Open A Drawer

Ex Libris is a Latin phrase, meaning literally, “from books.” It is often used to indicate ownership of a book, as in from the books of… or from the library of…

The writing exercise is to reach into a drawer and use whatever you first touch as the impetus for writing so I reach into the drawer of my mother’s beautiful old roll-top desk and grab the shiny gold box of bookplates, one of four.  I open the box and read the phrase.  I don’t remember these though I remember the ones with the antique map of the world and those with the small fairy, given to me years ago, but this phrase, what does it mean? I look it up, Google of course, and read the definition.  Ahhh, of course!  “From books.” how appropriate as I sit here, surrounded by books, sorting through books and treasuring them.

How can I have five books going at once?  I start one, a self-help type of book and I really enjoy it, but then that novel is calling and I want a little escape, until I see the philosophy book offering deep thoughts and lessons to ponder…. but then The Last Lecture, how profound, every chapter a great lesson from one who has learned so much upon reflecting on life from the edge.  Then of course, the books about writing-my muses, my inspiration and the setting for my new writing office. They are props meant to inspire, and they do.

My mother was the one who started the tradition of “from the books” as a book lover spreading the disease to me.  I feel a physical connection to certain books and love them like children.  The stories from the depths of childhood, the novels that sustained me through those teen years and the books of interest:  Los Angeles, cultural Judaism, and politics.  The books of dreams:  gardening, decorating, exotic cooking books (binding in tact) and promises of an enticingly improved life. Advice books rest in groups on the shelves filled with someone’s good ideas and my hopes for an easier path.  My mother taught me that being surrounded by books was to live in a nest of knowledge so home is a room with high book cases, tables stacked with books, books waiting beside my bed and the books I keep in the car, just in case I end up stuck waiting somewhere.

The new electronic book carriers are amazing, holding 200+ books and containing the ability to instantaneously order others.  Books on tape offer a dramatic presentation often acted or read by the author, which is handy if you are stuck in traffic, but there is just something about the smell of a book, the feel of the pages in your hand and opening up the book for the first time, reading the book jacket, the acknowledgements and hoping for a picture of the author and perhaps a little bio.

There is something about seeing a bookmark peeking out of the top of a book, beckoning me to open it up and pick up where I left off.  Come back, continue the journey, think, learn something, and drift off.

I am my mother’s daughter, Ex Libris.


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6 responses to “Open A Drawer

  1. Kim

    This is beautiful!


  2. karen

    yeah! you took the first step on this new journey–i love the images of all those books beckoning and feeling compelled to read more than one at a time and then making the emotional connection to your mom–you make it look so easy!


  3. Karen

    Wow! Glad to see you using your gift, my friend, on other than grad school papers. Beautifully done! And now, back to reading….


  4. betweenthewords

    On my continuous book cleaning/sorting journey last night, I picked up a small book from the shelf that had been hidden between two others. The title? Ex Libris-Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. Thanks mom, for your comment.


  5. Nancy

    This is so wonderful and so true! Mom really did right by us didn’t she?! I just keep gathering more books, some of them hers or others, some new, and even some used! If I only had time to read them all. Thank you for the writing blog inspiration. It is in the back of my mind too! Smile! For now, it remains a someday dream to plop in there with my reading and my art, photography, memory capturing and multitudes of other creative dreams. Someday.
    I too embrace the sensory experience of exploring a REAL book. I still remember the exact spot in the Sherman Oaks Library where the “B Is For Betsy” books were kept. I remember their worn red bindings standing in wait. I remember the rounded corners of their time-softened pages. I remember their familiar smell. I remember the thrill of finding one I had not yet read and therefore the promise of another chance to enter that world I loved. I almost cried when they closed the library recently. Nothing holds such an invitation as a book.
    On a different note…
    Do you recall the ritual of breaking-in new books as a class in school? Opening up the front cover – run your finger down the binding – read the title page, turn it – run your finger down the binding again- on to the table of contents – run your finger down…
    you get the idea. It was if we were being introduced to a new friend and a new tool all at once. The books were fresh and clean and smelled of excitement at being the first to experience their pages. I don’t know if schools still practice this ritual, but I believe it helped contribute to my idea of honoring the written word.
    Thanks for bringing up these memories!


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