It all started back when I got my library card, right before summer. I felt sad and confused, having said goodbye to my Milwaukee County library card long ago.
I never recovered from that loss. It took time to heal, to open up to the notion of loving again.
Strange, because I love books so much. I continued to read, mainly on my Kindle or the occasional used book from Powell’s. I wasn’t reading as much though, not as much as when I had my last love—my library card.
Stranger still, my neighborhood library is two blocks away. I would pass it often, lusting over the dusty shelves from the sidewalk, pining over the stories I longed to hold.
One day, fed up with loneliness, I was ready to love again and I got my Multnomah County library card. And so began my library love affair.
As with any new relationship, there were uncertain and embarrassing moments. It had been so long since I had been inside a library, that I forgot to use my “library voice.” When it came time for me to use the self-checkout, and I struggled with the machine, I begged for help in my outside voice. (For those who have never heard me speak, my voice carries far.)
The library stopped—the symphony of whispers, the rhythmic flick of the pages. I blushed and the nice librarian man came to my rescue.
The library resumed its mellow song.
I scurried out of the musty building, a far cry from the way I sauntered in. I looked down at my book on the gum-stained sidewalk and smiled with love.
For the first time in life, I discovered reading outside on a summer night. It was magnificent.
Another first for me…reading at the bar. People read at bars in Portland, so it’s not frowned upon.
Without planning it, my beer and book ended up with matching outfits. Darling, aren’t they?
After a long run with ebooks—unable to grasp the length of the story—I gasped when I picked this one up and understood the life commitment I had made.
Then there was the one that changed me, long after I returned it…”How Yoga Works.”
Instead of getting angry over this cigarette burn, I marveled at its progression through the pages.
For any book that is well-loved will carry the stained memories of those who loved it.
Traditionally I have been a devout protector of books—never one to write in the margins, highlight a sentence, or burn or rip it for whatever reason. Except for the occasional chocolate smudge that just won’t rub off, I don’t spill on books either.
Why? Because books have always been living beings to me, and I never want to harm them.
As I explored many books this summer, I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the dog-eared pages. When I found one, I would narrow my eyes at the page, silently shaming the person who dared to molest that crisp corner. But then I scanned the page, curious to read which sentence or paragraph compelled them to crease it forever.
And because that part touched someone else so deeply, it had the same effect on me. So I decided to fold the corner of a page this time—to leave my mark, to affect someone else through the majesty of words.
“People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.” – Mr. Ernest Hemingway, from “A Moveable Feast”
** This post is dedicated to the lovely Letizia at Reading Interrupted, who lost her dear furry friend, Baffi.
You have reminded so many of us about the magical importance of loving books and libraries. Thank you, Letizia.