I look across my desk to my home library. Most are old friends, more are in other bookshelves. Some authors are living now, most speak from their graves. One old friend is a well-worn dictionary; others are seminary professors who keep me honestly Christian when I visit other faiths.
Then there’s Shakespeare, in a class of his own. His plays and poems are deep and puzzling at times. When I fail to understand England’s sixteenth century Elizabethan words I have a book that helps me. I try not to fail.
Poets, explorers, fiction writers speak from my book shelves. Also my how-to books teach photography, writing, computer and publishing, fiction and prose, physics and astronomy, all which make my heart sing and imagination soar.
Then again, Amazon Fire Fly contains my digital library. Fortunately, my thirst for knowledge is not restricted to my home library. No sirree! It is only a tiny extension of our own Camp Verde Community Library, which has connections to communities throughout Yavapai County.
My first library in the middle 1930s was a two-story schoolhouse in Fulton, Michigan. Its public education came in eight rows of desks below, each row a grade—one teacher. High School was upstairs with four rows of desks—one teacher.
The school’s library was a room about the size of a large bathroom, with wall to wall shelves, from ceiling to flour. Its shelves held hundred of books standing at attention, waiting to be read. If I could have read them all, I would have had a literature road map leading out of town to the world beyond. Even so, simple adventure fiction led me out of myself. I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes again and again. He was the man I wanted to be like when I grew up. Jane came with Tarzan and that was ok. My Jane was beyond my radar, two years younger, living many miles away.
Returning from Okinawa and Japan by troop ship, in late 1949, I visited the ship’s meager library and pulled out a biography of Thomas Eakins with prints of his paintings. Inspired, I wanted to be an artist.
In the early 1970s, I was asked to serve on the Camp Verde Library Building Committee. We focused on building plans, fund-raising projects, and grants. Furthermore, we discussed construction bids and presented our decision. Over the decades, our library has become an important member of our community, educating generations and helping to form the personality of our town.
Most mornings I visit our Camp Verde Library and greet volunteers and staff. Then, I read the Wall Street Journal, borrow magazines, do research, and look over shelves of DVD movies. Mondays I often attend poetry and prose writing sessions. Also, our book review group helps me discover new authors and what they have to contribute. This I enjoy.
Next year, our new library will be finished and our old library will be given a new life a new building. It will continue to grow exponentially in our twenty-first century to better teach, serve and form. Quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet out of context, nevertheless true today: “What dreams may come, must give us pause.”
John Jenkins is a retired minister, gardener, beekeeper, artist, poet, writer, fly fisherman, reader, thinker, and author of A Voice In the Wilderness, a book of inspirational essays, and Catching a Dream; a Bicycle Journey Across America. Beside his cross country bicycle trip, John has hiked the Grand Canyon many times. John and Doris have three children, seven grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren.
John lives in Camp Verde continuing his journey without Doris, his wife of 60 years who passed in 2011, where he explores his love of nature, the mind, and the spirit. He is currently working on “Insights” and “Methodist Monk.”