[For those of you who don’t regularly follow the comments part of this blog, we’ve had a very sad turn of events this weekend. We learned yesterday that the boodle (our comments section) had lost one of its most beloved members — “Yoki,” who has been posting here for years. She passed away suddenly on Friday. It’s a huge loss for this particular online community, one in which people not only comment here, online, but often get to know each other in person. She was a bright light here and a cherished friend to many. I’m posting a guest kit she wrote some years back when she was using the handle Stampede — it gives you a flavor of her intellect, humor and sensitivity.]


By Stampede (Yoki)

Number-one daughter and I have a summer project to clear some bookshelf space. We estimate that of the 600 linear feet of installed shelving, we are using 185% of it by having books in front of other books; books horizontal on top of (or below) others. Books piled willy-nilly on the top of the unit, or wedged uncomfortably between the bookcase and the wall against which it rests. It has become absurd, indeed frightening. Perhaps even dangerous. Custom-made hardwood shelves bow deeply in the middle and a stiff breeze causes the taller of the units to sway alarmingly. We’re lucky the cat is still with us.

The first task is, of course, to catalogue the volumes we own with a view to sorting out which can be surrendered, and this has led to some startling insights into the varied, not to say incompatible, personalities and interests of the four otherwise reasonable and attached individuals that make up our family.

I was an English major at university years ago, with a minor in History and Philosophy. Number- one daughter who for her sins shares a certain cast of thought with her mother, is currently studying English at one of our fine establishments of higher learning. Thus, perusing the titles in our study you might find Stumpf hard up against Toni Morrison, or Keats jockeying for space with Yeats. All very suitable, you may think, though I doubt the poets would agree. What does Pope have to say to Ferlinghetti?

To the basement, where my husband the graduate mathematician and engineer stores his old textbooks. You’ll gather he does not share the contemplative and poetic spirit that informs the examined lives of the distaff branch. Simple Vector Functions? Infinitary Combinatorics? Cardinal And Ordinal Arithmetics? The cardinal ordinance is clearly to send these off to the University book sale forthwith.

But no, here he comes to ensure we are not cavalier with his possessions. Removing them all from a box marked “To Go” he pivots neatly and plucks The Essential Plotinus from one of my designated shelves. “Hah! Essential to whom?” “Obviously not you, you are too ignorant to feel the want!” I reply, while deftly substituting Introduction to Riemannian Geometry for my old Middlemarch in the crate.

Meanwhile, number-two daughter, she of the big heart and social conscience, has barricaded herself in her bedroom the better to protect her library: childhood favourites Harold and the Purple Crayon or The Velveteen Rabbit as precious as today’s passionately admired Shake Hands with the Devil.

Finally, we make some progress and have four or five large boxes of tomes ready to remove. Before we do, we sit down to sort through them one last time. A deep silence falls over the house while each of us browses. Soon we are calling out quotations to each other, quietly smiling over a cherished passage, challenging each other to trivia questions in our respective disciplines, and sharing memories of the first time we read a particular story or poem.

Tomorrow we go to Ikea for more book cases.