17 December 2008

Tiny little fractures

It is pouring and cold again today. The tree guy has cancelled for tomorrow because of the weather, which has taken a bit of panic of the I-HAVE-TO-GO-TO-THE-GROCERY-STORE-BECAUSE-I'M-HAVING-A-DINNER-PARTY-IN-A-WEEK-AAAAAGGGGHH! variety off me. Now I can go tomorrow when I might actually have a list of what I need and it won't be raining quite so much.

However, I'm having a dinner party in a week, and trying to get my house ready (read: who cares about my soul, those toilets better get clean now!) Having just waved goodbye to five 33-gallon garbage bags of clothes and stuff that doesn't get used as it was put on the back of a charity's truck, I'm tackling one of the worst jobs: the books that are constantly strewn all over the house.

We are a family of readers, and one wall in the living room is completely covered in mahogany bookshelves. Which are filled beyond capacity, books double shelved, sharing space with the decorative items in the display areas, holding up the 500 record albums crammed onto the bottom shelves, stacked along the top (the cat loves to run behind the line of books up there. It's nine feet off the ground and if he can knock only half the books off at 3 am, SCORE!). You can't discount that the children each have large bookcases in their bedrooms, and there are frightening piles in our bedroom as well.

We read our books, and they trail after us like debris flows. Books are everywhere.

Visitors love our books. We have rare ancient copies of Mary Roberts Rinehart, a dilapidated set of the complete works of the Brontes from the 1800s, a totally random tiny Croatian dictionary. Rare Earth cheek by jowl with The Hot Zone. Peeling calculus texts alongside the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition. Strunk & White (still one of the best style texts ever) and the other tools of my trade jostling for space next to books on pioneer medical women, and books on plague and malaria (also mine). Everything ever written on the Battle of Jutland, Jane's Warships, and tomes by Dorothy Sayers and Robertson Davies. A real encyclopedia. More dictionaries in Russian, German and Spanish, even English. An enormous collection of ghost stories, and another on the space program. More geology than anyone should be able to digest in a lifetime, and texts on neurology and engineering. Misty of Chincoteague, Winnie the Pooh, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, The Lotus Caves, some of the very few books I was able to save from my childhood.

It is not unusual for me to find a missing guest perusing the shelves or comfortably ensconced in a chair, reading.

Everyone's favorite? A collection of science fiction stories entitled Alien S*x. I can't even remember how we ended up with that, but everyone seems to gravitate toward it.

My book on the Greenland mummies is also there with PV Glob's The Bog People (not a horror story, except in the real sense, but the true story of the discoveries of well-preserved Iron Age bodies found in peat bogs) and a coffee table book of Greene and Greene houses and another on Frank Lloyd Wright's stained glass. Planting your own cottage garden. Sibley's guide to North American birds.

Freud. Jung. Religion and Sexism. Women from the Greeks to the French Revolution. Physical chemistry. Stephen Jay Gould. Jared Diamond. Alice Thomas Ellis. John McPhee. Margaret Atwood. From the Beast to the Blonde. Rabelais.

Books signed by astronauts.

(Years ago, we went to a signing by Buzz Aldrin. The son was very young, perhaps a bit more than 2. Mr. Aldrin had a Buzz Lightyear toy beside him, which the son, of course recognized, and wanted to discuss with the gentleman in question. Mr. Aldrin was far more interested in talking to the son than to us, which I still find wildly amusing).

Kate Atkinson. C.S. Lewis. Mark Twain. Mikhail Gorbachev. Galileo's Daughter. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The collected works of Winston Churchill.

It's like a treasure hunt, those shelves.

A white book of portraits, including me in a white dress, 20 years ago today, rain in my veil, mud on my hem. Trying not to make faces at the photographer.

Stuff authored by the spouse. Stuff authored by me.

"Are you still working?" CB asked me Saturday night.

"Erm," I replied. "Technically I'm freelancing, but since I'm not actually looking for work at the moment..."

Which means if work finds me, fine. But I'm not actively in pursuit.

"Is that yes or no?"

I said hurriedly, "I traveled the last year. A lot. I amassed notebooks full of information, full of stuff, full of words. I may or may not do something with it. So yes, I'm still working."

I was working the whole time I was gone, even if I didn't always recognize it.

I've weaseled my way into doing some editing in the early part of the year. I have...projects in the works, one that requires more research. Maybe. I have ideas for a couple of magazine articles, but enough to shop those. Maybe. This is a twist from the sort of work I usually do and definitely different from the way I normally do it. But it's still maybe.

Maybe I'll just be lazy.

I have refused my call, but it keeps yelling. Weird things happen, little alarms that remind me of who is, improbably enough, part of my life, that I have a place in the world, even if I keep trying to hide behind the scenery.

There is more travel in my future, but different from last year. I probably will have to take a weekend in Oakland next month (not my choice), and then I'm heading to New York for a few days. Initially, that was a reaction to the spouse taking off with the old boy geologists and going to Death Valley the first weekend of December. "Fine!" I announced. "I'm going to New York!"

"Oh," he said, looking faintly alarmed. "You're bored."


"Oh God," and when he said it, I think it was a prayer.

Later, if I follow along with a project that feels right, Maine, South Dakota, and then, parts north. But we'll wait to see what develops.

Could be another book for the shelf.

Go listen to some good music: "Tiny Little Fractures" from the album Final Straw by Snow Patrol.

What do you mean I don't love you
I was standing there, wasn't I?

1 comment:

jeannette stgermain said...

I smiled about the books - our houses must have a similar look :)
I remember well how intimidated my-now-son-in-law was when he came for the first time to our house. He looked around the living room and said slowly, AAAh, I don't know how to be...I've never seen that many books." I didn't tell him then, that in the bedroom where he would sleep, there was another solid wall with books.
good luck with your clean-up!