For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
December 15, 2005 - Cultivate an Inner Life
There are many things parents would agree they want for their children. Health. Love. Family and friends. Success, defined as "a respectable job that pays well enough to provide all of the essentials, and some of the luxuries, of life."
But you know what I most want for each of my kids? I want them to have a rich inner life.
You can lose your health, your lover, even your family and friends. You can lose your job and your home. In disasters, you can lose your ability to put food on the table.
But all of that is your OUTER life. If you have a rich inner life, you can get by. (At least, long enough to start rebuilding.)
I've been reading a luminous little library book lately called "Seeds from a Birch Tree," by Clark Strand. It's supposed topic is writing haiku (high-KOO)-- a Japanese verse form with rules so simple a child could follow them.
Haiku has 17 syllables: 5 on the first line, 7 on the second, and 5 on the third. The poem includes a seasonal reference. That's just about it.
And in fact children DO write haiku, often very good ones.
But what the book is really about is cultivating a consciousness, a plain and simple awareness that, first, marks something in the world. A raindrop. A tree branch. A window blind.
Second, the act of seeing, and capturing an image in haiku, also takes you out of yourself. Or maybe a better way to say this is that it completely removes the barrier between your deepest self and that moment of perception.
There are lots of things I'm grateful for in my life. But one of my favorites is a poem I wrote over 30 years ago.
I was hitchhiking through Safford, Arizona. I walked far from the road to get closer to a spectacular meadow, a sea of orange and yellow flowers.
When I got to the edge, I dropped to my knees to examine the petals.
And then I heard, low and pervasive, miles of ... buzzing.
Here's the poem (and I just want to point out that I shaved a few syllables off every single line, making it a kind of haiku espresso):
I kneel to a field
That moment is ineradicable in my life. It is grounded in a single instant. Yet it is also timeless.
But my point isn't poetry. It's about storing up treasures that endure.
Children who grow up reading, or being read to, develop a set of internal experiences, based on symbols and dreams and language. Those stories and characters and situations work deeper and deeper into their consciousness.
Over time, this deepening understanding of life, coupled with fresh insights and new, unexpected encounters with the real world, makes up an always richer field of possibility, of insight, of connection, of beauty, of joy.
It's just one of the reasons that I no longer turn on a radio when I'm alone. It's why I don't watch TV shows anymore, at all.
It's why I can be utterly content, even very, very busy, even when I'm just walking around the block.
It's because reading, watching, listening, thinking, has now set up such a never-ending flood of images, and ideas, and webs of relationships among all that, that I now have an inner life, impervious or at least resistant to the pressures of the mob. Every child should have one.
On the outside, it's like a field of desert poppies. On the inside, like bees.