Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Life on a Bookshelf

I was sitting in my computer room/study the other evening and my glance headed toward one of the bookshelves. Probably because I have become more aware of aging recently for a number of reasons, I looked at the shelves and realized that there's a lot of my life history up there. Not so much as a biography but as the things that have inspired and guided me at different times and places.

First, up in the left-hand corner a small collection of Sierra Club books:
In Wildness is the Preservation of the World
The Place No One Knew
Grand Canyon of the Living Colorado
Navajo Wildlands
Gentle Wilderness and the classic
On the Loose.

It was through these books that my wilderness life was piqued, planted, and fertilized. My ecological awareness and commitment to nature and the awesome power of wilderness came alive thanks to these remarkable collections of writing and photography, two of my loves since I was young.

On the same shelf, deepening that awareness are a number of field guides for trees, birds, flowers, and weather. Loren Eiseley, most famous for the Star Thrower story, but also a brilliant naturalist essayist, and Steve Van Matre's Acclimatizing books round out the top of my life.

Right below them are books about the two wilderness areas that have most personally impacted me-

  • The West Branch Susquehanna/Pine Creek, PA,  watershed and
  • The Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota
including books by Sig Olson and Richmond Myers.

Then the novelette that brings so much together, Norman Maclean's  
  • A River Runs Through It.

Interspersed are spiritual readings, Bibles, and a hymnal or three.

Sure there are other miscellaneous books. I'm not that organized to keep the odd novel, misplaced history or journal out of this sacred space. In fact, though, most of the books fit into the basic spirituality that has lifted me, challenged me, guided me and occasionally hit me up the side of the head. Prayer, church, great writing have been at the center of my life for as long as I can remember filling in the spaces between the spiritual moments, readings and places.

These books and pictures have never failed to move me. They have made my life what it is and, in recovery, have supported the work of sobriety that has given me gifts beyond measure.

What then do we do with these memories, experiences and stories? What happens as we look back over 50+ years of this kind of growth knowing that there is more behind than ahead? No, I'm not intentionally being maudlin or depressed. Life has a way of moving along until one day you glance up at the bookshelf and see what I saw.

A life filled- and fulfilled. A life of gratitude for so much experienced and done and seen.

And so much given to me.

For that I am grateful and ready to see what's next. There won't be as many books, but there will still be life and love and above all


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