The room’s warm, subdued lighting enfolded me as I took a seat in the professor’s spacious den. Accepting her offer of sparkling water gave me time to appreciate the décor. The tasteful but comfortable furniture, colorful Persian carpeting, and sophisticated accessories spoke of education and privilege. The tall ceiling accommodated a bookcase covering the far wall, shelves filled with well-used hardcover tomes. I felt at home.
The professor and I discussed my pursuing a doctorate. She spoke of the joys of doing what she loved: reading, writing, and teaching. It sounded perfect. Many years later, I am unsure what field of study we discussed. What stayed with me was the sensation of being in the presence of all those books!
As part of my never-ending goal of downsizing, I am going through my library, donating books that I will never read again, and re-reading others. I had rid the shelves of textbooks years ago. During our last move, I cleared out a boxful of literature. This past summer, I dropped books in little free libraries at across the country. My sister and I recently traipsed through weeds in a park in Alburquerque, discovering an inviting clearing with a bench for perusing the books in the miniature house storing several children’s books.
I rarely purchase books, especially print books, opting to borrow from the library. If I want one not available through the library, I purchase ebooks via Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Occasionally I get the print version so that I can share it with other readers. I reread books, not for their characters and plot, but for their literature, getting caught up in artful combinations of words that sing. Although my practical side is aware that I can access almost any literature that I would want to read, I still feel as if I am betraying a friend when I place a book in the giveaway box or a little library.
Having time to contemplate the intricacies of life, I ponder why it is difficult to get rid of books. The resources I used to plan a workshop on Carl Jung sit unused, but I can’t part with them. Why am I emotionally overwhelmed when in a bookstore? Because of our living situation, most of our books are hidden. When we stay with our friends who stack books artfully throughout their home, I notice how familiar titles spark the emotions I felt when I read the books. If asked, I could recall few details of plot, character, and, place, but I can recall if I liked the book or not and if I might want to reread it. Thus, Moehringer’s quote resonated with me. I enjoy being in the presence of books, the comfort of what they might say, the abundance of insight and knowledge at my fingertips. I will continue to downsize, but I also weigh the emotional price of removing tomes from sight. My kids can do that when I am gone.