Meditative Librarian

pile of books

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I saw a job listing for a meditative librarian. But on second read it was metadata librarian.

Nonetheless, now that the position of meditative librarian has been created, even if only in my own mind, I aim to fill it. I will be your meditative librarian. Let’s begin.

Find a comfortable position, in a meditation hammock perhaps.

Feel the weight of the book in your hands. Allow the pages to open naturally.

Breathe in the new book or old book smell.

Feel the weight of the words in your soul.

If reading leads to thoughts, no matter. Let those thoughts occur naturally with no resistance. When you notice them, simply turn your attention back to your reading.

Feelings may arise. Allow them to be.

Let yourself sink into the words on the page. Feel the connection to the world created therein. Hold the characters in your mind. May they be happy. May they be healthy. May they overcome the story’s conflicts.

You are as one with the other readers who have inhabited this same world. All are interconnected.

Allow yourself to continue to read, not trying to control or direct your emotional responses.

Breathe in, rising action. Breathe out, denouement.

When you are ready, end the reading meditation gradually. Close the covers slowly. Take a few cleansing breaths. Stretch and allow your gaze once again to take in your surroundings.

Remember that a regular reading practice contributes to health and well-being. Set aside a time every day if possible.

A Safe Place You Can Take With You

I recently re-read Neil Gaiman’s book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” It’s a quick and thrilling read. The narrator, an unnamed man now in his forties, comes home for a funeral and revisits the family who lived down at the end of the lane from his childhood home. While there, he recalls events from the year he was seven. The happenings included encounters with powerful and sometimes terrifying creatures.

Avid readers will identify with the protagonist when he says, “I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”

Without giving too many spoilers, I’ll stick with saying his situation gets to the point where even his home and family aren’t safe for him. But he still has his books. He reads about Narnia. He reads his mother’s old books about teenage girl heroines who save their country in World War II. He takes refuge with Dick Whittington and his cat. Here’s the really brilliant part. When he’s in danger and can’t get to a book, he keeps himself together by thinking about books he’s read. They’re still with him in his head. It’s even what he says. The safe place is in his head; books get him there.

This struck me because there have been a number of times in my life where no place felt secure, or when I was in a fraught situation where I couldn’t physically leave. But I could read. Whether I was visiting with literary characters who were experiencing the same things I was and thus made me feel less alone, or going on an incredible adventure completely removed from my corporeal life, I could take mental flight through books. Like the boy in Gaiman’s book, I discovered I could create a safe space in my head. I can carry my safe space with me. It’s a pretty good coping strategy. Honestly, I don’t know how non-readers survive.

Happy International Peace Day

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Happy International Peace Day!

What are your favorite books about peace?  Here are a few of mine:

“The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. This story of the bull who refused to fight remains one of my best-loved children’s books. I love how Ferdinand has nothing to prove and only wants to be himself, sitting peacefully among the flowers.

“The War Prayer” by Mark Twain. Think about what you’re praying for when you pray for victory in war. Really think about it.

“Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut. For all of it SciFiNess, this gives a very realistic look at how unromantic and ridiculous war is.

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Yep, I consider this kids’ tale to be a book about peace. There’s nothing about resisting organized battles, but there’s lots about people from different backgrounds coming together and discovering the dual powers of love and responsibility to improve their lives.

Notes on Scraps of Paper

Often inspiration for a story or poem strikes when I’m in the middle of something else. My paying job, for instance. I have a habit of scribbling quick notes on scraps of paper, hoping I’ll remember the entire thought later. Sometimes I make notes on a book I’m reading. Sometimes I forget these notes until I rediscover the scrap of paper many weeks or months later. Maybe in the pocket of a pair of pants I haven’t worn in a while, to give a real example.

Here are some notes I just found in my own handwriting. It’s a list (?) on one sheet:

character identification

takes place night

extreme close up on eye

music

clothing – a.p. – true

horror lies in sympathy

What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

Do You Have Something to Read?

“Oh no. I forgot my book!” That was me, in the salon where I had taken my son for a haircut. Imagine it said in a tone of real panic, because it was. I was reduced to reading a fashion magazine while I waited. Not reading didn’t seem like an option. There was printed matter in front of me, after all, even if it wasn’t my first choice of material.

“Do you have something to read?” This is me any time I’m taking a road trip with my kids.I ask this the way other moms ask “Did you pack your toothbrush?”  I try to remind them, as well, if we’re going some place with a waiting room – doctor, dentist, etc. “Bring a book; we might have to wait.” My kids and I have serious discussions about what they’re going to read next when one of them has just finished a book. These are the among the most joyous conversations of my life.

I found the greatest purse at a yard sale. It’s big enough to fit my wallet and a book. I try to keep a book with me most of the time. I know people who claim they don’t have time to read. But I’ve finished many a chapter while sitting outside a school, waiting for a kid to come out the door. Also, I read while I eat breakfast. And on my break at work. I’ve even been seen cooking dinner with a spatula in one hand and a book in the other. I don’t burn too many things. Thank goodness I’ve never caught a book on fire. Yet.

Does Listening Count as Reading?

For the first time in several years, I have a regular driving commute. Not to work. I still have the same job to which I walk. But my mom lives in town now, in a nursing home about five miles from my house.  That’s a 30 to 40 minute round trip, depending on traffic and weather. I’m making it out there five times per week, so far.

My attempt to make lemonade out of fossil fuels involves checking out lots of music CDs and audio books from the public library. Currently, I’m listening to Haven Kimmel’s memoir, “She Got Up Off the Couch.” I’m getting a real kick out of it. But I have a dilemma about what to do once it’s finished. See, I have these weird OCD habits about keeping a record of what I’ve read. Should I add this book to the list?

It was much simpler when my kids were little and I was listening to children’s audiobooks with them on occasion. Because my rules don’t require me to list things read for someone else’s benefit.

I’ve never counted seeing a movie the same as reading the book from which the movie was made. But this is an unabridged actual reading of the real text. Does it count as reading? Since my schedule is ever more full, I’m trying to make up for lack of looking at text time by using audiobooks as a substitute. I don’t have a problem with listening to a book. My only problem comes with saying, even just to myself, that I read it, when really someone read it to me. For purposes of accommodating my own personality quirks, I think I may have to embrace the asterisk as my savior.

 

Favorite Romances

I don’t read genre romances. I’m not knocking them; only saying they’re not my thing. But I am a sucker for a love story, happy or tragic or confused, as long as it’s well done. Sometimes the relationship is the story, and sometimes it’s only part of the bigger picture.  Off the top of my head, here’s a list of books with my favorite romances. These are in no particular order.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is a tale of two magicians, a girl and boy, bound into a rivalry as children. The venue of their lifelong duel is a magical, mysterious circus.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oh Gatsby – you let Daisy consume you too much.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. This series has two relationships I adore. Precious Ramotswe and JLB Matakoni is the first. Grace Makutsi and Phuti Radiphuti. They’re so real and sweet and awkward.

Second Nature by Alice Hoffman.  Nearly feral love with a semi-werewolf.

Emma by Jane Austen.  The intrepid match-maker who can’t see her own life clearly. For those who have never read Jane Austen and think she’s stuffy, you couldn’t be more wrong. This book is downright funny. Also touching.

Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. Flawed and wonderful characters who stumble through wrong relationships on their way to each other.