The Parkdale branch of Toronto Public Library is packed full of people reading, working, talking, goofing around, crying, whining and laughing. The security guard gives advice to a young girl, who says something like ‘I just feel like they’re not hearing me sometimes….’.
The library is a single floor, nestled in a relatively underprivileged neighborhood close to one of my old apartments. It’s a carpeted, swimming-pool sized room – twenty fully-occupied work tables surrounded by walls and stacks heavy with books. A quick scan counts at least 40 backpacks, eight pairs of rubber boots, one wheelchair, three umbrellas, five languages, one crutch and four sharpie hi-liters. There are perhaps 150 of us here, between the ages of five and ninety.
The walls are leaf green on drywall, sky blue on cinderblock. The same paint was used on book stacks and is repeated with earthy brown in the carpet pattern – sixties Escher-like overlapping circles. I wonder – did the head librarian choose this decor (I like it), or does somebody out there design library colours & consult with TPL?….
I’m sitting between two men who are both wearing widely striped sweaters, so my peripheral vision is zinging. It’s a comic exercise in focus to keep my eyes and my attention here on what I write.
It’s been 2 hours, and is now 6pm. I’ve spent some time digging around in Carl Jung, Virginia Woolf and a book called Old Mistresses; Women, Art and Ideology. Good chewing, while the hum of library rises and falls in the room. If I close my eyes it feels like swimming; my thoughts float as they will on gentle waves of sound and movement.
Then I open my eyes and the striped sweaters snap me back here.
Today in the Toronto rain I’ve been thinking about how things become valuable. And which things become so, and why.
There are those things one might expect, but sometimes forget to be enriched by. I love my daughter’s capacity for courage, her willingness to leap where most others would not. I adore and cherish our youngest cat’s unsatiable need for play and discovery; the fierce protective loyalty of our second-youngest, Samantha. Purrl, the older indoor cat for her silent, compelling intelligence – I’ve never met a four-legger more articulate than she. Oliver, the roly-poly old man cat, now deaf and slow, but still so engaged with the world around him.
I so value our house, and the way it continues to teach, demand of, and heal us, at soul-level; the 100s of trees we’ve planted over seven years that grow and grow – even the ones who were girdled by rabbits; the plants that so willingly and generously work with me, the sun and the rain in our gardens – oh my, but God lives there this spring, in all his/her glory. I am astonished, honoured and so keenly respectful of the will of things and people to grow, grow and bloom. I value the sincere friendship of my husband.
Jaqueline duPre, Marcus Vichert, Fiona MacDonald. Fran McArthur, Mary-Katherine Finch. Jose Abreu, Kati Gleiser, the woman across from me who is so gently and graciously helping another woman to edit her manuscript online. Michael Klaassen, who just wrote to me. Emily Helmut, who just bought a cello and knows who she is. The tibetan monk who just walked in. The colour yellow, which is like the sun, especially on a wet day. Everyone who makes art, writes and sings. All of us who play.
Blue and white striped sweaters. Crutches, for those who need them. People who design the decor for, work in, and spend time in libraries, all over the world.
Life is here, and I value all of it.