The field adjacent to our extended-stay hotel is overgrown in every sense of the word: thigh-deep grasses run the gamut from healthy greens to scorched yellows; empty coffee cups and a panel of old, pink insulation are left for dead; four stakes arranged in a small square and hitched together with plastic tape mark off a patch of land that looks no different from the rest.
And then there are the wildflowers.
I counted over 15 different types, but there might be even more than that.
Early last week, I told Dana that it felt important to document each of the flowers I saw. "It looks like just an overgrown lot," I said. "A field of weeds. But when I walked by and really looked, I noticed one wildflower after another."
When the sun was out last Wednesday, I decided once and for all that I'd photograph every single flower type on my way to the coffee shop down the street. Gusts of wind typical of Oklahoma made it difficult to get each blossom in perfect focus, but I tried nonetheless.
My mom's brain is chockablock with information, more so than the average human. She's a retired library director and reference librarian and, as my dad often says, "the smartest lady I know." To be the beneficiary of her interests and daily reads is to receive links to the very best articles and essays out there—tailored to my tastes, no less—a feat that very many internet personalities attempt with their weekly roundups, but could never achieve for each of their readers. Therein lies the expertise of Mom.
Last month, she sent me this piece, "Weeding the Worst Library Books." I finally got around to reading it this morning, and, lo and behold, some serendipity: My findings this past week are all about weeds, kind of a reverse of the idiom "to see the forest for the trees." (To see the wildflowers for the weeds?)
The summer between my first and second years of college, I interned at a public library. Walking the cool stacks for eight weeks was a welcome respite from my usual summer work of deadheading plants in direct sun and watering the African violets in the greenhouse at the garden center my father owned. I loved editing the library newsletter at my desk in an air-conditioned basement office and sneaking breaks, while manning the circulation desk, to read a few pages at a time from the new fiction that was on hold for patrons. But I struggled with my main task: helping to weed the library's art history collection. From Daniel Gross's article above:
Still, it’s standard practice—and often a necessity—to remove books from library collections. Librarians call it “weeding” [...] a librarian who “weeds” is helping the collection thrive. The key question, for librarians who prefer to avoid scandal, is which books are weeds.
Which books are weeds?
I'd deliberate over every book as I filled a wooden trolley, only to feel as though I was callously removing sliver after sliver of art history from the annals. Once full, I'd wheel the trolley to the circulation office where it would sit for a few hours at most until the library director came through, reviewed my edits, and marked a piece of printer paper DISCARDS, laying it over the book spines like a sheet over a body.
This morning I found myself falling down a "Related Stories" rabbit hole and landing, rather specifically, here, on another of Gross's pieces, "The Custodian of Forgotten Books." Brad Bigelow, the subject of the article, runs a site called The Neglected Books Page, the sole purpose of which is to resurrect interest in writers who've long since fallen off the radar of popularity (if they were ever on it to begin with). Gross writes:
Reading a forgotten book can seem a little like communing with ghosts; it helps acquaint you with oblivion. Despite his best efforts, most of the books that Bigelow has written about remain obscure. “It’s one speck in the universe,” Bigelow said. It’s a comforting speck, though. No individual can condemn a book to obscurity on his own; forgetting is a communal act. But rescuing a book is a different story. Sometimes, it only takes one reader to remember.
Curiosity, it would seem, is one antidote to oblivion. Noticing is another. Acknowledging is a third. Observe yourself throughout the day as you breathe life into things by the simple act of seeing and wondering about them; let your eyes be the pair of perfect cameras they're meant to be; consider your weeds and your wildflowers, and leave some room to remember both.
Notes from the week of May 15
+ The Mighty (their tagline is "We face disability, disease & mental illness together"; love that)
+ misophonia (and all this time, I thought my reactions were due to high sensitivity; via Joanna Goddard)
READ & NODDED MY HEAD
+ "We suggest that people insist on experiencing more everyday awe, to actively seek out what gives them goose bumps, be it in looking at trees, night skies, patterns of wind on water or the quotidian nobility of others — the teenage punk who gives up his seat on public transportation, the young child who explores the world in a state of wonder, the person who presses on against all odds. All of us will be better off for it"
+ wildflowers (pictures only)
+ Elliott at Discount Tire who checked the slow leak on our rental car