I often wonder at the magic of libraries, how it is that the right book finds its way to the right reader, like a lost sock finding its match. There are certainly times I enter the library with a mission—to pick up a book on hold, to search for a specific title–but more often than not, I wander around the library simply looking. I make it a point to circle the sections of creatively arranged books, what’s new in fiction and non-fiction, but most often I spend my time in rows and stacks of old books that I somehow missed when they first arrived.
When the perfect book lands in my hands, I feel an odd mixture of daring and delight. I read these kinds of books slowly . . . savoring the words, re-reading passages, pausing to write quotes and sections of meaning in longhand. Perhaps this will be a book that will change my life, shape my thinking in some new way. Or a book that reassures or confirms some notion I have, some way of being.
I walked away from my recent visit to the Snow Branch of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library with an armful of inspiration.
Like a new friend that feels instantly like an old one, this book has been my constant companion all week.
An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery, by Janna Malamud Smith
The good life is lived best by those with gardens—a truth that was already a gnarled old vine in ancient Rome, but a sturdy one that still bears fruit. I don’t mean one must garden qua garden (I am myself desultory in that regard, gung ho in May but disinclined in sticky summer. When serious gardeners don their straw hats, I retreat to our dark, cool library). I mean rather the moral equivalent of a garden—the virtual garden. I posit that life is better when you possess a sustaining practice that holds your desire, demands your attention, and requires effort; a plot of ground that gratifies the wish to labor and create – and, by doing so, to rule over an imagined world of your own.
. . .
As with the literal act of gardening, pursuing any practice seriously is a generative, hardy way to live in the world. You are in charge (as much as we can ever pretend to be—sometimes like a sea captain hugging the rail in a hurricane); you plan; you design; you labor; you struggle. And your reward is that in some seasons you create a gratifying bounty.
This is exactly how I feel about my photography practice which leaves me with a deep sense of private satisfaction.