Every so often I acknowledge with reluctance the need to clean my study. Okay, let’s be honest here; I’m forced on occasion to undertake a purge. Were it not for my dear wife, who is a minimalist when it comes to possessions, I might soon disappear under the mounds of paper and other detritus.
Near the top of my list for summer projects this year was, you guessed it, “CLEAN my study.” I began with gusto, removing everything from the closet, then putting most of it back.
Trips to Goodwill and the recycling depot didn’t make much of a dint in my chattels. The only thing left for me to weed, was my books, eliciting a visceral reaction which in the past has limited my good intentions to moving piles, or reorganizing shelves. This time, however, I managed to remove all the books that resided on my desk. Most of them were paperbacks I had purchased for fifty cents each at the library book sale, so it was an easy place for me to start. A month later some still sit in a box under my desk, awaiting their final destination. Others are on the “to read” pile next to my bed.
With a glimmer of cleaning zeal still alive I take a visual stroll along the treasured volumes, hoping that something will offer to leave. Surely I don’t need all the tattered play books from my theatre school days, or my children’s thirty-five year old copies of Beatrix Potter. I could help promote some of my author friends by passing along signed copies of their books, or at least free up some space by getting rid of queer theory and history. Perhaps my collection of Virginia Woolf could find a better home.
They all remain.
But, it’s okay. The more I try to condense my library, the more I understand why it is a monumental task. These books are full of wonderful stories set in many places I’ve never been, and filled with a wealth of characters I will only meet within their pages. On a more personal level, my books tell a story that isn’t between their covers – the story of “my” life. Each one brings back very specific memories: where I was, what I was doing, who I was with. And I find a smile creeping onto my face, whenever I journey back in time at the sight of a familiar spine.
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