To be of use. These words often bump around in my brain and every so
often they rise like cream to the top. As a Librarian, it’s second
nature to want to help people, to take them to the information they
were seeking before they’ve finished asking the question. This phrase
reminds me of John Irving’s Homer Wells trying to be of use.
Throughout the novel he is looking for his guiding principle, trying
to find his place in the world. Pondering Homer’s situation gets me to
thinking about the rules we try and live by. And now I’m wondering
what it would be like if we all jotted them down on a piece of paper
and held them up for the whole wide world to see. What paper, writing
instrument words and phrases would I choose and would anyone else have
a list like mine?
Around this year I find myself coming back to “The Cider House Rules.”
Surely it must be the apples, the smell of them in the air. Maybe it’s
the crispness that has finally overtaken the constant humidity that
had been our companion for the past few months. It’s a break, a
relief, a freeing. There is spice in our coffee, pumpkin in our bread
and apples everywhere. Long pants, long sleeves and we are reminded of
how comfortable we feel in our boots. I feel more like me in the Fall.
I layer my clothes and the color combinations speak to my mood, as
opposed to the sweltering temperatures that meant the least amount of
clothing possible– and only then if it was of a breathable material.
This time of year there are choices and options and the world feels
And when I am in a happy ever-lovin’ humming mood, I turn to favorite
books and movies. There are certain lines of poetry and song lyrics
that I’ve made my own. I repeat them in my head as I drive in my car
and make my way to our dirt driveway. And when I get there I feel like
shouting I’m home, I’m home. Finally, I’ve returned. When you step
through the door you’re instantly hit with that bundling, cocooning
sensation you get when you are surrounded by everything you hold dear
in your heart.
There are days made for journeys and other times meant for returning.
That in a nutshell describes one of the main themes to be found in
Irving’s book: making your way in the world while reinforcing that
being home is where you always meant to be. Yet without the time away
there is no appreciation for the things you have.
There are certain movies we watch during specific seasons of year.
“Notting Hill” for M’s birthday, “Benjamin Button” during the Winter,
“Elf” at the holidays, “Amelie” when I’m feeling nostalgic and “Paris
Je T’aime” when I wish I was elsewhere. Why do it? Why watch or listen
or reread? Isn’t life too short for such things? I think it’s all
about the connections. Each time another year has passed, I’m still
essentially me but different, perhaps I’m looking to find my former
self, or trying to spot the changes since I last watched or listened.
There is a line in “Inkheart” which perfectly describes this
happening: ‘If you take a book with you on a journey,’ Mo had said
when he put the first one in her box, ‘an odd thing happens: The book
begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to
open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come
into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that
place, what you smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were
reading it… yes books are like flypaper—memories cling to the printed
page better than anything else.’
Right now I am rereading “The Little Friend.” Most of the story feels
fresh but certain lines I instantly recognize. I am reminded of the
first time I stumbled across them, happy that they are still able to
ignite a spark in me. I love that Harriet has a purpose, she is a girl
with a mission–she wants to find the person who hurt her brother.
From the moment she wakes up, her plan and her purpose consume her
attention. In some respects I like having a focus, be it helping
people or concentrating my efforts and energies instead of flailing
without a center. Sometimes it’s the pencil I use to scrawl yet
another To Do list; sometimes it’s the camera click which grounds me.
This week while I was babysitting at a friend’s house, I had the
opportunity to glimpse the inner workings of a family that was not
mine. To see upclose some of the intimate details of their day to day
lives. I loved their posted rules and the sunflowers in their garden,
the little green tomatoes desperately trying to redden, the dog
chewing on a stick in the fading September light, the apples in a bowl
waiting to be put into a pie or applesauce or an afterschool snack.
Their eldest son, watching me take these pictures, cheered when I told
him my pictures might be posted online. They don’t all wind up there.
Some of them are blurry, some don’t capture the image that I saw, but
some of them are dear to me. Somehow the blurry ones, the ones I can’t
use, are often the ones I secretly treasure the most.