Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tribute to the Public Library

I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.
-Jorge Luis Borges

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But I am here now. I have sought sanctuary, and you have taken me in.

It is said that nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul. If so, I hope my soul is a library.

I love everything here, from the outside architecture to the tapestries in the entryway to the secret passageway painted with books. I have wandered in the bottom floor, the nonfiction section, with shelves after shelves flicking away before me. There are Dewey Decimal numbers I’ve memorized - 188 for philosophy, 808 for writing, 930 for ancient civilizations. I like to scan a shelf and think of all the books there that I want to read.

The children’s section, too, is a sanctuary, if smaller - a well-written children’s book can be medicine for a tired mind. My troubles are small enough that a 150-page chapter book with magic and sassy cats can ease them. I will not speak of the YA section, save that there are some roses in the snow.

The upper floor for years seemed to me a mysterious land, a castle in the air, and even now when I ascend those steps I feel a rush of reverence. I like an empty end desk or the last armchair; I like visiting and rereading sections of my favorite books: In the Forest of Forgetting, the Chosen, and others.

I sit here and I find stillness. I find quiet, and beauty, and a distant longing for summer days. I’d spend the whole day here if I could. If I laid my head on a volume of fairy tales, would it help me sleep better? What dreams would I have if I fell asleep reading Borges? Maybe I’d see the architecture of dead, demented gods. Maybe I would find transcendence.

Books are a comfort. When I am sick at heart, and it seems that I am all too often so, I read to ease the dull ache of stress and obligation. It is no heavy burden on my shoulders, but little things, too, can be sources of joy and sorrow. I seem to have more of a spine when, in looking down a bookshelf I see so many fine examples of such.

Gods, I want to paint the sky right now.

It has been far too long since I checked anything out. I have lists, post-it notes full of lists, forty books or more, and so slowly do I work my way through. I came here thinking to check out three, but I do not know if I can. Soon. Soon I will come and accept your gifts, but no, now the best I can do is sit in this quiet and try to imbue myself with some of your calm, some of your tranquility. I know I need it.

The familiar words, the familiar surroundings calm me, settle me. In the quiet, in the dusty air perfumed with thousands - millions of slowly ripening pages, I find peace. The sweep of stairs, the skylight girders, the arched interior windows, the shelves, the shelves, the shelves! - into these are built happiness.

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Apologies for posting a day late. Have a good weekend.

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