Rabbit Trails and Literary Connections

Literary rabbit trails.

Anyone who has ever chased rabbits (presumably with dogs) knows that rabbit trails lead hither and yon with no apparent rhyme or reason to them.  The rabbit does his best to shake off his pursuer by any number of devious tactics from backtracking to creek swimming; from climbing up hollow trees to disappearing underground.  If you saw the trail plotted on a map it would be a confusion of crossed lines that takes the pursuer all over the place – which brings me to books and authors…
As I sit and gaze at my personal library shelves I am somewhat amazed and surprised by the books I have collected over the last few years.  Given that I have a limited amount of space to hold books in my bookcases, I have to choose what to keep and what to pass along.  How a book gets onto my bookshelf in the first place is what brings me back to the rabbit trails.
Often, it is the mention in one book of another or a particular quotation that fires the imagination or sparks an interest and sets me on a quest to find that particular book.  One particular trail started with the mention of a writer in an article by a well-known Christian Apologist, Ravi Zacharias.  Mr.Zacharias rediscovered the writings of a turn of the century preacher, Dr. F. W. Boreham, who was immensely popular and prolific in his time but had somewhat faded into obscurity.  By shedding light on Boreham’s writings, he introduced a whole new generation to the beauty and imagination that was lying in those dusty volumes waiting to be uncovered once more.
A word about Dr. Boreham is in order.  As a young man in the early 1900s, he studied in London under Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher, then took a calling to the ministry in Mossgeil, New Zealand where he soujourned for a while before traveling on to Tasmania and ultimately Australia, where his remains lie.  In the course of his ministry years he wrote over 50 books (30 or more of which sit on my shelves) and introduced us to many of the colorful characters who populated his parishes.  A voracious reader in a time of great global change, he set his mind to study all subjects from etymology to exploration, from literature to nature, from engineering to economics.  Every week the mail brought him a stack of new books and his writings reflected his thirst for knowledge, his marvel at the world and his assimilation of that knowledge into the big picture of life.  A master at the art of word-smithing, he delighted his readers with his insights and observations.
Among the many authors who now grace my bookshelves, the rabbit trails of Dr. Boreham have brought me Carlyle and McCauley, Chesterton and Tennyson, Richard Jeffries and Izaak Walton, Charles Kingsley and Gilbert White.  Each of these, in turn, have led me to a number of other authors.  All of that from one source – and that has not been the only rabbit trail I’ve followed.  Wherever my travels take me, I like to pick up a book about the area so Wilfred Thesiger introduced me to the Middle East, Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner to the American West, while Ronald Blythe and Edwin Teale took me back to England.  Ronald Blythe came by courtesy of friend and author Donna Fletcher Crow whose ‘Glastonbury’ carried me back to the old legends and stories of ancient Britain.
So how a book ends up on one’s bookshelf is a part of life’s journey which often ends up looking more like a rabbit trail than a flight path as seen on the on-board monitors of modern transatlantic flights.  Dr. Boreham would have been thrilled by the technology – a wise man, all in all – and an avid rabbit hunter too.

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