Monday, September 8, 2008

SHED Your Books

“Once again, I have taken on something impossible:
water with grasses undulating on the bottom….
It is wonderful to look at, but maddening to want to render it.
But then, I am always tackling something like this.”

So wrote Claude Monet on 22 June 1890 to his friend and biographer Gustave Geffroy.

A friend gave me a coffee table book of Monet’s Water Lillies when I had expressed doubt to her that I could leave my hometown, plus my pretty home, and pack up everything to live in a two-bedroom concrete block apartment in student housing and go to graduate school as a single mom with two kids under five.

“Every time you think you can’t do it,” she said, “think of Monet working for ten years to do the impossible -- paint the beauty of water lillies as he saw it at a time when he was actually going blind.”

I did exactly as she asked. It works.

Now do you think I could part with that book? Nope, no way, no how. This is the real hard part of separating my treasures and heaving the rest. My books!

I struggle with parting with the titles that hold great memories but are no longer "necessary" or relevant to my life. Julie Morgenstern asks in her book "When Organizing Isn't Enough": "Do they move you forward toward your new theme?" No.

Out goes all the books I read in preparation for the Chicago Marathon.

Out goes all the books given to me and inscribed by a Pulitzer-prize winning author. I read them already. I am just keeping their energy from going to the next person if they sit on my shelf or in a storage box.

Out go all of my Colorado hiking titles.

Out go most of my children's picture and poetry books. Oooooh the pain of it! I saved three beloved dog-earred titles back. To look at them they should be the first to go.

Treasures I can't part with:

My Library of America titles. They are the collected works of America's greatest writers printed on acid-free paper. My children just roll their eyes when I suggest this is their heritage to be lovingly passed down. They would love nothing better than for me to sell them and free them of this expectation! The likelihood that they are going to read about Francis Parkman's history of life among the early Iroquois, or Grant and Sherman's memoirs of the Civil War complete with maps, or Thomas Jefferson's life writings is close to nil. But if I save them I can hope.

Anything written by or about Winston Churchill. He's the greatest statesman of Western Civilization - nobility pours out of every page.

But I did well. Thank you Julie. Four boxes saved - about six going out. That's pretty good for me when it comes to books. Do you have a favorite book you could never part with no matter what? Here...have a seat... and tell me about it.

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