Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bringing Home the World on Wheels

Last Friday on my weekly pilgrimage to the library I found on display, on the shelves set aside for the Friends of the Library Book Sale, a 1999 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia in excellent condition. There were call number labels on the spines of the volumes which had been blacked out. Evidently the set was being retired from the library's collection. The sign on top said 'Make an Offer'. It has been years since I have spent more than a couple bucks on anything for myself. I stood in front of those books and practically drooled. It was as much a nostalgia trip as anything. My parents bought us a second hand World Book set when I was about eleven. I loved it. I started trying to read them cover to cover. But I never made it more than fifty pages into the A volume before I got sidetracked by the list of related articles at the ends of major articles. And of course many of the articles in those lists had lists of their own. My favorite way to 'read' the World Book encyclopedia was to follow those trails from volume to volume. Opening book after book and leaving them spread open, layering book over book in a blossom of pages. I loved the maps of countries and states and the plants and animal photos. That set had been published before Kennedy's presidency and the pictures and maps were all black and white but it was still engrossing. This set I now stood before was full of color photos. Nearly every page sported at least one. And not only that, the covers were an eye popping cornflower blue. One of my favorite colors. Not that I would have turned down the set because I disliked the color of the covers. Hardly. But it seemed an added boon, almost an affirmation as though the books whispered to me by this sign that they were meant for me.

The timing was so providential. I had access to the World Book Online but the internet connection we have is not broadband and major graphics are time intensive to download. So my most urgent need for access to good maps was often thwarted by this limit. My time on the computer here is too precious to waste sitting here staring at a little bar-graph creeping from left to right. I have eight hours--10PM-6AM--and that time has to be split between creating and uploading HTML pages, blog posting, journaling, writing and editing essays, poems, stories, emails and all internet research related to them including news and current events as I no longer have any faith in the MSM.

I didn't dither over my decision for long. I had seen a similar set in a box on the floor directly after a Friend's sale and when I inquired about them was told they were already sold. My disappointment had haunted me into my dreams. How could I walk away from this opportunity? I couldn't and I didn't. While checking out my selections, I spoke wistfully about the set and how it conjured up childhood memories. I said that I really wanted it but would have to go back home for the money. It would mean giving up Dr. Phil and Oprah but it would be worth it. But she said that wouldn't be necessary. She would put a sold sign on the set and it would be waiting for me when I came back which would be Tuesday at the latest as I had another batch of books due that day. I agreed to this and walked home feeling as though I were floating, wondering how long Tuesday would feel like forever.


Forever arrived today. I left home at twelve-fifteen. I got back at two, having brought with me the entire set of World Book. All 22 volumes. Got 13 into the rolling backpack. Another five into the small turquoise duffle which I carried by slinging the single strap over my head and across my chest so the weight of the books rested over my shoulder blades. The last four I put in a paper bag with handles and the librarian helped me by providing a large sturdy rubber band and a piece of yarn. I had to find a way to carry the paper bag in the same hand which pulled the rollling backpack as I needed to keep one hand free to carry my cane. I rested the bag against the bar of the backpacks pull handle holding the handles of the bag and the top of the pull bar together. I was going to go like that before she fetched the yarn and rubber band. She put the rubber band around the bag and the pull bar to help hold it in place and she wrapped and knotted the yarn around the two handles so that I did not have to keep hold of it every second. This left me free to release the handles and let the bags stand alone for short breaks to flex my fingers every couple blocks. I could have left behind whatever wouldn’t fit into the backpack and got them on the next trip. But I just couldn’t bear to. Even though I knew I would not need or be able to look at all 22 volumes today or even in the next week I still wanted them home with me. I wanted to be able to know exactly how much space I needed to prepare for them. Though I could have solved that by measuring them on the shelf before I started packing them. I confess I just wanted them!


I checked out only two items that day, a paperback novel for my husband and a video for his shut-in 90-yr-old grandma. I was walking back out the door in less than fifteen minutes from walking in. So anxious I was to get home and explore the world again as I had at eleven. I felt like I was walking several inches above the ground. Less than two blocks from the library, a tall, bearded gentleman carrying a large sanded tree branch as a walking stick passed me going the opposite direction. The two of us had passed each other in reverse fashion just half an hour or less earlier when we had exchanged nods. I was debating in my mind whether to nic-name him Moses or Walt Whitman when he stopped and, taking note of my white cane, asked if I was lost. I almost laughed as I restrained myself from asking back, How could I be lost? I've got the World on wheels right here. Instead I just said, No. Thank-you, I'm fine. And he said, Oh, I just thot since I saw you going that way just a few minutes ago... But I was shaking my head as I said, I was just at the library and now I'm headed back home. And he nodded saying, I see. And we exchanged Have a nice day and continued on our ways.

I really didn’t get a chance to look closely at them until I moved out to the computer to start my session tonight. At the last second I grabbed the A volume and brought it with me and have been having a hard time keeping my hands and eyes off it.. The color photos and drawings are awesome. But I need to lay off and get busy. I just spent an hour going back and forth between my journal (where the first draft of this post took form) and looking at the pictures and glancing at the articles and just luxuriating in turning the pages and feeling the heft of the book in my hands.


2 tell me a story:

Catholic Bible Study 3/20/2007 2:23 PM  

Check out this blog about Bringing Home the Word, Exploring the Bible through the Roman Catholic Lectionary!

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