I dusted my bookshelf the other day. The books were stacked two-deep and over time newer purchases had just been piled haphazardly on top. Obscuring the older ones. Hiding some completely out of view. While the bookshelf was handling the entire situation quite stoically, it was bothering me. New books were all very well but I needed to access my older friends a little more easily. The rush and tumble of daily schedules had left me no time to sort this out. And the comfort of my old favourites was sorely needed.
(Strange how it unfolds….we meet new people and forge new relationships….sometimes relegating the older ones to an accessible back shelf These are enduring relationships which have stood the test of time and distances and survived, even flourished. One can almost always start where we had left off….they can be taken for granted up to a point.)
And so it began. I emptied each shelf of its inhabitants. The piles withdrew from the shelves and grew on the floor. The whole enterprise took a long long time…for was I efficiently and speedily dusting, sorting and stacking? No….of course not. I was rekindling relationships with some much read favourites, recollecting the murderer in another, grimacing at my choice of some. (really I BOUGHT THAT?). Smiling at some favourite authors, made even more special as they had been gifted to me. I went through them, wiping each lovingly and occasionally (actually more often than not) reading bits of them-in some to just relish the words, in some to recall a forgotten fact and in some….just to completely refresh my memory-as I had forgotten all about the book-including owning it.
First came those which were an essential part of life. They gave comfort and love but also acted as windows to the soul. We read and recognised in them bits of ourselves. In between their pages and the characters, we saw sides to our personalities which perhaps we did not always acknowledge or recognise. The shades of grey amidst all the colours in us. Our beauty and the beasts within. Our reactions and our thoughts. Our experiences. These books are like people closest to us who love us but know us inside out. There can be no pretence with them and as relationships go, these are the ties of family and a very select few whose presence we choose to include in our lives. There is also, seldom any getting away from them!
The titles by the same authors were re-united with their friends-Roger Ackroyd met Nor M and the Christies marched together. All of MM Kaye smiled. Dick Francis and his jockeys all lined up in a row while Harry Potter stood abreast-from Philosopher’s Stone to the Deathly Hallows. Comfort reading was now a cakewalk. The old and evergreen favourites were sorted and close at hand.
Then came the acquaintances. Liked but perhaps not re-read fanatically. A tentative bond. Books one could take in small doses and took a long time sinking in. Perhaps also, because they were disturbing deep down.
Some relationships are like that, aren’t they? Appreciated but somehow leave you a little unsure of where you stand with them. They leave you strangely unsettled, not knowing whether to take them forward or let them be. Sometimes they mature with time, become less disturbing, more enriching. One is sure of one’s footing. Other times, they fade away. Not in a negative way. There is no rancour.
Some books had showy covers and not much substance….like so many transitory interactions one encounters but with no depth and no desire too, to take it further. Easily disposed…..which was one growing stack too.
And then those which were promising to begin with. Attractive cover, interesting story line. Yet did not really click but were not absolute write-offs. So they remained half read somewhere. Occasionally looked at with liking and a faint curiosity …and then one day when chanced upon during a manic dusting, the interest re-kindles and takes fruition. Dusting off the years, one makes perhaps a fresh start. Revitalises a desultory reading and is surprised pleasantly by the connection. Perhaps the years in between had changed perspective? While not a large pile, it is a comfortable portion to add just that little sparkle to make life stimulating.
Much like rediscovering old friends and acquaintances and finding thoroughly appealing aspects which one never had a chance to discover earlier…due to circumstances. These make for fulfilling interactions and the promise of a future too.
There was also a knot which had never connected and never would. The book was at odds with you and added no value but in some cases took away a lot from one. Peace of mind for one. Little point then in hanging on to something which undermined and caused unhappiness. Some people do that too.
At long last, I came to the end of my days labours. The last bundle to be straightened and set- the constant additions…the new entrants. On a shelf by themselves at the moment, they too would soon be part of one or the other piles and others still would take their place.
That’s the best thing about books isn’t it? One never hesitates in reaching out to pick one. We don’t shy away from them like we do with people. Safer on the whole to bond with a book.
Then again…the books that are meant to be on my shelf will make their way there…as will the people in my life. So better I think to build more bookshelves on the walls around me and make more room…and wait expectantly for what life has in (the book) store for me.
It was therapeutic you know……dusting the bookshelf.