speaking of what’s on my bookshelf . . .

most books I read never make it to my bookshelf.

only books I love make it to my bookshelf.

it’s partially a financial decision (I read so many books a month I’d have to sacrifice eating or something equally painful to pay for them all), partially a space decision (I’d have to begin building furniture out of books), and most importantly, a decision made because I wish to be surrounded only by things I love.  I mostly buy books only after I’ve read them (borrowing from the library or from friends), making the decision to purchase because I want to treasure them, own them, have them around me, let them speak to me from the shelves, remind me of them as I pass by and glance at the bookcase.

not many of the books I read fall into this category.  many I appreciate, many I learn from.  many I find interesting or gripping, but the ones that capture my heart and soul are few and far between.  which is not a terrible thing.  I don’t need to fall in love with every book I read:  some I need for pure escapism; some I need for advice, validation, education.  the most glorious of all are those from which I expect little, that grow wings and blossom with each turn of a page, and become more than I dared hope for.  surprises. gifts.  unexpected pleasures found.

a while back I was trying to find books on my shelf that might interest my 15-year-old stepson who has not yet learned to love books.  (I fear I gave him nothing at all that piqued his interest, but I tried.)  what I loved, though, during this process, was to run my eyes along the titles, letting images and memories, scenes, stories, characters flit through my mind, oh yes, I loved christopher, oh, and that time he told the story of the bears, and oh, the congo, how terrifying the fighting was . . . tales and pieces and names came flowing in and out as I moved from shelf to shelf.

woe is he who doesn’t read.  whose imagination and memories aren’t filled with richly remembered stories and moments.  television and movies can’t give the same gift as words on pages to which we must add our own imaginative wanderings.

I love my books on my bookshelves.  they tell the story of me, from years of education and introspection and growth to those of joy, escapism, curiosity.  I am my bookshelf, wide and varied and deep and filled with a thousand stories and dreams and realities.

in stating all of this, I do not mean to slight the rest of the books I read and return, for they, too, have had a hand in my becoming who I am.  but unless a book–or a beloved author’s book–resonates deeply with some part of me, it’s unlikely that I will bring it home to rest with all the others who have slowly and certainly become a part of who I am.

begging forgiveness

I need to apologize to everyone who knows me.  apologize, and ask forgiveness.

I live in this world with everyone else, but my version of the world is also populated with every character and story I’ve ever written (or thought about writing), and it is a very full place.  these people and situations live with me, I think about them, these people travel with me and have existences within my own.  they’re seductive; they call to me, plant seeds, send me messages about how they’d like to appear in the next thing I write about them, remind me of what I could do differently, sometimes tell me jokes.

thus, I seem to have less need for movies, television, and communication with other humans:  too much is already going on inside my head and I don’t need more noise.  I like silence, I contemplate, I let things marinate and germinate and grow . . . too much outer stimulation sends me mentally reeling in discomfort.

I’m not quite a recluse, but I am not as socially active as many.  I love my friends and family–they mean the world to me–but I rarely “do lunch” or meet for coffee or even gather for parties, dinner, or sunday brunches.  the wonderful–truly amazing–thing is that most people who know me forgive me this.  but they need to know that I am aware of the gifts they give me by letting me be me.

without quiet time, without hours of solitary silence, I become antsy, irritable, anxious.  cycling helps, but as the winter creeps closer and the air turns cold and darker, my outdoor, solitary cycling hours are lessened.  indoor cycling is a group experience, full of conversation and music, not nearly as soothing to my soul.

thus I beg forgiveness from all I know and love:  I am the quirky person I am, I live with more people inside than seems possible, and the greatest gift all of you solid, human people give to me is the gift of space.  I love you for it.

merci et je’taime, toujours.