I sigh in exasperation at yet another item littering the floor of my youngest’s room. Will he never learn to tame the clutter?
This particular book was a well-worn volume showcasing Rick Riordan’s imagination, sans cover and the first few pages. My youngest no longer needs the first few pages. He has read this particular tome so many times that he could almost recite it to you by heart. Which is why the cover and a portion of Chapter One are long gone, tattered—probably recycled.
We share a love of magic, he and I. And of worlds not seen anywhere but in our imaginations.
It really translates to a love of new ideas. New ideas the people around us might not provide but others, both living and dead, can. And the next best thing to a conversation with these idea generators is the printed page that contains their thoughts. In fact, sometimes it’s even better.
Us bookworms tend to need to percolate; if you’re in our faces with your ideas, our best responses may come after you’ve left the table. But talk to us via a book? Ah, yes. Then we chew on your ideas. We roil them around on our tongues and in our heads until we have made them our own or vehemently rejected them as not for us. Either way, we love the energy that comes in the sharing.
My son’s shelves are full of well-read books. Read again and again. He has visited lands you’ve likely not heard of, been privy to conversations not common in our everyday world.
And therein lies the beauty.
It is hard to explain to someone for whom books are not heady perfume the thrill of a new discovery. One of my favorite bookstores usually provides this in spades, with a carefully curated collection that never fails to delight.
Libraries provide the same thing, albeit they may make you work for it. One of my dream trips would be to Trinity College Library in Ireland, the Library of Parliament in Canada or the pièce de résistance—Priceline.com founder Jay Walker’s personal library. Oh, the thoughts to be “thunk” here. The dreams to be had. The plans to be hatched. It’s as if, surrounded by the thoughts and ideas of some of the most creative minds in history, I can stand on the shoulders of those who came before me–those who penned the volumes lining the shelves. It’s as if these authors leapfrog me ahead of my own meager human mind and into a realm where our combined intelligence, hunches and wild ideas combine to produce impressive results. Or so I like to dream.
While for some people these libraries would be less sanctuaries than nap rooms, I feel a surge of endorphins when I walk in and see the possibilities lining the walls. The smell of the books. The feel of the covers. Each holding the possibility of just the right muse, the long-awaited cure, an escape.
Alas, we must greet the mundane in our everyday world. The dishes sit in the sink to be done, the bills tower in a stack to be paid, the homework remains to be tackled.
When, after our drudgery, we can enter a world filled with soaring spaceships, wise wizards, fearless adventurers, we not only escape that drudgery but we soar a bit. On a Monday night, to soar is divine. Because so few of us do.
Or maybe what we need, instead of escape on a Monday night, is good advice about our passions by someone like famed writer Brenda Ueland: “I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten, – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.”
After my divorce, Katharine Hepburn made me laugh (probably on a Monday night) with advice from her book: “Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”
Gilda Radner reminded me of how to get through the tough bits on the pages of her book: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
I read these wise words in my home, without the benefit of Jay Walker’s temple of knowledge. So, it is not the building itself that puts the magic in the mix although it can certainly foster the right environment for it.
It is the ideas in libraries big and small, centuries of ideas encapsulated into one building, that make for a heady experience even if your local library is as utilitarian as mine was growing up.
I have had a multitude of teachers throughout my lifetime, many of them dead before I was born.
They transport me to worlds I’ve not been born to. They chide me in my complacency, inspire me in my creative voids, educate me as a citizen of the world.
So when my son’s “clutter” comes from a place of true depth, of longing, I understand. I quietly pick up the book from his floor and put it in a safe place on the shelf. I leave him undisturbed as he flips pages in a well-worn beanbag chair in his reading nook.
I can see he is chewing on an idea.
The clutter can wait.