Sorting Books, Leaving Friends
Between skiing and snow walks, I’ve been sitting in my dismantled living room sorting and packing books. While doing this I remembered sitting on the floor in the aisle of our neighborhood bookstore when I was a young teen, smelling and touching the books on the shelves. Paper and ink smell in my nose; smooth glossy bindings, rough linen bindings, under my fingers.
New worlds opened up as I leafed through these books. I’d choose one to take home and add to my small collection. A book I could keep differed from a book I’d read from the library. The books I kept on a shelf in my bedroom contained stories that became my trusted friends. Soon I expanded to buying art books in a second-hand store. I added paintings to my collection of treasures. Then poetry entered my world and the slim volumes full of thoughts and feelings became go to friends.
Ever since, I’ve lived a life of hauling books. Bookshelves filled with books are an essential part of a home for me. The contents of my bookshelves have changed as I changed. When images and words of the digital world inundated me in the late nineties, books took a quiet backseat in my living room. I still buy hard copies. I still treasure holding a book in my hand to read. But in the new life i'm choosing, a simplified life with less space, I can’t keep them around any longer. And so I’m thinking hard as each book passes through my hands. Will I want to re-read this one? Will I need that information? I read a pruning book and put it on a to go pile. I know how to prune the grapevines, the apple tree, the espaliered peach. And there’s always a YouTube video, if I’m in doubt. The herb books follow the pruning book for a similar reason. And then come the novels with stories that live in my mind and touched me. They are my friends. But I cannot take all the friends I’ve had in my life, with me. I have to choose. The ones that’ll play an active role in my new life, I save. The ones that can teach me about story structure, about writing a scene, about a good plot, I save. Poetry volumes, the wise lines for living when I need it, get to come with me. But the rest has to go. I’ll let myself travel less padded with words, open to new experiences. I look at the stacks of to go books around me on the floor. I must find people who want my books as friends.
Out with the Old, In with the New
It’s New-year’s eve. Boxes line the walls of rooms in my house. My library now comprises three boxes, taped shut. I like how fitting things in boxes creates neatness among my stuff. Four boxes not taped shut are the books that have to make new friends. As I reduce, I remember an earlier time in my life. 26-Years-old, my boyfriend and I planned to travel the world for a year. Our rented quarters at the time, consisted of a room and shared kitchen in a big house. Though we had few things, a bed, some cooking utensils, clothes, a chair, and books, we reduced until what we wanted to keep, fit in a 317 cubic feet pine shipping box. My parents let me store the crate at their house until we could ship it upon returning to wherever we lived. We didn't know where that would be. We were on an adventure. Leaving a 317 cubic feet home base for future use and having what we needed on the road in a backpack was exhilarating and freeing.
As I reduce the possessions I’ve accumulated while living a householder's life for 36 years, the lightness of being rises in my body. The tremor of excited anticipation sneaks through the anxiety resulting from making contracts with buyers, repairmen, and movers. I won’t come back here. My new world will be a small home base. The new environment will force me to change my habits. I hope this transition will be easy on me and let me land softly. So far, so good. Things are unfolding in a way I like. I don’t trust life as much as I did in my twenties. An older body, a memory filled with experiences, has made me wiser about what can go wrong. I’ve lost my youthful innocence, but I haven’t lost my comfort with going on an adventure. Isn't life always an adventure if you have the eyes for it?
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