Some dreams shine brightly right in front of our eyes. They are the big shiny possibilities which pull us forward and cause us to despair because they are so far beyond our reach. Other dreams are quiet. They exist in the backs of our brains and we pay them no attention until that moment when they either come true and bring us unexpected joy or become forever unavailable and bring us unforeseen grief. Quiet dreams matter. They are the difference between a joyful life and one spent in hollow pursuit of the shiny, unreachable dreams. This past year I’ve been working to identify and fulfill some of my quiet dreams. I started by giving myself permission to want things, even things I knew I’d never have. Then to my surprise, I found that many of the wants which emerged were very easy to fill, and once they were, they significantly added to my daily happiness. One of the quiet dreams that emerged was a desire for a library.
I’ve always had books in my life, lots of books. They lived more-or-less on shelves, though most of them spent significant amounts of time in stacks or piles. Some of the piles became semi-permanent installations in various corners of the house. They were like flotsam in the eddy of a flowing stream, places where books gathered because people set them down there. I made periodic attempts to clear out the piles as they became messy. I’d stack books on shelves two deep, because there weren’t enough shelves. Occasionally I would sigh to myself and wish for more shelves. Sometimes I would get desperate enough to buy an additional small book case and find a corner where I could shove it. Then it too would become home to stacks of books. Thus books accumulated in all the corners of our house and our lives.
When I stood in my office and pictured knocking out a wall, the world opened up with new possibilities. I could have guest space, a craft desk, and finally enough shelves to house all the books. It was the fulfillment of half a dozen quiet dreams, things I’d been doing with out for a very long time. The office was completed last May. I finally installed the shelves this week. I pulled the books from their boxes and placed them on the shelves. The shelves began to fill and something magic happened. I didn’t just have shelves of books, they transformed into a library. There was space to sort by size and type. I could put all the kid friendly books in easy child reach, while placing other books up high. All the anthologies could go together. This type of sorting was not possible with books stacked and piled all over the house. Then I remembered, I used to do this. As a child, I sorted my books. I’d learned about the dewey decimal system in school and tried to create a numbering system of my own. Some of my childhood favorites still have giant numbers scrawled inside the front covers or taped to the spines. For a while I used unicorn book plates.
The numbers were for the checkout system I had devised to track who had borrowed my books. I revised my system multiple times over the years as various systems fell apart. I’m not sure that anyone ever checked out a book from me, but the organizing and planning made me happy. Much of my discretionary money went into book purchases. I wanted to own every Black Stallion book. Even as a teenager I made list of books I wanted to own someday. I’ve been an amateur librarian all my life without realizing it. And now I have a library.
This makes me incredibly happy. Our book purchasing habits have changed. More of our books will be electronic than mass market paperback, but the hardbacks are going to continue to accumulate. My kids are acquiring manga at a frightening rate. Some of these books will be passed along to make space for new ones. But even though the contents of the library will evolve, I find it wonderful that we are able to set aside this small corner of my house and put books there first. The existence of this space declares that stories matter, that they deserve a space of their own. And there is a comfy couch right there so that people can sit down to read. It is a beautiful thing.