. . . that's how I felt a couple of weeks ago when I felt I needed to make some changes in my life. I was dealing with a return of vertigo which seems to come and go when my life has stress or is disorganized and messy. Messy was hardly a word to describe the plethora of books in my life. I had books piled up in the living room, filling end tables, spilling off the numerous bookshelves in our house. They were double booked on my bookshelf in my husband's office and mine. I had glanced at this literary cataclysm so many times it no longer jarred. But when the vertigo came back, so did the disquiet over the mess I saw every day. It was time to simplify at least this area of my life and when the vertigo eased, I dug in. I thought the job would be easy. If the book hadn't been read in the past two years, out it went. But books are peculiar things. They attach themselves to in you unusual ways.
In the book, Inkheart, Mo, a bookbinder, tells his daughter, " . . The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it . . .books are like flypaper- memories cling to the printed page better than anything else."
And this is exactly what happened to me as I started my heartless purge. I pulled down a tattered a copy of Captains and Kings and remembered sitting in my small living room in my first home, curled up in our third-hand loveseat, snatching moments between feeding my firstborn and laundry. I could feel the sun coming in the living room window, I could see the fields, covered with snow, stretching away from our little house.
And so it went. Roots, a book my husband and I discussed while doing chores together in our pig barns (now long sold), my collection of LaVyrle Spencer romances, lovingly collected as my children grew, the collection growing and moving with me from trailer to rented home to renovated home to where we live now. Assorted fantasy novels that transported me to other worlds when my own world with four biological children and one handicapped foster child could be so complicated and unsure.
Each book I pulled off my shelf carried a memory even if the story itself was not so memorable or meaningful. Could I truly get rid of these? But what was the alternative? I knew I wouldn't stop buying books and my book collection was truly getting out of control. So I hardened my heart and started pitching. And as I did I realized some books were not my friends. Some had not delivered on the promise the offered when I lovingly held them in the store, touching their pages, waiting to be taught and transported.
But it was still hard. Even though I own hundreds of books, I struggled to discard a small portion of my library. I felt as if I was getting rid of friends. Some maybe not such good friends, but they had come into my home and into my life and some of my memories had stuck to them, like flypaper. Discarding the books did not discard the memory, but the mind is a fickle thing. Memories can be lost if not resurrected enough and in our busy lives, who has time to meander through the past when the present demands so much of our attention?
I know I will buy new books and as I read them some will enter my life and hold my memories. Some will be fleeting and maybe unimportant, but some will weave their story around my heart and become intertwined with my life. Those are the ones I will keep and those are the ones I'll hold out to my family and friends and make the introduction - "You've got to read this book" and wait to see what they thought.
And when I'm gone, my children can pick them up and puzzle as to why in the world mother kept three copies of The Moonflower Vine, Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. (One for keeping and one for sharing and one a backup in case I lost one of the other two)
Check out some of my own books at www.carolyneaarsen.com