Yesterday, as I went into the backyard, I heard the unmistakable sound of geese calling as they flew. I looked up, hoping I would catch a glimpse of them—sometimes they fly off to one side where you can hear but not see them. Luck was with me. In two broad V formations, they flew right over the little house in the big woods. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera, but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. My camera is so small and simple that it wouldn’t have caught the geese.
I stood watching their dark silhouettes against the deep blue sky, and they flew low enough so that I could see the beating of their wings. Seeing them fly, hearing their call, and thinking of their long, perilous journey brought tears to my eyes, as it always does.
“Bon chance and bon voyage,” I called to them. I thought of how hard and dangerous life was for geese. I wondered, are they ever afraid? Do they dwell on their hard lives, the way we humans dwell on our own? Or, flapping those strong wings, do the geese just push on, guided by some mysterious instinct we can only dimly grasp? As we don’t speak or understand the language of geese, we can’t know, but perhaps someday we will.
The theme of a hard life threaded itself through my day. Later in the afternoon, two men came with a big truck and hose and pumped out our septic tank. The driver was a large, cheerful man and good for him because what a hard way to make living, removing excrement and waste from people’s yards. True, he has machines to help him, but he has to stand there and watch and smell. (I sure hope his sense of smell is muted.) Jobs such as this are often looked down on, but what would happen if the workers suddenly decided they had had enough of cleaning septic systems? Society would be thrown into a panic as everyone belatedly realized how vital these workers were to our well being.
That evening, I went to a library expansion meeting where I heard what we have come to call a “solicitation story.” A campaign member told of a recent conversation she had had with a man who has given a generous donation to the library. This man lives out of town but was raised in Winthrop. He told the campaign member that when he was young, had it not been for Bailey Library, he never would have read as much as he did. This was at a time when kids in high school were put either on a college track or on a vocational track, and because his family was poor, he was not put on a college track. (This happened to my father, too.) Nevertheless, this man read and read and eventually went to college, got his PhD, and became a professor. (I want to make it clear that I think a vocational track is just fine. We need skilled workers who do practical things. But the choice should be based on temperament and interest, not income.)
Would he have done this without Bailey Library? Perhaps, but I’ve no doubt that the library gave him an important intellectual boost when he really needed it.
Life can be hard, for people as well as geese, and the older I get, the more convinced I am that libraries, large or small, can make life a little less hard.