Tag Archives: Library

Love Hurts

1_uvQCWIZ3amjtMWtkvDrgugRecently I was in a library. You know the scene. Paper rustling, old cushioned chairs, an indestructible rug, hushed voices, overhead air blowing, throats clearing, necks cracking, lots of wooden shelves and cubbies and tables, pale-faced librarians smiling shhhhh.

I was going to go to Starbucks but then the library beckoned. There wasn’t green iced tea there but I felt silent and hidden, as opposed to Starbucks where I feel obvious and judged.

I wanted to smell the books. Stick my nose in them and keep going down the rows sniffing and gulping the pages. I wanted to swallow stories whole.

I used to go to bookstores. Bookstores are bright and social and full of razzamatazz. They’re like eating a bag of Skittles – a zillion little pieces of candy so colorful and yummy and fruity and sweet and you just can’t stop. Until your tongue is purple-red and the sugar high jolts you and then crashes and you’re sick to your stomach. All those beautiful colorful books make me feel like I’ll never get the chance to join them. So lately I’ve crinkled the empty Skittles bag and raised my fists to the sky and shouted, “Curse you bookstores.” And I don’t go.

But libraries are so contained. They are William Blake’s world in a grain of sand. They are Stonehenge. The TARDIS. Out of place and time. But they can send me into a panic too. There’s an undertow. Something ancient and secret and predestined. Something a little sacred and scary.

Truth is, whether it’s a bookstore or the library, I go there because of the writing. And it’s the writing, even the hope of writing, that really frightens me.

Writing is a terrible beast. It makes me feel old and awkward and stupid and stuck. I feel vulnerable and exposed and never good enough. I feel defeated before even trying. Like I’m in an unrequited relationship that’s killing me.

I can’t stand loving something that makes me feel this way. It’s heartbreaking and nerve-wracking and depressing. But I can’t stop. Too much history and hope. Too many moments of joy when I produce something from thin air that sends a little quiver up my spine and into my soul. It feels like magic. It feels impossible and yet true.

So what’s a girl to do? Give up? Move forward blindly? Grasp at straws? Write?

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings

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Say It Ain’t So

The libraries are closing.

I know other things are closing too. Factories, big box stores, music/art/sports programs, restaurants, movie theaters, entire shopping malls.  I know half our towns are broke, people are out of work, our  house isn’t  worth what we bought it for, Zuckerberg lost a few billion dollars, college graduates can’t find jobs,  health care feels like a bonus and people can’t retire until they’re 80.

But the libraries are closing.

Perhaps the economic crisis is only part of the reason. Should we blame Kindle, Amazon, self-publishing, e-zines, Ask.com or Wikipedia? Are people just too busy to go to the library? Have our attention spans become too short? Is there a backlash in our tolerance for librarians? Are children suddenly developing an allergy to the smell of all those books in one place?

Maybe I’m to blame. I am a reader. If you are a reader you know what this statement means. It is a primal part of who you are. You have read so many books that their words, their stories are part of the way you look at life. Years and years of these books have layered inside you, like sedimentary rock. They are your foundation. You can’t imagine your life without books, without reading.

So I hate to admit this, but it’s true. I hardly ever go to the library anymore.

Then why in the world am I bemoaning the loss of a place I rarely use? Am I just being sentimental? Maybe libraries will show up in movies some day and we will laugh at them, like watching Michael Douglas strut through the streets of New York in Wall Street with a mobile phone the size of a toaster.

I think my attachment is so strong because that is how I became a reader. I loved libraries, felt at home in them, at peace. I also felt excitement and freedom and safety at a time in my life when there wasn’t a whole lotta of that going around. I loved the smell of paper, the hushed silence, the maze of stacks, the little drawers in the card catalog. It was like stepping into an alternative world. A world where stories lived. Where stories waited for me. Where it felt like anything could happen.

In Rhode Island Dunkin Donuts thrives, along with nail salons, strip clubs, and pizza joints. I happen to frequent 2 out of 4 of these places (unless you know me well, you will have to guess which), yet I honestly wouldn’t care if they all started closing. But not the libraries. I want to be able to go there if I need to spark those old feelings. I want other people to discover themselves there, to become readers. I want to be able to get free books when I’m retired and broke. I want to sit at a table and write, surrounded by thousands of stories whispering, you can do it!

Maybe this weekend I’ll go to the library. Before it’s too late.

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