In the Fall of 2012, I was digging (and saving)1 at our local thrift shop when a small cabinet caught my eye. I used it to make the Little Library that is planted in front of our home. Since the library is a few steps from my door, it is easy to stop and tinker with it. I often find myself wondering what I should do next. Usually there is some object that speaks to me and says, “I was built for a, b or c function, but my real purpose in life is to serve as x, y or z part of the library.” Over the last few years, I let my imagination carry me where it will, and so I added the museum, bulletin boards, Lincoln Logs, solar lighting, magnetic poetry, etc. It is a little out of my control, but anyone who thinks they are in control are kidding themselves.
If the library were an essay being brought to a professor for a grade, it would likely come back hanging its head with a B- and lots of comments in red ink about lack of focus and the need for a strong thesis statement. He might scrawl a note in the margin saying, “Does a fairy ladder really support the main idea of lending books?” Perhaps the professor would throw in a bone about how the library has lots of good ideas but lacks development.
I confess I share this trait with my library. Unfinished projects pile up in my basement and attic. My life will probably receive a disappointed B- from God who sees all my unrealized potential. Hopefully in the fullness of time, all of the good ideas that I have laid aside will one by one come to fruit and I will be able to pull out an A+ for the final grade. Lets hope that in the second semester of life I don’t do something ruinous to further bring down my grade, but all this talk of grades makes it sound like I am in control. When in reality, we really live under grace and life that is more of a pass/fail proposition.
Over time a number of things have failed. The library roof was a spectacular disaster. I had fabricated a low slung hip roof using found material, but I was overly optimistic in thinking that a few coats of paint would protect the whole thing from the elements. As moisture penetrated the fiberboard, it began to swell. In a desperate rescue attempt I added a layer of vinyl to protect it, but soon it looked bloated. I tossed the whole spongy mess of a roof into the trash and started from scratch. The replacement roof was engineered to not only meet the challenges of the elements, but to support a roof garden. The first plantings did not fare well, so for my second planting I gave more care in choosing my plants and watered them religiously. At the end of last summer the roof looked lush, green, and shaggy. This spring the plantings have emerged from winter’s frost with new shoots.
When a failure is imposed by mother nature, there is no appeal process. Leaky roofs and dead plantings must be addressed. On the other hand, some rubrics are subjective. Where one evaluator might see a lack of focus, another might find poetic expression. If a Swiss Army Knife can claim the title of knife, then surely my library can rightly claim the title of library. I would hope that some years from now, when my work gets turned in for a final reckoning, the eye that reviews it will be sympathetic to who I am and what I have hoped to achieve. Even if not everything gets the scrutiny of a four point scale, I want to try my very best.
More images and information on the library can be found at http://funliteracy.com/
1 The store’s name is Dig and Save