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, May 26, 1999

May 26, 1999 - Winding Granddad's Watch

Some 20 years ago, my mother gave me my granddad's Hamilton watch. Back then, it wasn't quite my style: a square, gold face, small gold letters, a gold twisty band. This watch didn't even have a quartz. It was one of those old wind-ups, which I don't believe are even made in America any more.

But my mother knew how close I'd been to granddad -- one of the few genuinely wise men I have ever known.

It languished in my dresser drawer for two decades. Then, one day, I had two realizations. First, the face of the watch had some rust spots. There were some scratches on the crystal. I hadn't taken very good care of it.

Second, I was suddenly warmed by the knowledge that in a culture filled with so many disposable items, I still had something once worn, something used every day, by a man I met almost half a century ago, a man I still miss and admire.

So to surprise me, my wife had the watch refurbished. She replaced the twisty band with a burgundy leather band. And to my delight, I think this watch is now very classy. (This was also a very classy 16th anniversary gift, but that's the sort of woman my wife is.)

The second day I wore the watch, it suddenly stopped, and I had a moment of deep sadness. Then I remembered that it was a wind-up.

Now, every morning I spend the perhaps five seconds it takes to wind the spring. Five seconds to remember granddad, my mother, my wife. It's a small meditation that has become very important to me. And the watch keeps excellent time.

Modern times do offer many conveniences, of course. I'm not anti- progress. But there is an abiding pleasure in such small rituals, and perhaps a lesson. Sometimes, convenience distances us from things. The same mile feels very different if you drive it, bike it, or walk it.

Lately, I've been doing some investigating of "e-books" -- electronic versions of books. But granddad's watch reminds me why I got into the business of librarianship in the first place.

I like the way books smell. I like the way they feel -- from the subtle texture of the buckram binding, to the elegant curve of spine. I like the way good typefaces look on paper with some heft to them.

I've always assumed that carpenters become carpenters because they liked working with wood. I became a librarian because I liked working with books -- a matter not just of intellectual content, but of profound sensual involvement.

So the next time you wander into the library, pick up a book just because you like the look of it. Lean back into one of our comfy chairs and let yourself admire the book as artifact, as something made to give pleasure. You might find it a comforting change of pace to the blitz, glitz and glamor of computer generated imagery and digital sound.

Every time you turn a page, it's like winding a watch.

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