Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Anecdotal Life of a Bookshop: Opening

There is something special about opening the door to my shop in the morning. Perhaps it's merely the morningness of it, the optimism of a new day and the opportunities it might bring. And yet there is something more, I think, the fleeting touch of something profound, or if not profound at least precious.

There is a perfection in that first moment, a sense of time unruined. There is a soft, shadowy gloom to the shop before I turn on the lights. Just the sense of a door opening out into space, into the soft gloom, and the long rows of bookcases receding back into deeper shadows. And on each shelf of each case there is a row of books, spines out. In the light that has yet to come the covers will show their colours, like neon leaves in the autumn, strutting their eye-catching graphic designs. But in the gloom there is just a shape, forms limned in various shifting greys, shadows and ghosts and mere suggestions of hidden truths.

The bookcases are dark wood, a rich colour even in the gloom. I know them well; I built them myself. Cut, nailed, stained and sealed. Real wood, organic, still a little alive. They seem expectant in the gloom, waiting, and yet always patient.

Morning light slants in the front windows, but it's pale yet, as the windows face west. The light is soft and seems to highlight the shadows more than dispel them. A soft glow hovers at the front of the shop and does not penetrate further back. My photographs hang, framed, above the shelves. Scenes from my travels, shots of buildings from odd angles, and rivers, waterfalls, trees. Maybe the shelves like these pictures, too, remembering a former life, a life of branches and leaves and digging roots. Life's a little drier now, perhaps, but they still get to hold a rich yield of fruit, though of a very papery kind.

I like that moment, standing in the just opened door, that sense of unfolding space, my gaze trailing down the aisles, the rows slipping away. The smell of wood, of paper, of dust, the smell of books. Peace... a sense of hallowed space. A personal space, a place sacred to just one person, and sacred only for a moment. For just that moment I feel a touch of something... perhaps it is something as simple as joy, or hope, or perhaps it is something more complex. Faith, perhaps, or some strange braiding of identity and geography, place becoming intertwined with self. A momentary hallowing, like hands cupped beneath cold water.

A bookshop. A door opening. A moment alone... a moment that is mine.

And what about you? What are your hallowed moments?

12 comments:

jbchicoine said...

I cannot tell you about my Hallowed Moment, for I would blush. What I can tell you is that I love reading your passages about the way light moves. It sets such a mood—I’m there.
I love this line—“The light is soft and seems to highlight the shadows more than dispel them.” It’s perfect.

Ink said...

Thanks! I love description... perhaps too much, at times. I suppose I'm very visual, so my writing tends to come out that way.

jbchicoine said...

Okay, Okay, I thought of one I could share. I was taking a brisk walk, listening to Talking Heads’ Girlfriend is Better, and inspiration hit me. No, that’s not my Hallowed Moment…
When I finally complete a work, declaring it’s done by peeling back masking tape from the watercolor paper. When I choose to overlook the imperfection I know is there and will taunt me from that day forward, and I show my efforts to my husband. When he says, “It’s good…it’s very good.” That is sublime, my Hallowed Moment.

Ink said...

Yeah, that's a good one. I like finishing a first draft, particularly of a novel. There's nothing quite like it. I also like the moment where I look at a photograph I've taken for the first time and know it works. You see it through the lens, and you try and capture something... but you don't know you did until you actually see the picture and find out if it worked or not. Even years later, looking at my favourite photographs I get a bit of that feeling, like an echo.

Mira said...

Probably one of the most profound hallowed moments for me was when I visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Something about the building touched me on such a deep level I'll never forget it.

Also, whenever I write. There's a moment before I start writing that feels.....almost sacred.

In terms of your piece, this was beautiful. Really lovely, Bryan.

jbchicoine said...

I just gave you a commenting award--you don't have to claim it, but I thought you should know...it's over at my blog

L. T. Host said...

Howdy :)

New 'round these parts, but I came across this today and am now a follower.

Just thought I'd start off by chipping in here. My hallowed moment is with my horses, I have two, both mares, mother and daughter. When it's late evening in the summertime and the twilight is descending on the ranch, and all I can hear is the crickets chirping and the soft munching as my girls eat their hay, the air hanging heavy with warmth from the long-gone sun, I feel absolutely at peace. It intensifies when I wrap my arms around one of their necks and get what I fondly refer to as a pony hug. They are my hallowed place--in the real world, at least, as opposed to the ones in my head-- and I often refer to them as my therapy. :)

Ink said...

Hey, maye yourself at home! You can bring the horses, too. But I ain't mucking out no stalls. :)

Ink said...

Oops... make, that is.

The Rejectionist said...

When we have just wrested some wretched infant from the clutches of some wretched peck, and are galloping back toward the castle, where we can hand the wretched infant off to our wretched boss, and take off our wretched skull helmet, and have a nice nap and a little cocktail, and maybe watch the season one premiere of Battlestar Galactica. Again.

Ink said...

But then there's always the next siege to worry about, and some prophecy to stymie, and Brownies everywhere... Must put a damper on things.

L. T. Host said...

Ach! Forgot to check the box to email follow up comments :(

Thanks for the welcome, and don't worry-- I like mucking my own stalls, so you're safe :)