My Library

Map of Hunterdon County and new cement sidewalk
Hunterdon County Library, complete with map and new cement sidewalk.

Everyone has a favorite place, a spot they go when they need to remember how to breathe. Mine was two miles away. It smelled like dust and paper. The silence inside echoed with the occasional interruptions of crinkled pages or fingers tapping on a keyboard. It was my library.

But it’s not mine anymore.

My husband lost his job. He was a music teacher and the only one in his department not tenured, so when cutbacks came, it had to be him. In the surreal fallout of the crashing words, “I don’t have a job next year,” God took hold. The dust is settling now, and the change I’d craved has found my husband in seminary and us moved in with my in-laws.

I was surprised at first how little I cared about it all. I’d been aching and struggling for months leading up to this and the whole event released a lot of pent up anxiety about life. We majorly downsized, getting rid of excess clothing, furniture, and possessions. Even books! Can you believe that? We unloaded nearly 150 books to the free shelf at the library. I kept wondering if the librarians would say something to me. I went in once a week with a bag full of books and loaded up their shelves. It may have been my overly self conscious nature, but I swear they were eyeing me maliciously after the first four bag loads.

I brought good stuff though, not your typical 50 cent paperback romances. I brought Shakespeare and Dickens and poetry anthologies. The kind of stuff that I used to greedily snatch up and drool/gloat over on social media. Some of my favorite finds were “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, and “Joyland” by Stephen King. I always stifled a joyous squeal when there were classics and, more often then not, they landed cosily into my bag.

My new library doesn’t have a paperback exchange. It doesn’t have a lot of things.

It doesn’t have the same librarians. The faces that I recognize, that recognize me and call me by my first name. I used to work with some of them. I used to shelve books there (600s, 800s, biographies, and occasionally fiction) which, let me tell you, is a book lovers dream job. The bottom shelf of my cart began empty, and by the time I left work would contain a hefty stack of books for me to check out and take home. They know me. They know what I read. They watched me take out all those wedding books and congratulated me when I came in and changed my last name in the system. I know them. I can tell when they’re having an off day, or tired, or sick. I know when they move the furniture from one day to the next.

I took my last trip there about a week ago. My last trip with my last bag full of books for the free shelf. They got a new lady about a month ago and she was the only one at the counter. She doesn’t know me, if she had, I would have said goodbye.

I had no more books to return, I could not justify taking anything out, so I just left. I walked out of the atrium, making sure to hold the door for strangers walking in, a habit I’d taken to over years of patronage. It always gives me a satisfying split second of interaction with other locals who I felt a natural kinship for because we were there for the same purpose.

My feet hit the new cement sidewalk. They just fixed it. The brick walkway they put in when they remodeled shimmied and settled into a barely navigable minefield, dangerous to both the handicapped and clumsy. I looked over at the outside seating area with its four backless benches. I could close my eyes and see it, just a few months ago, when I sat there with a child’s picture book. Spring had just blossomed and flower petals dripped over the pages while the tree above me read over my shoulder. I blew them off before I turned the page. The pink raindrops fluttered to the ground into the sea of their fallen brethren, covering the sidewalk until it was invisible.

I’m a sickeningly sentimental person, but honestly, it’s a short list of things I’ll miss about where I used to live. Perhaps the list is so short because this place looms so large on my heart. It has been my haven for over 20 years. Those were my books, my librarians, my children’s room, my corner desk beside the floor to ceiling windows, where I would sit and write for hours. My scents. My sounds. My memories.

As I pulled out, I took one last look back at the stone edifice, at the metal outline of Hunterdon County screwed into the side, at the trees, sidewalk, and parking lot. And, just between you and me, I cried.

View from my cubby
View from my cubby
Outside seating area
Outside seating area
Their garden
Their garden

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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The End: Second Draft, Second Novel

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I have just completed the second full draft of my second novel! 78,895 words and I am elated! Tomorrow, I’m going to comb through the story once more and check for any silly spelling errors before I print out my hard first copy. So far, that is my favorite part of this process, having a printed copy in my hands to scribble all over in pencil. I love what I do so much.

There is no real update on my first novel, which is currently titled Immortal Bond. That one is a Young Adult Fantasy about a newly orphaned girl whose love for a mysterious king is threatened by war. I’m still seeking publishers and agents, a nerve wracking process. I thank God for my husband, who loves me enough to hold my hand when I act like a baby. He’s the most patient man on the earth.

The novel I just finished is a Literary Fiction retelling of Edmund Rostand’s beautiful play, Cyrano De Bergerac. It is modernized and set in NYC. I had a different idea in the beginning, a sort of interweaving of several couple’s stories, but I fell in love with my two of my characters and they practically begged me to tell more of their story. Who was I to say no? They are both goofy, making the book a bit of a romantic comedy. Their dialogue is playful and their story is sweet.

Granted that is only my opinion, I have yet to have others read it, and perhaps someone will read it and tell me it sucks, but at the moment I am floating somewhere between ecstasy and bliss. If the naysayers are shaking their heads, I can’t see, hear, or feel them. I am the happy one. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

“No One Can Stem the Tide” by Jane Tyson Clement: A Book Review

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I received this book of poetry from Plough Publishing. I had never read anything from Jane Tyson Clement before, but I adore poetry so I was super excited for it to come.

When it arrived I immediately started cooing. Just the size and feel of it was enough to get my bookishness tingling. I love paperbacks, and it’s just a touch smaller than usual which appeals to my desire for poetry to be portable. My favorite places to read poetry are usually outside in the sun.

The content was just as perfect as the presentation.

Clement is an amazing poet. Her flow and rhythms are perfect. Her style varies a little throughout the collection, but quality is always immaculate. Her themes, ranging from Art to love to family and loss were written with insight. She often strays to themes of nature, which makes the idea of reading them outside twice as intoxicating.

To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. I adored it, everything about it. I can’t wait for the sun to find me on the beach, reading her poems about the ocean and sky. When I finished it, I did not move it back to my bookshelf but left it beside my bed, because I know that I will want to read it again soon.

Below is a stanza to tantalize you, in hopes that you will get yourself a copy to bask in it’s fluid perfection.

“The birds that fly
in a shifting pattern
over the sea
with their eyes turned downwards –
what do they find in the shining water?”

Imagine reading that, then turning your eyes upwards to watch the birds fly. Absolutely gorgeous!

Here is the link to purchase a copy! http://www.plough.com/en/ebooks/n/no-one-can-stem-the-tide

Home is…

Home is…

Home is a cup of chamomile tea
a fuzzy blanket
a classic novel
oversized sweat pants
your t-shirt

Home is fresh homemade bread
eggs, sunny side up, in bed
Champions League Football
Mythbusters reruns
Lord of the Rings Legos

Home is waking up beside you
a warm embrace
a goodnight kiss
two-day stubble on your cheek
your lips on my neck

Home is…

Home is you.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014