My kids & I have been exploring the particular joys of rural auction sales over the past few months. We come back from our periodic forays with all sorts of treasures -- living room lamps, a fur coat, a very old typewriter, a decent axe, a locket, toucan salt & pepper shakers.
It's fun. It's exhilarating. It's also oddly intimate -- you're looking at quilts & pen collections & china cups that strangers used & loved; you're looking at treasures with stories you can't fathom.
We bought a vanity for Anna, one of those old beauties with ample drawers, a round mirror, a rickety stool. We got it for a steal too. When we got it home, my daughter discovered an icing rose way at the back corner -- somebody's wedding still humming quietly in the dark quiet of that drawer.
More & more I realize that there are stories squeezed into every possible package -- the shiny little kid I saw at the bakery with his grandma, the flock of pelicans wheeling across the August sky, that icing rose in Anna's drawer. These are the stories we rehearse with our friends & children, the stories which give us shape.
The other stories? Well, those are the ones that have found a more solid form through the discipline & skill & nerve of people who look out (& in) and see what might be saved, tucked into a drawer of words to be discovered later by some stranger. Because reading is a bit like going to auction sales -- it's fun, it's exhilarating, it's oddly intimate.
Often the books you didn't even know you were looking for are the ones that change your life in some important way. They offer you a key or they set you in full light. They might be there in plain sight, like the writers bringing work to Winnipeg in a couple of weeks for THIN AIR 2011. Or they might be hiding in the book stacks at this weekend's book sale at The Forks -- you have to be alert, then, not too quick to write off what you can't quite see.
Charlene Deihl, Artistic Director of THIN AIR, Winnipeg International Writers Festival