Definitions & Libraries

March 8, 2019

  

 

 li·brar·y

/ˈlīˌbrerē,ˈlīb(ə)rē/

noun: library; plural noun: libraries

• a building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or refer to.

 

It seems that I have been thinking about libraries a lot lately. I had the good fortune recently to hear Louise Penny speak at library fundraiser. In addition to being a wonderful mystery writer, she is also a very engaging and funny speaker. During one of her more introspective moments, she spoke of how books and her local public library played a very important role in her life, especially as a child. Her recollections resounded with me as my childhood was also filled with countless hours of wandering up and down the stacks of books in my public library and then more hours spent sprawled across my bed with my newest selections. Once I had devoured most everything in our small local library branch, my mother started driving me to the large, central library in the city. Books fed my insatiable desire to learn new things and the libraries provided me with a community of similarly minded people. Fast-forward to today and my favorite “feeling safe and introspective” places are still libraries, but my definition has broadened a bit and most of these "libraries" don’t even require a library card.

 

​​li·brar·y

/ˈlīˌbrerē,ˈlīb(ə)rē/

noun: library; plural noun: libraries

• a room in a private house where books are kept.

 

Approximately ten steps from our house is my studio. It is a small outbuilding that has a work table, tools, bins and some file storage, but what I love most about it is the wall of built-in book shelves. I love to sometimes sit, with the light pouring in the windows, and randomly pull books off the shelf and leaf through them. Other times, I go directly to a book for a specific reference or fact that is patiently waiting on a shelf for me to retrieve. The quiet serenity of this space matches that of the public library, but here the soft sounds in the background are of ice groaning on the lake and birds chattering at the feeder instead of the hushed voices and footsteps of people.

 

li·brar·y

/ˈlīˌbrerē,ˈlīb(ə)rē/

noun: library; plural noun: libraries

• a collection resembling or suggesting a library

 

Very recently, I have also come to realize that our yard, the nearby woods and all that is beyond are also libraries. When I look at all the characteristics of what I think a library is, lo and behold our yard, the woods and the lake are all collections of information. This realization hit me this week when I was cross-country skiing in the nearby woods. The calmness and peace that I felt as I was gliding along was one that I have long associated with this activity, but it was the first time that I realized that it was the exact same way that I felt whenever I spent time in an “indoor library”. As I paused to consider this, I saw how each of the trees, birds and rocks were “books” waiting to to explored. Ash, maple, shagbark hickory and wait a minute what about that gall? Was that a red-tailed hawk? And in bushes is a small flock of robins, isn’t it early for them to be here? What about that lichen-covered rock that just scraped the bottom of my ski, exactly what kind of rock is that? So much to observe and learn! Which one to “pull off the shelf” first? It seems that right now the answer is the volume on seeds.

 

I am just cracking the cover (pun intended) on learning about seeds. How is it that I have lived for over half a century never thinking very much about seeds? Well I guess I have just had my nose in other “books” up until now. Many years ago, I completed several paintings that highlighted the different patterns of sunflower seeds and pinto beans, but I hadn’t really paid much attention to seeds since then. My interest in seeds was piqued again when I became involved with helping prepare seed trays for germination at The Hickories, which is a local farm. The variety of shape and size of the vegetable and flower seeds were tantalizing and I was soon wooed into ordering seed of my own to germinate. Most recently, I am not only paying closer and closer attention to the seed that I am ordering, but I am also now trying to collect and save my seed from my own plants and other local sources. Last fall, I collected three, local varieties of milkweed that I safely stored in little containers. My plan is to  try and germinate some of the seed in a week or two, but the remainder of the seed will be put on a shelf serving as the beginning of my new seed library. I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds!

 

 

As this quote from Seedtime by Scott Chaskey shows seeds are the essence of life as we know it, “Encapsulated in each seed is a story, a story held in a state of rest until released...A plant’s coming into being, or maturation, is such a quiet progression that we tend instead to focus on the fruit, the colorful prize of production and the vessel of taste. To grasp the whole story, however, we will have to look at the structure of a flower, how plants have evolved to attract pollinators, and how a flowering plant produces seed. Our entire food supply is a gift of the angiosperm revolution...and our health and food futures are entwined with the way in which we choose to nurture or manipulate the seeds of that natural revolution.”

 

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