I used to teach research strategies and writing to college freshman.The topics were always very dry but I tried to show the students that research was a dreamy adventure. You begin with a question and follow the mystery through a trail of books that, though singularly penned and enclosed by hard covers, are really all in conversation with one another. Once in a while you had to sniff out the Gilderoy Lockhart’s, discerning who was an expert and who was all fluff. Sometimes you got to request rare, old books from dusty archives. Often you had to decipher nonsensical academic jargon, like figuring out an arcane magic spell known by a circle of mages. And always, it was like tracing a path of discovery, picking up items and objects and names and knowledge here and there until you found some point of rest. College research papers were just as fun as adventure RPGs.
This is why book reading and the archetypical scholar/intellectual remains a fixture in fantasy cliches – usually in a witch or wizard that assists in the journey by exploring books and knowledge. You have book reading Bastian helping the warrior Atreyu. You have bookish Hermione creeping around the forbidden books in the library, tearing out encyclopedia entries to save her wand-waving friends. And of course there are always those requisite scenes of frantic adventurers sorting through dusty scrolls for the right spell, the ancient legend, the true family line.
And for me personally, bookstores and libraries were always a little dreamy on their own…
I cannot help but remember Borges’ short story “The Library of Babel.” Here is a pdf if you’d like to read it (it is VERY short). In Borges’ tale, the library itself is akin to the entire universe. The library holds all meaningful information, all languages, and subsequently all future possibilities captured in infinite rows of books. At the same time, these books are assembled without any organization and are filled with meaningLESS nonsense. All you can be assured of is the endless variation of alphabet letters. As Borges notes, what results is a disproportionate depression, cult like frenzy, absurdity. I also can’t help but think of all of the bizarre libraries in Murakami Haruki’s oeuvre, which clearly inspired the concept of the “Hole in the Sky Library” from Mawaru Penguindrum.
Am I cutting a path through the mysteries of my life, laying down books like paving stones in a terrifying wilderness? Or am I trapped in the Library of Babel?
Sorry for the uncharacteristically gloomy opening to the actual point of this blog post. Things have been tough this month. As for a January update to my Winter project…
Books I’ve read in January
Therapy at home
The Out of Sync Child
The Out of Sync Child has Fun
Engaging Autism (1-66)
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Better Than Before
The Snow Queen
Which Witch? (by Eva Ibbotson, which is hilarious and a pleasant new discovery)
Self-care in January
Self-maintenance is so-so. I’m running roughly three times a week but not much in “training mode” yet. I’ve got a great evening routine down now that includes hot tea and some Korean skin care pampering! But on the odd days I’m not running, I am not napping or doing something refreshing but obsessively reading online forums and stressing out (bad!). I still sleep too late from a lifetime of bad habits.
As a huge plus, we’ve started Konmari’ing our entire place. It is so satisfying to declutter. We did our clothes this past weekend and cleared out around 3-4 huge garbage bags full of stuff. My closet is still pretty packed because, no big shock, most of my impractical dresses still “spark joy.”
I am still following a broad Winter program to prune all the dead away. February is a busy month and full of child-specific milestones (updating IFSP, birthday) so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. For now, I am queued up to finish Engaging Autism (home therapy), The Power of Habit (self improvement), and the rest of the Eva Ibbotson set which includes The Secret of Platform 13 and Islands of the Aunts.
My three big self-care goals for February, this wonderful month of Valentine sweets and birthday treats, is
- strict meal planning and cut calories
- put my phone on my shelf so I don’t waste time online
- KonMari the rest of the clothes (accessories and shoes). Thank god for people who typed out book notes and made checklists for the rest of us.