Rock cairn

Rock cairns are route markers, way-finding tools.  They can guide us back on track after doodling along, lost on our pilgrimages.  Often they are built by people who have gone the route ahead of us.  They say we are not alone on our journeys.














Leaving My Head Inside a Book

September 2, 2012

Piles of books on my dining room table

An Afternoon in the Stacks
by William Stafford

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside.  It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages.  An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me.  From in here the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open.  When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library.  But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

This has been a week of books and reading for me.  The Seattle Public Libraries have closed for the week for budget reasons, and I spent my week off without pay immersed in book after book.  Books are my way to travel on the cheap, to transport myself out of the humdrum of my routine life.  An ideal vacation in many ways.

(P.S. One of my favorite novels from my week of reading was Ivan Doig’s The Bartender’s TaleDoig, who now lives in Seattle, is one of my favorite writers.)

Stack of donated blankets with story tags attached

I took advantage of a free-admission day on Saturday and traveled by bus to the Tacoma Art Museum to see Marie Watt’s exhibit about blankets and stories.  She elevates ordinary, everyday blankets to the level of art.  Two of the most intriguing pieces were simply stacks of used and donated blankets.  For the installation, Dwelling, donors wrote stories about their blankets on tags.  Among the most poignant tales was Peter Kubicek’s — he donated his blanket from a Nazi concentration camp.

Blankets can be pregnant with meaning — think of security blankets, kids forts, warmth and comfort, picnics . . .  Blankets can hide things and cover flaws and ugliness — think of blankets of snow or fog.

Here are some more photos:

Marie Watt Exhibit entitled “Lodge”

Patrons could finger the blankets and read the story tags.

Every blanket holds a story.

Tall column of folded blankets

Blankets as art

Stacked blankets






Books, Books, Books

December 13, 2009

The Young Adult section of the Greenwood Public Library

In the stacks at the Greenwood Public Library

Red chair and children's books, Greenwood Public Library

In the stacks at the Greenwood Public Library

In my job, I’m surrounded by books.  I feel like a kid in a candy store.  So many books, and such a finite time to read them!  I can identify with Italo Calvino in this passage from If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler:

“. . . you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you.  But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading, the Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written.  And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered.  With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too.  Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
     the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
     the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,
     the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,
     the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,
     the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,
     the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,
     the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
     Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.”