My little back-of-the-garage computer cockpit here has an adjoining “den” with an old couch, carpeting, a dogbed (chewed by Edie as a puppy), shelves full of books, and the new flat-screen visible from both cockpit and den. Our furnace is in the far corner, but the heat is piped elsewhere, so in winter I sometimes need the small space heater (as I listen to the furnace click on and off). The books are higgledy-piggledy right now, some grouped and stored neatly, spines out, some stacked, both spines out and bottom out. The titles remind me of various times in my life when they influenced me, when the topics or characters became even more real to me than you are. (Depending.)
Yet now the stacks wait mutely, cemeteries of knowledge, scrapbooks of my long-ago mind. I dig through and rearrange every so often, looking for something, and end up going from The Alcoholic Republic to Jews for Buchanan to The Naked and The Dead, like snapshots of my biblio self. Some are sorted out into classes I once took, a section of books hunkered shoulder to shoulder for years, their groupings lasting through moves, preserving like photo albums places my brain visited in long-gone semesters, Greek dramas from a Classics course, German novels from a lit class, or periods when I read all of Dashiell Hammett, Toni Morrison, or Graham Greene I could find.
I once saw a nature program where a herd of elephants came up to the dusty edge of a lake and found the bones of elephants they knew. They gingerly lifted the bones and tusks in their trunks, fondling them the way I might reminisce about my time with Vonnegut or Anne Tyler or F. Scott Fitzgerald. Exercising their elephantine memories with affection perhaps tinged by nostalgia, even sadness, they set the remains down gently then ambled off for their original destination, like a middle-aged guy in sweats and slippers, with uncombed hair like a cumulus cloud around his sidetracked mind.
I do not know if there are gods or a god or higher beings, but somehow it comforts me to think, if there are, they might be amused by our juxtaposing libraries, where Goethe meets Auerbach’s Mimesis and Robert Pirsig is next to a tourbook of Indonesia, as if he might get on a conceptual Zen motorcycle and zoom off at the speed of thought for Borobudur. Perhap they look down at our lettered worlds and find amusement in our happenstance, as we might enjoy reading tea leaves, dealing out hands from a deck of cards, or falling autumn leaves from different trees, blown together by the same gust.