February 3, 2009

diving into paradise

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.

(jorge luis borges)


I had to get to the library today to return my non-renewable overdue book—otherwise another 5 cents would be added to my library bill that has steadily grown toward the $10 limit ever since I paid it the last two times. The question was how I would get there.

As I contemplated riding my bike on the 2-mile trip, all my inclinations decided to argue against this idea. My dad raises my bike seat every year to “keep up with my growth,” but since I stopped growing years ago, my bike seat height has surpassed me by a good four inches. While I could maintain balance last year with my freakishly strong tip-toes, I discover that this year’s seat growth has made it impossible to ride without instantly falling over. Additionally, a giant hill stands between me and the library, the bike’s brakes squeak, the gears only almost work, the thermometer on the bedroom wall reads 92 degrees, my library card is conveniently connected to my key chain right next to the car key, and the family car that gets decent gas millage sits unused in the driveway, patiently beckoning me to take the easy road.

I knew the right thing to do, so I got out the ratchet set to lower the bike seat to a workable position, chugged a nalgene of ice water, and began pedaling past the family car and the giant hill to get to the library.

As I was riding, I remembered adjusting back to American culture from studying abroad in Uganda last summer, and my favorite recommendations for remaining sane and living simply were to use the seemingly limitless access to entertainment goods that the library provides and to ride my bike. Now that I’m more comfortable in this country (although still experiencing steady sensations of discomfort, as I always intend to), it has become too easy to jump into the car to drive walkable or bike-rideable distances. And it has become almost as easy to convince myself that I need a new bike so I can commit myself to riding it more consistently. Today’s Frazz comic indicated just this tendency.

But for the time being, I’ve convinced myself to be grateful for the screeching brakes and constantly clicking gears of my dependable old bike that alert the entire neighborhood when I arrive. My goal is to fight the tendency for betterness & increased seeming perfection and realize the living beauty that dwells in the imperfections. It brushes my face like the hot breeze of riding the loud bike I got for my 14th birthday up the big hill on a scorching hot day to get to the library.

recycling words

June 24, 2008

I tend to make myself steer clear of giant used-book sales. Due to my avid library usage, there are very few books that I actually have any desire to own. However, I am highly attracted to the sight and feel of old books, especially those that have names and dates scribbled inside the front cover. There’s a mysterious intrigue in flipping through old pages as I imagine the time when they stared back at someone else long ago.

My last visit to a book sale was during one of those last day sales when you only have to pay a fixed price for an entire bag of books. It was a disaster because although I found no pages that I felt compelled to read, I walked away with an entire bag of old, fraying hardcover books, fully equipped with browning pages and signatures etched inside the cover.

I chose my favorite book from that bag to become my new sketch book. I dreamed of drawing on the pages in a way that would make the beauty of the printed words apparent. My pictures never quite turned out as I hoped, but this made it all the more exciting when I saw the Recycled Words artwork of Will Ashford. He finds pages in old books that he can alter to create a different kind of art with the words, claiming, “I rescue, salvage, and recycle other people’s words.” It’s recycling at its best.

And there’s more here.