Thursday, February 27, 2020

Spending the day at the Angola Carnegie Library

Miss Jessica

The Angola Carnegie Library is quiet at 8:00 a.m. The silent sound of the furnace chugging mingles with the unread books. The sun is just beginning to crawl across the eastern horizon with a few slanting rays peaking in the windows. 

It is on this day that I hold court with all my Trine classes. Once a semester we take our satchels and books down the hill to the library to explore, and learn about our town library. Perhaps a little history lesson of Andrew Carnegie will be thrown in to the mix. (Who was Andrew Carnegie, they ask?)

Jessica Boyd, or as most children call her, Miss Jessica, is always willing, able and enthused to host this plethora of students into her sacred children’s space each semester. Jessica comes in early to unlock the doors, turn on the lights, and get the pets all settled. Today is National Pet Day so her dog is spending the day also!
I arrange the books I have gathered from yesterday’s foray into the stacks as I wait for the students. The early morning temperatures are barely into the teens so I expect them to drive the few blocks and still come in complaining (or just chatting) about the cold. I am not wrong. With planning the night before, the chairs are gathered and arranged in a circular fashion around the sacred books. The students come in, take seats, and Jessica gives her welcome speech. When she asks how many have been here before, there are just a couple of hands in each class. The two of us look at each other with a “tsk, tsk!”

When she is finished, I continue on with class in the warmth of the surrounding books. It is delightful to be here on this cold winter’s day. The day and the books spill around me like the winter’s sun. One class leaves…another class comes in.
Between the visits, I sit among the books and peruse. I often have the sinking feeling of so many books and so little time, but on this day, I am comforted by the thought I have read so many of these books. I read from Muir and Thoreau. I pick up Jan Brett and Maurice Sendak. And, for some reason, I pick up “The House at Pooh Corner” by A.A. Milne. 

As I read through the book, I note to myself how much this should be an adult novel. I find my favorite passage and find myself crying. “. . . what I like doing best is Nothing." "How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time. "Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”

Doing nothing sounds so lovely, although it is something I do not do very often. I make a promise to myself to add that to my daily activities. 

During the next break of students, I look up more information on A.A. Milne, 1882-1956. Milne was a prolific writer, screenplay writer, novelist until the publication of “The House at Pooh Corner.” The book was such a great success that he was forever known as a children’s writer. Christopher Robin was actually based on his own son, Christopher Robin Milne. His own Christopher played with a stuffed piglet and tiger along with a pair of kangaroos. The Hundred Acre Woods was also based on Ashdown Forest which was close to his home.

Milne was a writer, a soldier, and an editor. He once wrote, “A writer wants something more than money for his work; he wants permanence.” With his Pooh stories, he certainly has attained that.

The students come and go. Jessica gives tours. I talk endlessly until the clock on the wall tells me it is time to let them go. “Have a great weekend,” I say, “perhaps try to do nothing?”

At the end of the day, I stack the books. Drew Hemlock will have the pleasure of finding homes for all of them tomorrow. I pack up my own bag, say my farewells to the Carnegie staff and head on home.

Work and activities including theatre and hosting Jonah for a week fill my hours, but perhaps I can sneak away for a bit myself and just do “nothing.” What could be lovelier on a cold winter’s day?
Why not try it?

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