I have just returned to work after a week vacation. For my vacation, I decided to tackle the spare bedroom where I have managed to store a collection of books which could possibly rival any small town’s library. I am absolutely in love with books on almost any subject. I have always been thirsty for knowledge about the world around me. I have always wanted to try and understand the world. I read with the goal of trying to understand rather than with an eye for judgment. The world and its diversity is fascinating and limitless. There is always something new to learn. Row upon row of books on my shelves is a testament to my attempt to learn and to understand.
Books are like old friends that manage to remind me of times in my life. My college textbooks are still on my shelves. I cannot imagine not having my old nursing school books. I never completed the program but the notes in the margins remind me of who I was back then. My collection of Jane Austen novels reminds me of the first apartment I lived in right after graduating from college; I would sit on the balcony, sip a glass of iced tea and read Austen’s precise language. I still have those books along with some receipts from stores where I had shopped; I had left these receipts between the pages as bookmarks. Novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Doris Lessing, Joseph Conrad,Theodore Dreiser, and Kate Chopin line my shelves and remind me of my courage to go back to college to earn my Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing when I had feared my older age would have barred me from tackling my dreams of becoming a professional writer. My old college algebra book reminds me of how I had exasperated my math professor with my inability to comprehend algebraic equations. I can still see my professor’s compassionate gaze-she let me write a report on a mathematician so that I could bring my grade F to a solid D-. My book shelves are testament to those times in my life when I had struggled to make sense of loss due to death, divorce, disappointment. Different translations of the Holy Bible have offered me comfort, as have the words of writers such as Cheryl Richardson. Richardson’s Stand up For Your Life helped me to do just that when I didn’t think I had the strength to. She gave me strategies. I couldn’t imagine not reviewing her words from time to time. The Book of Psalms is always within my reach. It gives me comfort like nothing else can. In particular, Psalm 37: Be merciful unto me, O God, for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge until these calamities overpast.
Yearning to understand other peoples’ faiths led me to study the Bhagavad-Gita, the Dhammapada, and Thomas Cleary’s The Essential Koran. I closed each book with a deeper understanding of my own faith and those of others. Each gave me something to ponder. I couldn’t imagine not having these books at my fingertips. I learned something from each one.
Getting rid of too much clutter is, of course, important. Donating unused items to those who could benefit from the re-use of items is an absolutely wonderful idea. However, in my clearing out the clutter in my home I carefully identified those precious books that have enriched me. I have cleaned the shelves, dusted off the covers of these much beloved books, and lovingly placed each back to its honored place. I like to gather books around me and read back through. It is interesting how the passing of the years can change my own perspectives and make me see something new when reading something from long ago.