This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, April 10, 1991

April 10, 1991 - The Common Enemy

My grandmother used to tell a story about her childhood. When she was about five years old, she said, she used to play dead in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, floating face down just past the first steep dropoff of underwater sand dune.

Sometimes within seconds, she said, quick and gentle dolphins would slide up to her and flip her over, then nose her limp body toward shore.

That story stays with me, as does its message: We have unseen friends. Everywhere in the world there are beings who value and act to save us.

There is a special bond between grandparents and their grandchildren. In part, of course, that's because they share a common enemy -- the generation in between.

At either end of human life, both liberties and responsibilities are limited, often unjustly. Both the old and the young are too frequently ignored and patronized. This gives them a lot to talk about, providing they can find someone to listen. And who but the old and the young truly have time for one another?

There is another similarity. Between infancy and dotage is a bewildering barrage of cultural influences. Adults define themselves by the roles of the age. They see themselves as advocates of the current cause, or victims of the contemporary crisis.

But long before all that, children manifest their individual temperaments. One is sweet and shy, another rambunctious. It seems that much of life consists of losing yourself in the world's muddle, then slowly and painfully rediscovering the unique perspective on life you had at the dawn of your consciousness.

And so the sweet and shy child at last retires, rejects the businessman's armor of indifference, and becomes more like himself again. The rambunctious child finally sheds her life of domestic devotion to reclaim her original feistiness.

The young have not yet learned to value the things their parents value. The old have learned not to. What is left is common ground: a concern for human voice and touch, the rhythm of seasons, good stories.

I find that it is precisely these stories, the stories of the old and the young, that most deeply affect me. A child, strolling around the library, reels off some half-dozen names of dinosaurs, glowing with polysyllabic pride. A many-times grandmother recites the names of places she has lived, geographical incantations. They know magic, these two.

In the vast pool of library resources, the young and old buoy me up. They connect me to the reason for libraries, to the celebration and exploration of life.

So this is a call to the community. If there are any schools that have assembled bound versions of the writings of school age kids, or older students of life with their own published reminiscences, I would very much like to see them. In fact, I would like to purchase them, catalog them, and put them out for use.

It could be that having their own books on the library shelves might give children a sense of deeply personal ownership in the library, a natural pride that woudl prompt them to show other people how to find the REALLY GOOD STUFF.

Or it could be that some children never knew their grandparents. But that doesn't mean they can't hear the stories, at least if we can persuade the grandparents to take the time to record their richest experiences.

After all, this wouldn't be the first time that library books have broken the time barrier.

No comments:

Post a Comment