Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where Did I Put That Book?

Everybody has got a project they need to do and have been putting off. Cleaning out the garage/attic/basement/closets and making piles to keep or give away (or throw away), washing windows, going through closets with the same three categories in mind -- they're all jobs most of us put off simply because they seem so overwhelming. Even though I personally know I'll feel a lot less cluttered, more in control and with more room, the tasks are daunting. Sometimes it's a dread of tossing something that I'll discover I need badly two weeks from now or having to part with something I don't really strictly need but which has a history of association with someone or somewhere I don't want to lose. Sooner or later, though, the job has got to be done.

The point was brought home this morning when I went to look for a book on labyrinths I told Mouse about last night in our regular Saturday night phone chat. I remember where it had been stored for the past four years or so, but it isn't there now; I moved it and some other books to make room for my old red EfM binders that have been superceded. They're still valuable resources to my way of thinking, so I'm hanging on to them. So now the problem becomes where did I put the darn labyrinth book? I remember its color ( very dark brown) and its size (paperback, less than 3/4" in depth, a bit taller and narrower than most of my books), but despite about 10 minutes of looking, I can't spot it. Evidently my book on labyrinths and labyrinth-walking has taken its own walk, Lord only knows where.

That's the problem of having a lot of books. Usually I can put my hand on a volume I want fairly easily but something I haven't thought of or used for a while?  That's another story. When I packed my books before moving, I had them on the shelves in a certain order. I put them in boxes carefully labelled with which bookcase and which shelf, thinking I'd just get to the new place, open the box and put the books back in the same relative position they had occupied before. Good thought, but it didn't work out that way. A friend came to help me get settled. She offered to help unpack boxes so I took her up on it. After explaining my marking system, she went to work -- and nothing ended up in the same place like I'd intended. That was five years ago and I still haven't gotten around to putting them in neatly-defined categories and authors and places. The result is that I go on a treasure hunt every time I need a book I haven't used in a while.

One of the inherent problems of reorganizing my library is that when I take down a book and don't immediately recognize the title or what it was about, I have to stop and do some investigating. If it has the little metal Book Darts that mark pages I want to revisit, then I've read it. If I've read it, it should be in my annotated bibliography that I've been keeping for the last 11 years.  If no Book Darts and no entry in the bibliography, then I haven't read it -- and why not?  Good question. Why hang on to it?  I still have an interest in the subject and/or author's POV and it might come in handy some day when I've had a chance to read it. I bought it for a purpose, even if on a whim, and I might still want to investigate that purpose.

Another problem is the sheer volume of volumes. Where can I neatly stack them in categories without risk of having cat-egories of another sort think they were placed somewhere in neat piles simply for their enjoyment and recreation?  We five live in a very small area; there's not a lot of room and I have to respect that four cats need room to run, climb, flop, jump, wrestle and chase, especially if their mom is up and about and doing interesting stuff. They want to be involved too.  All of that combined with stacks of books on the floor and furniture doesn't leave a lot of space and, consequently, the potential for my neat stacks to remain neat becomes problematic.

The third problem is that I always find books I want to read NOW. Not next week or even as soon as I finish one of the two or three I have going at any particular moment. Maybe I bought it three or four years ago and haven't yet read it, but time is no barrier. That's one reason I have two or three books going at any given time; I start one, get sidetracked and next thing I know I'm into another and another and another. It's like peanuts: I can't eat just one or read just one. I eventually finish them all (well, most of the time) and then I start the process all over again. Giving up my satellite TV has given me more time to read but also more time to start new books. Truth be told, it's given me more time to spend tidying up the bookcases but somehow that project never gets off the ground, or, at least, not really.  Books do get moved from place to place and I finally have my EfM textbooks all in one place (except one I have loaned out), but it's hardly a scratch on the surface.

In the course of my search I've found more than a few books I don't remember having read, have no Book Darts and which look intriguing. They've been in a file basket next to the desk for a while and its time to try to find them space on the bookshelves, but the lure of The Essential Guide to Jewish Prayer and Practices, Chittister's The Rule of Benedict, or Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside are proving almost too much to ignore. 

I know.  The thirty minutes or so I've spent writing about my need to reorganize and categorize my books could have been spent actually doing the reorganizing and categorizing but I have a muse that calls now and again and, as the old saying goes, "If you don't use it, you lose it."  Maybe what I write isn't much worth reading, but it's something I felt I needed to say, at least on some level. The books, as my friend Mouse always says about procrastination and work that needs to get done, "will still be there tomorrow."  Quite the philosopher, that Mouse. Meanwhile I do need to get ready for church -- after finding a new place to stick the aforementioned books that I'm trying NOT to dig into this minute.  And still continue to look for the walkabout labyrinth book.

Part with a book and lighten the project of reorganizing?  I'd almost rather lose an arm -- or a cat!

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