We're cleaning out the room we used for storage during the construction and doing a lot of sorting, tossing and consolidating. Eventually that room will be my office and I can stop working at the dining room table. It holds the last collections of things we do not know what to do with; like two bins of clothes I had as a child, but will clearly not be using for my kids. I am holding on to them in case my sister has a girl. The other big thing in there is the books.
I wound up having to unpack the books because the boxes were too heavy and awkward to carry up the folding stairs to the attic. My library says a lot about me. That's probably true of anybody, but as I went through the boxes I could see laid out before me, a catalog of my previous interests and obsessions. There was the Nancy Drew collection from childhood, the Thomas Hardy and D. H. Lawrence books from college, the Celtic myths and legends collection from the time when I was seriously into the fantasy genre of writing, the education and educational policy books from the time I wanted to be a teacher, the books on Russia, the adoption books, the books on the Roosevelts, and WWII, and most recently, the travel writing.
When I develop an interest in something, the first thing I do is grab a book on the subject. Not just one book, but several. Maybe I'd get through a few of the titles, and with the others, I'd feel that by just having them on the shelves they'd impart their knowledge to me. Sometimes too, the collections represented an absence in my life; the belief that when that absence was finally filled, it would be as if I already had years of experience behind me.
For the first time I was able to weed out and let go of some of these obsessions, acknowledging to myself that with all that I had on my plate, it would be highly unlikely that I would get to them, and in some cases they were no longer a part of who I was. A good friend once taught me to eliminate distractions, and it took me a little while to figure out that he wasn't just talking about TV or the Internet. My interests were so vast and varied that I was rarely able to pick one and do anything constructive with it. Well, now I had to face the fact that I was never going to write that fantasy novel, and that I didn't really read them that much anymore either (with a few notable exceptions). I was probably not going to teach at the K-12 level, so many of those books would have to be weeded through.
And while I was doing this, I came across a bookmark. I can't even remember what book it was in, but it was one of those laminated, tassled, numbers with the cutesy saying on it. It was reminiscent of middle school; something you'd find tucked in a Judy Blume book. I was trying think how it got there. I can't imagine buying it. Clearly it came from the bookstore, and that meant I hadn't cracked open that particular book in over 10 years.
My reading patterns have changed since the kids came along. I used to have several books going at once, and I still do, but it takes me longer to get through them. I need the bookmarks now, because there is often so much time between the last time I opened the book and the next, that I have no idea where I left off. I'm reading Of Human Bondage and Italian Days now, and there are sections of each I must have read a dozen times. The books wind up all over the house now, because a few minutes snuck away to read mean that I wind up dragging the book with me when a fight erupts. And so interrupted, I completely forget what I was doing and move on to something else, leaving the book at the now abandoned scene of the crime.
When the children are at school, reading feels like an incredible indulgence. If I am not working on a paid project, I should be writing, or cleaning, or looking for my next project. The only remaining magazine subscriptions are National Geographic Travel and Fast Company, which I typically read cover to cover. I am three issues behind right now. It is hard to finish even the shortest of articles. When my children watched Caillou, I used to laugh at the scenes that had the mother sitting in the living room reading quietly while her four- and two year olds were elsewhere in the house. Like that ever happens.
My reading is like my life - pulled in so many different directions by competing demands and my own interests. What with blogging and reading so many blogs, I have less time for physical books and a greater need for those bookmarks.
In my local Starbucks, a place now littered with non-coffee related marketing, I recently grabbed a bookmark from one of their displays. Looking at it later I realized it was embedded with wildflower seeds, and meant to be planted. Such a neat idea! The bookmark is now tucked into a copy of yet another book I'm in the middle of, one I hope to review here.
Assuming I ever finish it.