I must admit to a bad habit. I love to read – but separate from this, I also love to horde library books. Not all books; just specific books during specific times. They seem to be a sort of talisman. Perhaps I will read them – perhaps not. Maybe I will only skim through, taking a word here, a sentence there, acknowledgements or bibliography. Sometimes it is enough just to have a particular title or cover design on my shelf. When their purpose is served, back to the library they go.
Since late November I have continually renewed The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. I have read it every which way, forwards and backwards and piecemeal, multiple times. I find it extremely comforting. It appears to toute the hypnotic magic of order, but that is only superficial. Conceptually the book is driven by the process of acknowledging, examining and making peace between your past and present.
My very favorite part – the part I look forward to every read through; the climax of the action, if you will – occurs at the beginning of Chapter 4. Ms. Kondo narrates how she comes home.
She talks about unlocking her door, saying hello to her house that has been waiting for her. She puts on water for tea, changes clothes, returns the contents of her purse and tools of her day to their respective places. By this time the water has boiled; she makes tea, and sips while reading through her mail.
It is a very simple progression of actions. She does not directly describe her space any more than necessary to explain, in precise terms, where each item comes from or returns to.
Yet, based on her description, I have an extremely vivid sense of being invited into that space. I am able to map it, conceptually and emotionally. It’s the idea of home as a sort of labyrinth – a space which, as we navigate its physical boundaries, also helps us understand and navigate our internal boundaries and constraints.
Fortunately, my own home – though small – is already a highly effective labyrinth. The library is closed, so my stacks of library books have acquired semi-permanent status.
They form islands in the midst of the floor, and towers in the middle of tables. Some of them function as trays, laptop rests; some of them sprawl invitingly open around my chair. To move through my apartment is to enter into a physical interaction with these books, every bit as intense as the mental interaction of reading them. They now, literally as well as figuratively, shape my world.
And they have indeed guided me towards new understanding. From now on, I’m only checking out e-books.