buried in books

I used to work in our downtown library. I miss the atmosphere, the dust, the pulpy air dearly and daily. I miss being around people that understand that books are where the Divine lives. Yes, I have many friends (both online and off) who share this appreciation, but to be able to talk books all day. For it to be my job, was a miracle.  I worked in the children’s room, buried happily in books and surrounded by sweet small voices. I brought my son in often, usually to wait with me until my husband got done with an in-town production shoot. Xander loved to eat dinner in the storage room in the basement of the library. He loved the secret corridors, quiet and tall stacks of books, and squishy soft cubbyhole spots where he could look at any picture book he wanted. Back then, at three, he liked Gaspard and Lisa, Richard Scarry, Charlie and Lola, and Lois Lenski’s The Little Train.

When we made the decision to move to Alaska, mainly for the wildlife, adventure, scenery, fresh air, clean snow, and purple skies at night, I had to close the door on my library life.  I worked at first in an architecture firm, less glamorous and creatively charged than I thought it would be. I immediately began scanning the online postings for Anchorage’s rich public library for openings. I applied for everything. Most of the positions were filled internally but I never gave up hope. Finally, after a year or so of growing stale and pale in that bland architecture office, I was asked to interview for a library assistant position in the Girdwood branch. The possibility of moving to Girdwood was a potentially beautiful thing; it’s a tiny skiing hamlet an hour south of Anchorage (and still in its municipal reach). Its an emerald little place, full of wolverines and butterflies and glaciers and hot coffee. The drawback of moving there, however, was the fact that my husband would have to commute daily along the often icy, sometimes deadly Seward Highway. It’s a beautiful drive that you remember in your dreams (so blue and black, so white and green, so many waterfalls), but I was nervous about our ancient van, and the dark nights. The headlights would sometimes go out, and the prospect of this happening while my husband was turning on one of the many hairpin turns frightened me to the core.

So I turned the position down, though it would have meant living in a small chalet tucked beneath the shadows of giant mountains in one of the world’s northernmost rainforests. It would have meant shelving plastic sleeved books in a new log library, which was surrounded by giant black spruces. It probably would have been idyllic, but also could have been ridiculous, dangerous, and deadly. My husband probably would have gone along with the move, and the commute, but it would have eventually meant his sanity and possibly would have hurt our relationship.  I still wonder, though. That’s one of those whispering mysteries that still haunts me from that time.

Upon our return to Tennessee, back to warmth and humidity and friendly people, I bulldoggedly tried to get a position in my old library (and several of the branches). So far, nothing has come to fruition, as it’s a tight market, tight budget, with a healthy pool of talent to promote from within. For the past few months I’ve been okay with this, I was basically a stay-at-home mom again, and now am working part time in a comfortable office position. I have felt very warm, and very satisfied.

But my mind is funny. It craves comfort, but then rejects it almost immediately. What else is bothering you? It seems to ask, when nothing at the time really is bothering me. What else would you like to have change in your life? So fucking restless, never quieting, never letting go its iron grip on the quiet that I’ve cultivated. Lately I’ve been wanting back in. I’ve buried myself in writing and books but I’ve felt a bit lonely in that passion. It was so nice to earn a paycheck doing what I love, laboring as my heart beat the same rhythm. I could go back to school, doggedly work my way through the rest of my bachelor’s and an MIS, but then where would that lead me? The system might not hire me. I might have to leave the area to find something and I am not leaving again. Moving where the earth shifted several times over and back again has made me want to place both feet on the ground. Not going. Sit still. Plus, the money involved. The loans. The paperwork and the stress. I just want to be around books all day, and I don’t care if I’m paid only slightly above minimum wage to do so. I kind of feel like I should be paying them, you know?

I don’t regret our move and back again, not a bit, but that is a remnant of something that I miss from before. Maybe the longing for it is only my memory shaking off the excess water of the past. That was nice, but it’s over now. You can’t have that back, you know. You had your turn and now it’s someone else’s. 

Sigh.

(forgive this selfish post)

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12 thoughts on “buried in books

  1. My secret fantasy is to be a librarian, and I, too, worked for years in bookstores, happily shelving and opening boxes and stroking the covers. Sigh. (I also used that fantastic photo recently on my own blog!)

  2. Wow. The never-to-be-known story of working in a log library. Wow. But you made the right choice- you know you did.
    I don’t think this was a selfish post at all. I think it was beautiful and an out-loud whisper to the universe.
    Who knows?

  3. Nothing to forgive here.

    You know what? If you didn’t move back, then you would be able to have the amazing adventures that are surely ahead for you (maybe in this area, maybe in others). You made a space for something else.

    I say this with LOTS of understanding and similar experiences.

    Also, these little splits make us better writers (well, that’s what I tell myself).
    xo

  4. I don’t regret moving back, not really. It’s just the ‘what if’s’ that haunt me a little bit. I like how you stated, “You made a space for something else.” That is a beautiful way of looking at change, Hannah…

    …and I agree on the splits and separation! We romanticize everything, and letting go and leaving are some of the most romantic feelings there are. xo

  5. You remind me of how wonderful libraries really are. I think there’s a link between libraries and childhood. Occasionally I will find a book, an old one, that smells just the way I remember how libraries used to smell.

    Anyhow… I thought of this cartoon after reading your post. Hope you enjoy.

  6. James, I love that cartoon! And I can just see you as a little guy in a library. I know exactly what you mean about that smell! That musty but rich smell of an old book…like an elementary school library!

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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