Tuesday, November 23, 2010

it's magic

Even before I volunteered I knew I would love working at the library. As a teenager I used to drag my French horn and all my books several blocks to the town library in Camdenton, MO. At the time it was in the town square and it was everything a library should be. It had secret hallways and mysterious doors, a labyrinth of cubbies and small dark places. Usually I would wait until no one was looking and then I would sneak into the back hallway and clatter through the tight maze, my French horn smacking my knees and my book bag dragging behind me. Occasionally I would see a staff member and they would reprimand me, and I would scurry through one of the doors that would lead me back into the stacks.

I used to believe that somewhere in that maze there was a door that would lead me to another time, another life, a different reality. Of course I used to believe this about a lot of places: my grandparent’s old airstream, in the cave behind their couch, with the craggy cliffs of the fire place behind me, and the weathered upholstery in front, the creek at the back of the cove where I grew up. Even now I question the solidity of this reality. I still feel that there are soft spots here and there between us and other worlds. When I sit in a certain spot just behind the rock wall in my brother’s backyard in Tucson, I know I am almost there. In my dreams I often revisit these places, mostly my childhood library, and I cannot help but wonder if my dreams illustrate the fluidity of life.

The Camdenton library was my haven. I never fared well in the public education system, and after the double doors opened I would escape to the 811s of the Dewey Decimal System. I initially did not understand poetry, only that I belonged in some way. It didn’t help that the library only carried stuffy and hard-to-reach poets. I found myself begrudgingly attached to Frost for some time just because I could understand him. After I found a book I would sneak into the back hallways where I would find an abandoned desk to hide beneath and I would tuck myself into its depths until my mother picked me up.

I went through quite a struggle in my teenage years. By the age of sixteen I simply collapsed beneath the weight of expectation. Expectations of self, from self, of others and of life. It was a battle, but I fought through and swore to never let go of my control again, to limit my trust and expect nothing of others and everything of myself. A lot of solace came from Melody Beattie and AA. While I have never had an issue with alcohol I am a firm believer in many of their beliefs. The biggest gift they gave me was the power of surrendering things I have no control over to a higher power. Now, this was slightly tricky for a person with no defined higher power. I had to create one on the spot, and for awhile I searched for Gods that would work for me, some real, and some imagined. After awhile, I discovered that God is a shape shifter, and for me, she is a compilation of magic and serenity. It made sense to give a name to those places where I felt the presence of another world. Now, I can say that for me God is Robert’s arms, the moment when the spring at Ha Ha Tonka turns into muddy lake, the wide open closeness of the trees on the other side of Hermit’s Holler. When I surrender my helplessness, I give it to the jewelweed at the back of Turtle Pond, or the spot on Roller coaster road where the city opens up. If I can’t control a hateful gesture from another driver I give it to the stacks of the first library that stole my heart.

Every day, as I dragged my French horn and books to my safe place, I dreamed of my future. I knew that I wanted to write, but as a practical person, I also knew that I needed to make money. It only made sense to work at the one place that would always feel like home, no matter where it was. Of course I briefly pondered working at and/or owning a bookstore, but I decided early on that I didn’t want to be a book pusher even if it meant that I could probably bring my cats to work with me every day.

Shelving is so peaceful. I enjoy the constant interaction I have with words and numbers, the repetitiousness of reading the spine and tucking it into its right spot. I do hope to eventually learn all of the library positions, and will attempt to attain my MLS starting next semester.


  1. I'm coming back to read this again...

    Please keep writing......