Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Place #2

We all know what our Happy Places reside. That refuge of solitude (maybe) when things are going astray and we need a moment to catch our breaths, calm down, breath deeply. Even just anticipating the trip to such a place brings about a peace. And a happy place can be more than just a physical place, it can be a state of mind with our imagination being the vehicle of transport. And it does not necessarily have to be a place but a tangible item to grasp in both hands. It can be as simple as just being with someone. Or day dreaming.

The best thing about happy places is that they are just that, places of escape that make us happy. Bring a smile and feeling of well being.

The second happy place that I have decided to commit to this blog is The Library. As long as I can remember, since my Mother is a librarian, I have felt an awe of libraries. The first one brings to memory the smell of musty books, dark tomes that were hidden in the upstairs dusty high ceilings ancient building of down town. This place would never do for my Mom, so she organized and championed a renovation (some people more than likely cursed my Mom due to a library tax increase) that resulted in a comfortable refuge, a learning center, a place of gatherings and children's hour, open later and I dare say revitalized a little bit of downtown.

I found myself standing in an aisle of the downtown branch of The Big City with eyes closed trying to remember the name of an author my brother mentioned as an excellent writer of Civil war fiction. Try as I may to empty my mind so that the elusive name would just POP in, I could not reel it in. I read a trick was to think of a place concentrate. I found myself laying on the front yard lawn of the first house my parents purchases. I had my hands behind my head and was stating at the blue sky and the white billowing clouds as they crossed over head. I could feel the soft grass under my arms and the smell, oh the smell of clover. I was astonished that I dragged this memory out of ....nowhere! So astonished that I could not complete the exercise which consists of then counting up 30 steps and then throwing open a door. What you are looking for (trying to remember) will be on the other side of the door.

It was too sweet a memory to let go of, so I began to browse the titles to the left of my head. I was in the "M" section and laid my hand on "At Play In the Fields of the Lord" by Peter Matthiessen. "I'll be damned" I though to myself, "He writes fiction too?". I added it to the small stack I was taking home.

I began to read the novel and halfway through it I realized this story, written in 1965, reminded me of the books that I would sneak (or so I thought) out of the library under the discriminating eye of my Mother. Actually, it was fairly easy, as she was confident that our Catholic upbringing and her unfaltering faith would lead us to the correct books for our young minds. This is how I was able to read Peyton Place, Joy in the Morning, Our Crowd etc. at a very tender age.

APITFOTL was much like those books. Well written, great story, characters that haunted your non-reading state, people you cared for and hoped that maybe you were a little bit like them. The prose was fabulous...."we were like butterflies pinned to the frames of our mortality...." (something like that) and there were missionaries and mercenaries, good and evil, nakedness and South American natives. How I would have loved this book at 12. Not quite understanding the human emotions, the driving hungers and searches for meaning and salvation, but I would look forward to the day when it would all make sense.

This is what I love about the library, always have and why I always carry a book around with me much to my husbands chagrin. I raise my eyes from the written page and respond to his criticisms of my inattentiveness of his channel surfacing!! I shake my head at him, for why would I ever compare re-runs of Combat and The Rifle Man with a masterpiece such as APITFOTL?

The library is my escape.

The library is a magic carpet.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Mary, this is also a great film, 1991, starring Tom Berenger, John Lithgow, Darryl Hannah. Kathy Bates, and the redoubtable Tom Waits. Long film...took up 2 reels on VHS, but haunting.