We used to go to Borders every weekend. Remember that place? It was massive, almost like a fancy warehouse, and a fairly new take on the concept of the local bookstore. My parents and I would look up movie times back when they were still listed in the newspaper. Depending on when the movie was, we would head to Borders, which sat next to the theatre, to browse for an hour or more. We would split up: my dad to one section, my mom to another, and me (and maybe my brothers) would wander from section to section. (Luckily, my dad is tall and always wears the same kind of jeans, so I could find him no matter where he was hiding. He’d have a stack of books tucked under his arm while reading through another. When we headed to the checkout counter to buy whatever books we wanted to take home, he could hold several with only one hand.)
I first read about spirituality in Borders. And listened to new music in the headphone lined listening stations in the back of the store. And sometimes, I would go back to the children’s section. I would find Little House on the Prairie or Mandy, or something else I loved. I’d read the familiar words and get lost, tucked into an armchair until it was time to go.
I picked up one of my favorite books this week from my “stack.” I have about 10 books that I have carried with me since I left home. They’ve been in boxes, moved from apartment to apartment. Their covers are tattered, pages dog eared. I will never part from these books. Each one taught me something essential, or the words are so true I can’t stop reading them decades later. So I picked up one of the books from the stack, and saw on the back it had a Borders price sticker. I must have bought it on one of our weekend trips waiting for a movie to start.
Why am I telling you this story about Borders (which I think has now gone bankrupt, which makes sense because most people buy books on Kindle now)? Why am I telling you about how I read?
This week I struggled to write the book I’ve been working on. I promised myself I would write every day, and yesterday I skipped. I didn’t forget. I skipped a day, on purpose. I’ve had an emotional week including some ups and downs physically. I just didn’t want to write. But if I dig a little deeper, I think I know the real answer. I wasn’t sure it mattered. I wasn’t sure it would matter to anyone, and I wasn’t sure it even mattered to me.
And then I saw the Borders sticker. The book it’s stuck to is a memoir. A young woman who started a food blog and became a writer. It’s poignant and funny and warm and sad. The best kind of book.
Books have literally saved and changed my life. The book Lydia Queen of Palestine helped me discover Judaism. All Creatures Great and Small taught me the beauty of simplicity and joys of country life. Plainsong made me want to be a writer. And The War of Art taught me how.
If your art, whether it’s painting, singing, dance, video, writing, cultural anthropology or business, only changes one person, it matters.
Even if that one person is you.