The Reluctant Librarian
…who, as it turns out, wasn’t reluctant for long.
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What is Your Face Thinking? August 5, 2020
What an odd year 2020 has thus far been. Perhaps one of the strangest things about it is seeing everyone wearing protective masks. Yes, the pandemic is still upon us. But, these thoughts have little to do with the virus. Instead, I’m interested in how our faces are coping.
I mean, after all, they wake to mornings that are as bright and promising as ever. They wake to summertime breezes through open windows and for a moment, they respond to the day as they always have — freely. Expressively.
Soon, however, they find themselves stifled. Hidden away. Sure, they understand the air along the course of their every inhale and exhale might be travelled by SARS-CoV-2*. Nevertheless, how could they not feel put-upon? They bear the brunt of what is arguably our primary protective measure – mask wearing.
As for smiling, frowning, grinning and grimacing — our faces must think to themselves, “Why bother?” Our usual cheeky, fleshy inflections are all for naught. These days, the only part of our countenance with any real say is our brow.
And, of course, our eyes. I used to think reading eyes was easy. Now, however, I find that without their appurtenant facial movements, it actually isn’t that easy. The eyes, these days, seem a little like empty wells save the occasional reassuring twinkle.
I’ve been wondering whether we’ll evolve and adapt to wearing masks in ways we hadn’t considered. Will we increasingly rely on our voices to convey feelings? But, voices are easily led and, therefore, can’t always be trusted. Rather, it’s the entirety of our face that spontaneously and often involuntarily speaks from the heart. Now that it’s concealed, what will we do?
Will our facial responses adapt to mask-wearing by becoming so emotively void that once this pandemic passes, our expressions will have atrophied? Will we all be slack-jawed and blank?
Or will our faces be like those sweet cows we’ve all seen on social media videos who upon being freed from years of captivity run and romp and kick up their hind legs? I hope it’s the latter! Remember the movie, The Mask, starring Jim Carrey? Remember his exaggerated expressions? Maybe in their freedom, our faces will begin expressing like The Mask. Now, that would be ironic.
Until then, I’ll keep wearing (and appreciating) one of the 1000s of masks lovingly made by community members. But, especially at the library, I will be happy when that barrier between my patrons and me — that polka-dot or pretty-flowered dissuader of connection — can be put in a drawer and eventually forgotten. My face will be happy, too.
*Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2
True North, July 8, 2020
For the last decade or so, I’ve enjoyed an enormous gift for an introvert – reclusion. Oh, how joyous waking to quiet mornings where the only sounds are chirping birds and a low-whistling tea kettle. To settle in at your easel with your dog at your side or to take pen in-hand and spend a full, slow hour journaling – it’s the stuff of dreams. There aren’t many things more glorious than having a whole day lie before you with open arms and no other expectation beyond meeting yours.
So, when I slipped into my new position as Village Librarian, I was wary despite how smooth and easeful the process felt. “You mean I need to be somewhere at a certain time?” “I have to come down off this mountain before morning tea?” “But, who’s going to sit on the porch with Dickens and watch squirrels dash through the meadow?” So many clamoring questions.
And, of course, the biggest question of all, “Will there be lots of humans?” It’s not that we introverts don’t like humans. We mostly do. It’s just that we expend a lot of energy in our interactions and require significant alone time to recharge. Extraverts, on the other hand, thrive on interaction and can feel lonely or blue without it.
Having had a long career that involved a great deal of liaison work, I know first-hand the exhilaration and exhaustion from navigating personalities. Aside from all the good that came from building consensus among diverse interests, I also spent many sleepless nights dwelling on bygone exchanges wondering how I could have been or done better. But, what it all really boiled down to was, “What did they think of me?”
Much of the energy spent trying to understand how best to navigate others’ personalities might’ve been better used learning to maneuver my own. But, I’m finally getting it and in no small measure have the library to thank.
To date, our doors have been re-opened a total of only sixty-eight hours, but one thing is clear:
It’s not how you leave people feeling about you that’s important. It’s how you leave people feeling about themselves.
Some semi-aware part of me knew this all along even if only through inherent empathy. Now, however, I’m fully conscious of it and it’s totally rerouted my course. I’ve recalibrated my compass and in so doing much of my initial wariness has gone by the wayside.
Sixty-eight hours and already I’ve stood with someone as they cried, laughed with others who’d walked in sad, listened to words that needed somewhere to rest, and even offered an opinion or two when asked. All from within these beautiful, old walls.
One day after a particularly busy afternoon, I said to my daughter about my new role, “I can’t tell whether I’m losing or finding myself.” As I said the words, I realized it was the latter.
And, after all, chirping birds, tea and squirrels still comprise four mornings a week.
The Artist in Your Library, June 24, 2020
Yesterday, a patron asked, “Do you like the library?” I responded emphatically, “YES — I love the library.” I added, though, that I miss my art. However, as I said the words I realized while it’s true, I don’t feel that particular gnaw one might expect from someone desperately missing an essential part of their identity.
Then, it dawned on me. The reason I’m not aching for my studio is because I am creating. I’m creating atmosphere. I’m molding ether rather than clay. Adding color to corners rather than canvas. Organizing my palette, setting tones and adjusting hues.
As attentive to detail as ever, I’m manifesting a vision not at all unlike my studio creations. In fact, very akin. But, this creation, you can walk right into. It’s a feeling. An energy. It resides in the very air and streams through these old windows. It speaks through breezes happy to find wide open doors, and looks up from weathered wide-plank floors. It’s that unnamable mojo that comes from entering a place that leaves you better for having been there. It’s an appeal that compels your return. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but it feels like more. More goodness.
For me, it feels like the continuation of a long-dreamed dream. One the very awake Annie Huyck dreamt for our village the better part of 80 years ago. Being a steward of that dream isn’t something I take lightly. Yet, it doesn’t feel like work. Or obligation. It feels like inspiration. When I walk through these library doors, I greet Annie every time. It’s a strange and beautiful galvanizing — the past reaching forward and the present reaching back. It feels like a meeting of minds from across the mysterious veils of time.
So, if someone ever again asks whether I like the library, I think I’ll simply say, “Yes. I’m right where I belong.”
Note: You can learn about Annie Huyck by visiting our History page.