Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And The Living Is Easy

I was away on vacation for a week but now I’m back. I’d like to share with you a few things that happened while I was away. We spent the week at a family camp in Vermont. The camp has been operating each summer since 1890. We stayed in a tent that was perched right above the water. So we went to sleep to the lapping of the lake and awoke each morning to the same sound. We played games, chatted, cooled off in the lake (I’d have to call what we did bobbing rather then swimming) and read. And on a few evenings we spent time in the camp’s library.

The library building has a plaque on the outside that denotes the architect and the date of construction. This camp has had a private operating library for almost 100 years. There is no official librarian and the use of the library is strictly on the honor system. I do remember about twenty years ago there being a sign-out sheet for the books, but I don’t recall seeing that this year. Perched on the mantle of the fireplace and on the top of some of the book shelves there are photos and memorabilia from bygone times. There is also a telescope and a globe. I’d say there is about 7,000 to 8,000 items in the circulating collection.

The collection has some non-fiction but tends more towards adult fiction. What we now refer to as summer reading; which is a funny term to denote a genera. But like many informal descriptors it’s also a perfect term. No heavy tomes here, lots of murder mysteries and sinister conspiracies. For some reason, we now feel its okay for folks to not read for intellectual improvement during the summer. We get to kick back, loosen our shirts and enjoy reading just for the fun of it. What a great idea! Of course, if you’re at the shore or sitting in a glider in the shade its tough to read something serious. And if someone jumps in the water right in front of you and the book gets splashed the wrinkled pages just add to the experience. Besides it’s usually a paperback so no blood, no foul. Except for the squashed mosquitoes you find every few pages entombed forever between two covers. A reminder of life and death struggles from summers past.

We spent a few evenings in the library. Right around twilight the bugs would come out and reading in the tent wasn’t all that pleasant. So off we ambled to the library with its light bulbs, screened windows, doors and other readers. Every evening we entered we joined about a half dozen others. Each of us observed a strict code of behavior. In all the time I was in that library I never heard anyone speak. Sometimes, if someone’s eyes glanced towards us as we entered we would nod. Silently, each of us quickly settled down and huddled over our selected find. The only sound was the creaking of chairs as folks came and went. After a bit the books would tend to slip and I would realize I had reread the last sentence a few times. I’d look up and see that others too were reading with their eyes closed. Their books resting on laps or chests with their heads tipped. I’m going to guess that that this scene had been repeated thousands of times, over almost a hundred years, each summer in this library. The only change this year was not in the type or person attracted to this place or this particular activity. It was the medium. Even the Kindle reader in our circle had a hard time staying up late to read after a full day in the summer.

See you at the Library,

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