refuge from the ‘real’ world, it also has the amazing power to connect. We humans are story people. I wrote about the chemical reason for this in my last post.

When we share our stories – in both reading and writing – that connection leads naturally to empathy, an empathy that sends us back to the ‘real’ world refreshed for the challenges ahead. I like how Barrack Obama put it: “The thing that brings people together to have the courage to take action on behalf of their lives is not just that they care about the same issue, it’s that they have shared stories.” I hope other politicians know about this.

WE MADE A RUN to Costco Sunday and I can assure you that should we be quarantined because of the coronavirus, we have sufficient maple syrup, guacamole and toilet paper for the duration. More importantly, should the weight of the current news cycle become too heavy, the Seattle Public Library offers an escape to ebooks and audiobooks, all easily downloaded from the comfort of our isolation.

We’re up to the challenge, here, holding down the northwest corner of the map. But a little bibliotherapy may be necessary.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 10.40.11 AM

The characters from Little Wolf’s First Howling, as featured in the Mazza calendar last year. Thanks to my sister Kate Harvey McGee for the lovely colors.





12 responses to “Reading the Times

  1. Sarah Lamstein

    Lovely, Laura. All the best to you and yours and your entire state.

    • laurakvasnosky

      Best to you and yours, too, Sarah — looks like the big lesson from this virus is that we are all in this together.

  2. Stories are definitely my most effective therapy/escape from the nitty-gritty reality of life, especially of the historical fiction variety…be they from books found on shelves and in a multitude of piles in my house (thanks to our local library’s ongoing “buck-a-bag” book-sale!) or in my head and in where I am writing my own!
    Thank you for a lovely post, and have a wonderful day!

    • laurakvasnosky

      I love a house that’s full of books. My niece and her husband are especially rabid readers and they call their myriad piles ‘stalagmites.’ We just got word that our library’s yearly giant book sale has been postponed almost two months. Worth waiting for.

  3. Thanks for your simple reminder of the power of story! Keep writing!!

    • laurakvasnosky

      Thank you for your comment! I can’t not keep writing — though the weeds are calling. Right now, my sister Kate and i are finishing illustrations for OCEAN LULLABY which will be out in summer 2021. Wonder how the world will have changed by then?

  4. Gretchen Hansen

    Hurray, Laura, for bibliotherapy! And thank you, for sharing your cozy foxes, and wolf, sharing their stories; just what is needed to offset the feeling of isolation in the Pacific Northwest these days.

    • laurakvasnosky

      Thank you, Gretchen, for all the books you have brought to my attention, especially the wonderful illustrations of Komako Sakai. (If other BATT readers don’t already know her work, check out THE FOX WISH, written by Kimiko Aman and illustrated by Sakai.) There’s a good idea for a blogpost. I will make a note.

  5. Ah, you also bring us into new worlds with your eloquence, Laura.

  6. Stay Strong! Creativity is a spirit booster. Keep at it all!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s