Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mistress of the House of Books

Seshat, ancient Egyptian Goddess of Writing and Wisdom, 
aka Mistress of the House of Books.

My "house of books" has shrunk over the years. It is now down to four six-foot long shelves, but those shelves are stuffed full of books of all sizes, colors, shapes and subject matter. I've had at least three-quarters of this collection of books for many years. They are "old friends" I turn to when there's nothing else drawing my reading attention. 

Of course, as much as I love these books--my hard copy books--I also have a Kindle and I admit that has taken my attention away from paper books. 

There is one type of reading, however, which will never be just right unless I'm holding the actual book in my hand. Poetry. Poems "speak" best when read from an actual book. 

When the book is open in my lap, I can read the poet's words, glance away from the page, contemplate, and then return my gaze to those lovely pairings. I can't imagine reading Stanley Kunitz' Next-to-Last Things, Intellectual Things or Passport to the War: A Selection of Poems on a Kindle. Nor would Mary Oliver's deep, natural-world, sensual poems "feel" just right if read on a digital device. 

One of my favorite books of poetry is dated 1939. My father brought the book into our home about 1950. The cover is faded blue and tattered, the poems inside are quaint and simple. It was discovered in a trash bin on one of Dad's forays into an old and dusty, fusty building. It's not the poetry that appeals to me as much as the memory of Dad rescuing it from the trash. 

Dad was an elevator repairman and the only one in the company who had the knowledge to work on the ancient elevators still chugging away in some of Portland's oldest office and apartment buildings. He often found some "treasure" to haul home. 

There were a few items he chose to drag home which Mom never allowed into the house (such as old chairs and dressers). "Found" books, maps and old magazines, however, would always find their way into the house and my brother and I devoured them. National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Life and Collier's all came in at some time or other.

I wonder why it is that I enjoy looking at my shelves of books? Maybe because they truly are "old friends," as so perfectly said by Kevin DeYoung in his post about why he hopes real books never die: 

"Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around. And they prefer not to be invisible."


Surviving Stupidity - Part 1

Wisdom is the reward for surviving our own stupidity

Certainly there have been times when my own stupidity, simple lack of awareness or disregard for propriety have put me in, if not dire, definitely uncomfortable, situations. I like to think I've learned from those missteps. Whether they allowed me to gain "wisdom" is debatable. 

What I have attained over these many, many decades of living is peacefulness and mindfulness; an ability to empathize; a need to understand others and their points of view. Maybe this is wisdom.