Computers were making their way into library systems just about the time I was beginning my long volunteer career as a public library trustee. I recall one Washington Library Association keynote session where the speaker began by saying, “I want to introduce you to the concept called the World Wide Web.” My learning curve was a fascinating struggle.
One day my work phone rang. On the line was our library director calling to say, “Someone tried to hack into a public computer in one of our branch libraries.” My jumbled, interior reaction went something like this. “Fascinating, can’t believe it, never heard of such a thing, and…what in heck am I supposed to do about this?”
I didn’t expect that sense of dumbfoundedness to appear in my retired years. Just weeks ago, I named my current life-goals: examining the past, looking at the present, creating my future. Now here I am, living under the Stay-at-Home directive, struggling to. understand this new world of corona virus and COVID-19.
My wife Linda and I were out on one of our two daily walks around the neighbor earlier this week. As we came back via our alley, we passed a young man trying mightily to stuff one more suitcase into his already jammed car trunk. We smiled, said hello, and wished him good luck with his task (all from a safe distance, of course). As we walked past, a Nina Simone song came to mind: “Oh sinner man, where you gonna run to … all on this day?”
Where, indeed? Since we live in a university neighborhood, I’m guessing the young man was going home. In my imagination, he’ll find comfort being with family. But he won’t have run from these troubles.
Such strange times! Back in my other life, the one I lived a couple of months ago, I had numbers of favorite run-to places. Libraries were high on my list. Book stores. Restaurants, so many different restaurants. My church. Certainly, my church. It’s almost impossible to believe they are all temporarily absent. Those closures are my personal list of happy places. The times are tougher than that, though. Schools and colleges closed. Non-essential businesses. Thousands are out of jobs because of all the closures. Over a million in the US have become ill, 80,000 plus have died, and we’re still seeing new cases.
Linda and I feel blessed. We’re together in our comfortable home. Because we are retirees, our income hasn’t been eliminated as it has for many. We’re healthy. So much of what we most like to do is bes done at home. We are readers, dreamers, and writers. We have time, space, an almost embarrassing storehouse of office supplies, and our extensive home library.
I once joked with Linda that, if for some bizarre reason we couldn’t bring any new books into our home, we’d still be set for life. There are all the books we’ve meant to get around to reading. There are those that are favorites and well worth reading again. Finally, there are those read before and forgotten. They would seem new all over again.
Mason Cooley, an American professor and noted aphorist says, “Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.” Our library will give us wings while we nest at home.
Today’s never-before world is baffling. More confusing than my struggles with technology in the 1980s. There are no clear guides on this journey, for nothing like this has occurred since the 1918 Spanish Flu. But, with tools I couldn’t have imagined in the 80s–Google, Zoom, Facebook and Facetime, email, texting, and messaging—I’ll read, and think, write … and stay connected with friends electronically. I can’t run away so I’ll hunker down happily.
I’ll also hope you find these words to read.