If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Cicero
When I was a teenager, I had a trunk in my closet filled with my most prized possessions, in case I had to take off at a moment’s notice. I left college and moved back to my home state with only what I could carry on an airplane. While traveling I relished living with only what I could hold in one back pack. During grad school, I lived in a one bed room apartment with a blow up mattress and an easel as my only furniture. I could be packed and moved in one day using one trip in my small sedan. I loved it. Up until now, my possessions have been limited. I now live in a three bedroom house with a carport, a garage, a barn, and a multitude of closets. We have furniture galore and a billion random things. I am continuing in my quest to reduce this burden. I have made it through the kitchen, living room, and dining room. So far I can say this, the space is easier clean and more pleasant to be in. However, i will never be able to move quickly because I have boxes and boxes and shelves and shelves of books.
Books. How do we deal with books? They have an inherent value, they are attractive, and we tend to get attached. Nothing will ever make me get rid of my duct taped copy of Aristotle’s works. Who doesn’t like to flip through the federalist papers during election season? Let us be honest, aren’t we proud to have all the books we have read, whose content or point we have long forgotten, on display? Or is that just me and my base prideful self? In any event I have managed to pare my books down to two categories: classics and books I have yet to read. Cook books, art books, and gardening books are exempt. One reason I keep the classics around is that they are classics. Just that. Sometimes I like to re-read, sometimes I like to search for a quote. Mostly I just look at them and try to remember. Also, when I was a little girl I used to love perusing my father’s book shelves. I would look forward to the days when I could tackle the more mature reads, and was proud when I could enjoy something from that shelf rather than limit myself to the brightly illustrated covers at the school library. I’m not positive if having all these books around will inspire my son to take pleasure in the one way we can truly experience the world through the eyes and mind of someone else, but it couldn’t hurt and may help. So there it is, I have talked myself back into my library, the books stay. How else could I remind myself about the virtues of Jack Kerouac’s rucksack revolution of the Dharma Bums without it?
The temptation to only have the bare necessities is so strong that it is at constant tension with the pleasure and perhaps necessity of having some things. Part of this exercise of editing the dependence and attachment to physical things in our lives involves deciding what should remain. Here is another reason to keep the classics around, because Cicero offered some excellent guidance to this end!
So here I am. I am in my 30s, I have a family and am a mother. I can not jet away at a moment’s notice. My rucksack revolution has taken a different form. The wandering is over for now, I have different things to explore than the curves of the earth. My books are my roots, not shackles. Now for the garden…