I’m not secretive about my love affair with books. I lust over the sight of a crisp new Barnes and Noble store glowing on a well lit street but, there’s something equally alluring about the teetery old bookshelf tucked at the back of a musty powdered thrift shop. No place is really safe. Those of you that watch me carefully might even catch my voyeuristic sideways glances sweeping up and down my friends personal libraries.
I wasn’t born this way though. It came on rather suddenly in my late twenties when life decided to yank off the elephant ear sized blinders bolted securely to my head. Since that abrupt awakening books became my confidant, my teacher, my source, my inspiration and my security. I know… if I had the "meditation" thing down then I could get all of those things and more from that inner communion. I’m pretty sure if I read just a few more books about it I’ll get good at it.
I think I’ve gotten a bit off track with the original intent of what this post was going to be about, but it does have to do with books. A couple years ago I did a signing in Reno Nevada. There, I met a fascinating woman who has traveled almost everywhere on this planet. She learned of my obsession with books and brought part of her collection of old books for me to see. Each one prominently displayed an original painting on the outside of it but, it could only be seen if you knew "how" to see it. You see the design is hidden on the edge of the pages and only becomes visible if you fan the pages a certain way. This is called fore-edge painting.
This was truly one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. I think I might have even passed out for a few seconds after she showed them to me. Several hours later, I’d gathered my senses and at the end of the signing day Bianca asked me which one of the books I’d like to have. I promptly passed out again. It was a rough day for signing.
"Receiving" is a quality I’m still working on developing so I was having difficulties with the idea of letting her just "give" me one of these amazing old books. She insisted, saying she could see how much I enjoyed them and in her opinion an "artist" such as myself should own one of these. So, I graciously accepted. The treasured book that came home with me is "The Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow" and it stands proudly on my desk right next to me where I see and enjoy it every day. Thank you Bianca!
If you’d like to see how to fan the pages to reveal the secret paintings check out this Youtube clip.
P.S. The photos of my nifty book seen above were taken by my amazing photographer friend Alex Tinsman.