I love books. They are my friends. So, it was lovely to see so many of my old crowd in the monastery library here at Holy Wisdom. “Oh hi, Dorothy Day! I didn’t know you’d be here?”, “Karen Armstrong! Its’ been too long.” and “Why Thomas Merton, you old dog…where have you been hiding yourself?” There they all are, hanging out on the shelves, identified by their catalog numbers, spines ramrod straight. I walk through the aisles, brushing my right hand over their wonderful selves in a gesture of camaraderie, recalling all the good times we’ve shared together.
The library is cool and a little dark, but not too dark for reading. There are comfortable chairs set up so you felt free to “settle in” with a copy of the Madison newspaper or that periodical you’d been meaning to read about medieval monasticism, or the latest issue of National Geographic. There are wide windows that look out onto the prairie. There are laptop connections for those who require them. Everything is done in medium wood stain and I feel instantly at home in this library as I do in all other libraries. . . .
The first friends I spied were the Liberation Theologians. They were reclining with the Progressive Christian thinkers and I gathered Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg up with Oscar Romero and Peter Maurin. Next to receive an invitation to my chair were the monastics and the early thinkers. “Excuse me Julian of Norwich? St. John of the Cross? I was wondering if you’d mind if I took you out sometime? I’d like us to get to know each other better”. And finally, I invited Thict nacht Nanh and the Dalai Lama to spend the night. They don’t judge me for my poly-amory. I can be fickle with my books, throwing one aside for another more exciting prospect. I often have attacks of conscience and will go back to the first book when I’ve finished the second.
Staying at the Monastery is a dicey prospect for someone with book-lust as I will not be able to read all the books I want to in the time I have here. Books will have to be wisely chosen. Already I am anxious wondering how many I will be able to read before I have to leave here. It’s probably a good thing Holy Wisdom did not tell me the extent of their collection or I might have begged to stay in the program longer just in order to make it through. The library here has an advantage for me though in that it is unfrequented by more than two people or so at any one time of day. So, in the time I have spent here so far, it is a semi-private affair. I can come and haunt it how I please and when, chatting with my old friends about this and that, picking them up off the shelf and rudely reading their back covers before placing them in their proper space.
Virginia Woolf pleaded for a “Room of One’s Own.” That may have been well and good for Ms. Woolf. But I want a Library.
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For additional excerpts from Sarah’s on-going blog, click on this link: A Confirmed City Girl looks for God in a Monastery