Posted in WORDS

Cracked Spines and Wrinkled Pages

Tell me, do you read used books? Does your book collection contain a patchwork of miss-matched series, or numerous, old, mass market editions? Mine does. My shelves are filled with books that are out of print, worn and torn with yellowed pages, stains and spills. Odd copies that contain hand-written dates, love dedications, and even an occasional scribble or two in the margins. Used books, to me, are like finding a buried treasure– a diamond in the rough. Finding that treasure requires nothing more than a bit of patience as you comb through miles of shelving, and a keen eye.

I must admit, most of the stories I come across are entirely a mystery to me. Never before have I set eyes on them, nor do I know what lies within. It’s a risk to choose such a book, but the thrill of discovery is too great to pass up. Without the familiar comfort of reviews, or recommendations, I have only my most basic reader instincts to rely on. The cover, the title, the feel of the paper in my hands– those simple things will determine the fate of the book. The little tome of bound pages must speak for itself, and it is up to me whether I listen to its voice, or not.

Despite the well-known saying, we all know that it is well-nigh impossible not to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to newer books. I won’t so much as breathe in their direction if I don’t fancy the cover. But when it comes to used books, I will pause and consider whether the strange colors, and illustrations on the cover are disguising some hidden treasure waiting to be found. Though I would never dare to crack a spine on any book, or mistreat a page, strangely, in old books, even those flaws cannot turn me away. In fact, when I see a book that is worn, and scuffed, annotated, or dog-eared, I find it to be a curiosity. It tells me that someone, somewhere, handled it, and maybe even enjoyed it.

Sometimes, I wonder if all the time it’d been left alone, unread, and covered in dust, was because it was waiting for someone like me to come along and give it another chance. Usually the books that find their way into second-hand shops are stories from bygone eras, or books that might have been underappreciated at the time of their release. Each has lived a long life, and I often wonder at the history of the lives they’ve led, and what brought them to the shops.

Books are much like people, too. Each has a character of their own, a personality that shines through the font on the pages, and the binding at their spines. And just like people, there is more than meets the eye at first glance. So next time you see an old, shabby cover on a book, perhaps you should pause for a moment, and look past all the dinginess. You may find a bright, and glimmering treasure waiting inside.

Until next time,

Lady S

Posted in WORDS

Treasure Hidden Away

Have you any treasure? Is it something special, or rare? Perhaps it is in a wooden chest, hidden away from prying eyes? Deep in the shadows, clothed with cobwebs and dust, I have such a box. I revel in the thought that only I know what is within, and where it is kept hidden. But today, I make an exception and invite you to come along with me, as I uncover this secret treasure, and let the sun shine upon its precious contents.

A few years ago, I was given this wooden chest. It is heavy, and quite old, with a metal latch securing it. Long before I called it mine, it belonged to my mother, given her by her mother. I have always had a fascination with the box, and would peak inside it whenever I could. Like a pirate’s trove, it encased its precious jewels well. Since it has become mine, I’ve endeavored to keep it the way it has always been–tucked away safely in the shadows. But every so often, I will bring it out into the light, brush away the dust like an old pirate, and lift the lid to marvel at my riches.

Inside, are several, worn and aging books, resting between layers of crisp white paper, (novels, to be exact). Each of them ranges from ninety, to even one hundred and twelve years old. Very gently, I lift them from their paper nest and sift through the yellowing pages. Fading floral embossed covers, and swirling script, display the titles of each one. I count the number of volumes that I have read, and finger through the number of those I have yet to. The sight of them, calls to mind the stories within and the voices, and feelings they convey. Stories of struggles, and heartaches, but also of triumphs, and reconciliation.

Each one carries a message that can be heard through the ages. Sometimes a hard truth, or just a tender reminder; stories of young orphans, a distant mother and daughter, a couple drifting apart, or a small girl awaiting the return of her brother, and so much more. Peppered among these tales, like blossoms in spring are beautiful details of nature and earth. One mentions the unique call of a songbird, another, the magnificent colors decorating the wings of the Emperor moth, and still another reflects upon the manner in which one should walk through a still, and quiet forest. While their words enthrall me with tales of life, and longing, the subtle call of nature pervades them all.

In The Keeper of the Bees, a soldier battling illness takes up residence in a cottage by the sea for rest and healing. While there, he finds infinitely more. An old man and his garden, bursting with flowers, and honeybees, teaches him to treasure the simple things. And the little girl who enters his life, teaches him that no one is too small, to befriend.

In A Girl of the Limberlost, a lonely girl endeavors to capture and record the vast number of moths, and butterflies residing in the swamp near her home. In the process, the rift grown wide between her, and her mother begins to close, and love and friendship blooms instead.

In Michael O’Halloran, an orphaned boy, delivers newspapers to scrape together a meager living for himself. No more than a child, he manages to rescue a poor disabled girl from going away to an orphanage. His courage and honor inspires those he encounters in his young life, to live life freely and with love.

I read these stories to remember the times of old, and the way of things long ago. But in the sea of plots, and prose, there are truths that slip beyond the realm of time, and reach into the present. For a truth spoken once, will be true always. If you’ve grown tired of the tales and woes of today, perhaps, you would like to step back into the pages of days gone by. You may find these tales more captivating than the newest, or most popular fables of today. Miss Gene Stratton-Porter’s stories have impacted me greatly, and have remained close to my heart in the years since I’ve read them.

“To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder-working book. If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step towards the God of the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the miracle of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so strengthens even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his struggle like a gladiator.” -Gene Stratton-Porter

Yours ever,

Lady S