When I was in high school I worked one summer in the place where they grew all the plants, trees and shrubs which were used to adorn the schools, parks and lawns of buildings associated with local, educational institutions. The place where I worked was perhaps ten acres in size upon which were rows of field-grown seedling, trees and greenhouses. The place had about 8 full time workers. I and a few other high school kids were employed as helpers.
In one part of this place was a sunken valley of perhaps 200 yards in length, and a fourth as many wide, which I can only imagine the Garden Of Eden looked like. It had many shallow ponds which contained sun and coy fish and the surrounding areas were filled and resplendent with flowering shrubs, trees, and flowers of every description and at one place a stone bridge forded a small stream. There were stone benches to sit upon in private little nooks where one could sit and listen for the splash of an occasional toad into a pond, or the warble of any number of species of birds which had found sanctuary there. Now the strange thing is, even though this was a public facility which could be visited by any citizen almost no one knew of its existence. Sometimes, as an adult, I have visited this garden - my secret place - and have always had the whole of it to myself.
Whenever I reread a book it is like going back to that garden alone. I retrace the steps of a bygone day down to the floor of the valley knowing in advance that it has not changed - the only thing in my entire life, it seems, which has not changed - and once again I see familiar sights. I imagine the fish, and frogs, and birds to be the same ones I communed with in my youth, as are the characters I know so well from the books I have visited. I walk the paths knowing what I will find around each bend as I know the events I will encounter in the book. I am not dissuaded by the fact that I already know what awaits me. I imagine myself visiting an old friend who is always accessible and happy to see me. Sancho Panza and Wilkins McCawber can still wrest a belly laugh from me despite how deeply the world has jaded me - Harper Lee and George Eliot, a tear. Yossarian is still in mortal fear for his life and still evading duty, and El-ahrairah still looks after his lupine subjects. They will always be there, frozen in time ... awaiting my visit.