Suddenly faced with time thrust on us when lockdown arrived overnight, we made all kinds of resolutions about what would keep us busy for the duration of the isolation in the expectation that it would be a few weeks at the most. Realistically, this could be thought of as a golden opportunity to tidy all our cupboards, sort out our pictures and answer all those emails which have accumulated. Time passed and at one point we realized that there was no hurry - we would have lots of time to attend to our earlier resolutions because this was going to be a long term experience. Plans changed - the computer and TV became the timetable for our daily programs. Exercise classes, interesting lectures, bridge games, scrabble – there was much to fill our days and all available at the press of a few buttons.
There were others who decided this was an ideal time to settle down and write their memoirs, and it was that thought that got me going to my bookshelf to search for the copious notes I had put together for my children some ten years ago, with details of their roots and our lives in the historic times we lived in in South Africa. I am a book-alcoholic, or maybe just an old fashioned kind of girl. For me, a Kindle or a computer doesn't touch sides with the pleasure of curling up with a book on my lap to get lost in.
In sorting through my shelves, I had no need to search for my memoirs. My past life unfolded as I searched the selection and read the titles in front of me.
Thank you to Julia Donaldson for saying it so much more eloquently than I can in your poem "I Opened a Book".
I am going to share with the reader one shelf of my collection that covers a good few years of my life and my interests.
One of my pleasures in years gone by was cooking and in my bookshelf are a few of my favorite recipe books collected in the days before the Internet took over that memory bank. As the years passed, it became more important to eat healthily than to eat fancifully and The Natural Road to Health had a plan that I always promised myself I would follow. But now living at Beth Protea that problem is no longer mine.
I remember when my interest in the psychological side to life took precedence and it is reflected in the next number of books on the shelf. Coping with Panic (which really must have helped because despite the phenomenal situation we all find ourselves in today, I am not panicking...yet).
Adjacent to the panic panacea, my thoughts turned more to exploring philosophy. I was introduced to logotherapy by a dear friend and Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is testament to the importance of that introduction to a living philosophy .
These books have been on my shelves for the greater part of my adult life and have travelled with me from South Africa to Israel and have survived through many downgrades of possessions, as life has taken us from our privileged existence in a large family home to a smaller townhouse as the nest started emptying and on to Israel and much limited space and now to our comfortable retirement nest. It was that search for meaning that guided me to the writings of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who offers me inspiration and understanding on every page of his book that graces my shelf. However, being a lover of words and English, The Light from Many Lamps covered my literary interests as did the Shores of Eternity which I acquired when in San Diego staying adjacent to to Deepak Chopra's wellness spa, attending free meditation and yoga classes and coming home with that little book, a collection of poems by Rabindranath Tagore, as poetry and dramatic art are another special love of mine.
Interspersed with all my collection are also one or two treasured books of fiction which I just couldn't discard when packing up. They are tucked in there somewhere. The last book to be seen on this shelf is Inner Peace for Busy People, surely something we all search for and I am sure between that and Eckhardt Tolle's impressive The Power of Now adjacent to it, I have got pretty close to achieving a semblance of that - or is it age and experience that have done the trick?
Unfortunately, my mobile phone has not got the range of our old wonderful cameras which are now gracing some collectors' shelf or gathering dust in an antique store, so I can't get a panoramic view and the few books towards the end of the shelf are not in the photo. That includes Out of Africa, a reminder of the land I will always love - the beauty of the veld, the passion of Africa - transporting me to another time, travelling back into the past and the days of growing up in South Africa. There is an obvious space where once stood my treasured signed copy of Mandela's Long Road to Freedom. I gave that to my son the last time he was in Israel visiting from America, and how happy I am that I did that as who knows when next he will be able to travel to visit again.
So with that comment and in reaching the end of the shelf I have got to a point where I am thinking of the future - but just by taking a good look at one level of my bookshelf quite a big chapter of my past is whirling around in my mind, waiting for expression.......when I have got the time.
As for tidying my cupboards, answering my growing email list and sorting out my photographs - those will have to wait for yet a while .So if you come across a fit, well fed, energetic, thoughtful and intense old lady sprouting poetry and philosophy or holding her book close to her eyes (all the better to see it with the years are taking its toll) - keep your social distance of 2 meters away but stop and say hello – that's me.