dog-eared days of summer

In this new field of time I am cultivating, I am rediscovering the library. Rather than dashing in and out to find one particular book needed for a work project, I am relishing in the forests of bookshelves, the familiar childhood smell of the worn pages, the crinkly spines peering out at me in various patterns and sizes.

Instead of finding a book, I am once again allowing a book to find me.

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I am reminded of the second-grade year I spent homeschooling my daughter, who is now entering eighth grade, during which time we walked to the library every day. We pored over books with images of insects, volcanoes, dragons, tornadoes, felines, and other furry creatures. We researched the beetles, caterpillars, and leaves we had just acquired along the walk there. We learned something new with every visit, and Olivia voraciously captured these treasures in her little light blue journal as she practiced her cursive. She also used these ideas as springboards for her own creativity.

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Why is it so easy to lose the palpable excitement of childhood curiosity and discovery?

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I walked out of the library with three books in hand, two by Paulo Coleho and one by Anne Lamott. Olivia had three of her own titles, chosen not from the former ‘baby’ section as she called it, but from the newly initiated young adult trove. We would have scooped up even more delights, but we had a hike of a few miles in the heat to get home.

Now, as I sit reading the deliciously bittersweet ‘By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept’ I find myself dog-earing a poignant page here and there, only to discover that someone — and in some cases, more than one — has already done so with that very page. I scan the page and wonder if he or she was moved by the very same paragraph, sentence, word.

I pull out a pencil and giddily albeit lightly underline here, circle there. How can I not mark this shining gate post with a star: “Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.”

I smile as I imagine a harrowed librarian huffing as she attempts to smooth out the creases and erase the signs that someone has been here before.

I don’t mind the signs. The dog-ears, coffee stains, watermarks, and pencilings are what make the library unique: a public park of free words in which we all play, fold, scribble, and sigh. They are what connect us across the wires while we go about our everyday lives, stuffing these same spines and pages into our purses, briefcases, backpacks, and tote bags.

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Just as Coelho’s Pilar urges her childhood friend and lover (who, interestingly, is never named but remains a sort of ‘everyman’ in this ‘every love story’) to free himself of the ‘Other’ by flagrantly breaking a glass in a restaurant, I urge you to dog-ear some pages that move you this summer as you carve out tiny excavations of indulgent ideas — even if it’s the last line in the book:

“Go and get your things; dreams mean work.” ~

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