A few weeks ago the blogger Magpie at Midnight (who is a creative and insightful writer, you can read her posts here) wrote her first in a series of posts about “objects with meaning”. She called for other writers to submit posts, and I submitted this one, about my mother’s ring. I kept thinking about physical objects that have special meaning to me, and I wrote about another one in this post.
Was there ever a material object that you wanted so badly that you thought about it often, with longing, for years? If you were lucky enough to finally obtain the object of your desire, did you feel a slight let down? Were you ultimately a little disappointed in the actual object? This is not a story about disappointment. This is a story of the exact opposite. There was once something that I desired obsessively for years, and when I finally got it, all of my wildest expectations were exceeded.
The object of my longing was a book (surprise!), and the time frame of my search ended about 15 years ago and lasted for approximately 10 years before I finally found it. Now, the internet certainly existed during my search, but Amazon was not the behemoth bookseller that it is today. eBay was around, but in a much abbreviated form. Acquisition of objects, from the commonplace to the obscure, has evolved eons since my original search began 25 years ago.
Some readers may know that my favorite book is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. In this book, Ms. Dillard tells several stories about insects to illustrate her thoughts. The source of much of her insect information is a book originally written in 1912. The 10th printing of the book, made in 1949, has a foreword and introduction by Edwin Way Teale, another of my favorite authors. The book is called The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre, written by a French entomologist. After reading Ms. Dillard’s book, I desperately wanted to read Fabre’s.
A book on entomology may seem rather dry, however, Fabre’s book is anything but. Fabre’s style of writing is lyrical and poetic. It is written as though he is writing a biography of an individual insect, rather than a clinical treatise. In the book Fabre intersperses detailed observations of various insects with personal anecdotes and memories. He tells a great story.
Another reason I wanted the book so badly was that, to put it plainly, I love bugs. I am fascinated by their lives. I love stories about praying mantises eating the heads of their mates while they are copulating. I am amazed by the fact that a cockroach can survive for up to nine days without a head. The tube-like mouth of the assassin bug, which it uses to deliver a toxin that liquefies its prey and then slurp up its insides both repels and delights me. And don’t get me started on dung beetles!
I had to have this book! I looked for it everywhere. I tried Amazon, eBay, and other online sources. I inquired at the local branches of some large bookstore chains (back in the days when they were commonplace) and checked at every small independent bookstore I entered. No luck. I resigned myself to a life, diminished as it was, without the book. Then I walked into our high school library.
I was a high school science teacher for over 30 years. I helped hundreds of students with science fair projects. One day I was browsing in the science section of our high school library for some life science books to help a student research his project. There, in the life science section of our library, a facility that I used dozens of times every year, was the book! I couldn’t believe it. I let out an exclamation and fully expected to be admonished by the librarian. My hands shook as I reached for it. I held the book in my hands.
It was the exact edition that I searched for. I checked the card in the pocket at the back of the book that tells the history of check-outs. The last person who had checked out this book was a teacher. He had checked it out 20 years before I held it, and had since retired! I did some mental calculations and coolly walked over to the librarian’s desk.
Luckily (for me) a new librarian had just started her tenure at our school. She was looking to update the stacks of books and to discard any book that was not used regularly. With a shaky voice, I showed her the check-out card and asked if I could have the book. “Ppffft…. sure!” she said. And, just like that, I had the book I had coveted all those years. (I know, I know, Thou shall not covet.) I could not believe my luck!
I went home and began reading. Now, I can be an obsessive reader. By this, I mean that I have stayed up all night reading a book that I could not put down, then put in a 10+ hour day teaching, and rushed home to read some more. I have read while getting my hair cut, while I was a passenger in a car, even (unsatisfactorily) while pedaling a stationary bike. I did not want to read this book obsessively. I wanted to savor it, to prolong the experience. I limited myself to one short chapter a night.
The book was everything I hoped for. I loved the stories Fabre told about his family life; I reveled in the accounts of his relentless stalking of his subjects; I lingered over his descriptions of outrageous insect behavior. I didn’t want to finish the book. So I didn’t. The last chapters about insects detail the lives and habits of glow worms. After these chapters there is one final chapter titled “The Edge of the Unknown“. Even though I have read and reread all of the other chapters of the book, I cannot bring myself to read this last chapter, because then I will have finished the book, and I don’t want to finish it.
All of those admonitions about “be careful what you wish for” and “there’s always a catch” did not apply in this situation. I am not sure what the moral of this story is, but sometimes our hearts do desire something that is right for us, something that is meant to be. Sometimes you do get exactly what you wish for, and it is awesome!
I am linking up with Debbie at Dare 2 Hear. Check out the inspirational posts on her Tune in Thursdays. I am linking up with Char at Trekking Thru. Check out some moving inspirational blogs here. Also linking up with Clean East Fast Feets for her Week in Review. Check it out for some more great reads (including some very yummy recipes!)