In Other Words / The art of wasting time - loitering in libraries
I recently found myself engaged in conversation with a friend, who views most life experiences, cerebrally. She is the one to whom I turn when I seek logic - the one who cuts through the mundane in place of solid reasoning. I rely on her to rein in my spontaneity - show me the practical ropes - convince me that my rose-colored glasses serve no purpose other than to amuse or distract. I appeal to her judgment when my imagination runs amok, and I am in need of a jolt of wisdom over whimsy. She is the Yin to my Yang, the voice of reason in a world slightly off-kilter. If I am the incurable romantic, she is steadfastly immune to fantasy.
And so, when I told her I was off to the library for the second time today, her response was: “Why? Didn’t you find what you wanted before?”
“I found exactly what I wanted,” I say. “I’m simply going back to inhale.”
“What are you talking about?” she asks. “I don’t get it.”
Of course she doesn’t “get it.” Hard-core realists don’t dwell in spectral spaces where all sense of argument and reason fall away. She cannot grasp the pleasures of unabashedly wasting time for no other purpose than it feels good to wander for a bit in a kind of somnambulant state, and succumb to the frivolous allure of inhaling libraries, for example.
“Meanderers” such as I understand why walking through the stacks, lingering among the literati or sitting in a chair surrounded by books, nourish the soul, and are necessary components to one’s well being. We did not, after all, earn our “Meanderer” title by being reality-tested, when flights into fancy are so much more compelling.
And so, I waste time loitering in libraries - a sublime pit stop, much in the way that Happy Hour seduces those who seek solace through a boozy haze of camaraderie and conversation.
Libraries excite the senses. Here, we can dwell among those who came before us - the authors past and present, who fuel the fires of creativity, welcoming us in to their silent worlds.
Today, the air is thick with smells of musty tomes, and inky, annotated margins in which random readers felt inclined to pen a thought. I inhale the perfume of the past and am heady from the scents of cracked leather hides and crusty brown pages slightly tinged with mold.
I tell this to my friend, and she is momentarily riveted. But, she is involved with worldlier ventures like putting out corporate fires, negotiating deals and working the crowd. She is a well-oiled machine designed for power plays and mental gymnastics.
While she is off running the world, I sit in my favorite library chair, looking out at the river, reflecting on the simpler pleasures of life. I abandon reality for the moment to slink off into the dark recesses of my mind.
A week later, on a chilly February morning, she calls. “Want to do lunch?” she asks. “I can squeeze you in between meetings.”
I accept on the spot, surprised by her sudden serendipitous availability.
We sit over our salads, she, in her designer outfit and well-coiffed hair, brimming over with excitement on having sealed a deal that will guarantee her future success.
I tell her about the latest book I’m reading, and how I am stuck on a passage in my own novel I am writing. “My characters aren’t behaving themselves,” I inform her. “The writing is feeling sluggish today. I’ve reached an impasse.”
“Perhaps, it’s time for those rose-colored glasses,” she teases.
This friend and I enjoy each other’s company. The bond between us is strong and enduring. We flourish despite our divergent interests.
She fills me in on her latest project that will earn her the big bucks, complaining that life on the fast track is spinning out of control, and she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep for ages.
I am awed by her determination and business savvy. She is soon off to her next appointment while I am back to my writing; she, scurrying fast so as not to be late. She vanishes out of sight as I trip slothfully through the afternoon, while the joy of doing nothing at all washes over me, and lulls me into a satisfying state of delicious inertia.
Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views every month in the Westport News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at judithmarks-white.com.