October 27th, 2021
Since babyhood, libraries have been my sanctuaries. My crib was the first, my mama tells me. Whatever on the stuffed animals… just leave the books on the mattress, back away quietly, and close the door behind you. I loved “nap” time.
Now as then, if I feel confined or restless or bored or alone or crazy – or if I’m on the verge of a next adventure but still parked in a temporary town – I go to my happy place, the library, where the stories are, where the perfume of old books is, where I can step out of reality for a little
while – or for a daylong staycation.
Libraries are also the places where magic happens, whether in books or bathrooms.
A few years ago, I was living in an unforgiving cornfield in Ohio, feeling utterly lost, alone, wounded, frightened, confused, and hopeless. On the day those rotten emotions collided, I waded through tears to the library restroom. And then, mid-hiccup, I saw it. On the toilet paper holder in the handicapped stall was a blue rock with a command written on it, one that in hindsight saved my sanity – but that’s another story.
The tools I needed to be an unwitting mapmaker were in Houston libraries. The tools? Books – books in which I felt like I was the main character. Laura, Andrew Henry, Gypsy Girl – and Space Witch Tilly Ipswitch, but that’s another story.
These are the beloved books that made me the cartographer of my world.
Diarist Laura Ingalls’ Pa lugs the family by wagon at whim, from here to there and there to here.
(My dad did that too). The Ingalls set up a cozy home for a while. Picked prairie flowers, danced to Pa’s fiddle, chased fireflies, played catch with a pig’s bladder… and then pack up the wagon and move on…to the shores of Silver Lake.
Me with my beloved "Little House on the Prairie" book
Hey, me too! I’ve moved by car from Texas to Mexico, island to heartland, prairie to prairie…about every two years, stuffing everything I had into my wagon. Not surprisingly in my weird life, I have literally lived by the shore of Silver Lake on the Cherokee Nation reservation, not 30 miles down the yellow brick road from where the Ingalls family built a one-room cabin measuring about 8-feet by 10-feet.
While I had an address in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I discovered the Tall Grass Prairie nature conservancy down the road on Osage Nation land. It is a land without fences. What one can see there now is what Laura would have seen – big bowl of grassland and sky. What happened there was one of those “be careful what you wish for,” events because you just might end up with a foundation called The Oz Project. But that’s another story.
Prarie Tall Grass
Lizzy & I
2. GYPSY GIRLS BEST SHOES by Anne Rockwell — No one has time to watch the little girl dance in her best shoes. Red shoes. Ultimately, she shrugs her shoulders and dances for herself. Turns out, there were a few others quietly watching: some schoolchildren, a teacher, a squirrel or two. They thought she was wonderful, and before long, she believed it too.
Then she grew up, gave her hand-glittered red shoes to her daughter, Elizabeth Rose, and decided to go barefoot in Port Aransas, Texas.
Port Aransas, Texas
3. ANDREW HENRY’S MEADOW, by Doris Burns.
This is my favorite children’s book. Ever since I first opened it in 1970, I’ve wanted Andrew Henry to build a house for me, my very own house, a fairytale house where garish colors and mismatched chairs are a mainstay.
Simon Rodia, self-taught architect of
The Watts Towers in Watts, CA
Andrew is a boy consumed with vision, talent, and energy. He is an inventor of a kitchen helicopter, a living room eagle’s cage, a merry-go-round propelled by his sisters’ sewing machine, and robo-maids. His contraptions were not met by his family with the awe they deserved!
His solution is to strike out on his own. In the meadow, he builds a little house
according to his own specifications – no limitations! Soon, Alice Burdock, toting
her birds in cages, arrives.
“Andrew Henry, will you build me a house too?”
“Sure thing,” Andrew Henry said. And he does – a treehouse with feeding stations and a birds eye view of the meadow.
Eventually, with Andrew Henry as contractor, all the kids in the ‘hood have unintentionally created a community, harmonic and organic. It’s a fun place, a pretty place, a friendly place, a happy place, a safe place with an unspoken foundation of “love they neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
Many geniuses with the gift of dyslexia – like Einstein and DREAM SOMETHING BIG’s Simon Rodia – envision possibilities far outside of the box. Sometimes they are so far out, people call the inventor ‘crazy.’ If you’re like Einstein, Rodia, Andrew and others, take ‘crazy’ as a compliment and say thank you. I know without doubt Andrew Henry opened his gift as if every day was Christmas.
Dream Country Cottage
I swear here on May 23, 2021, with my hand on my mom’s head, I will have that fairytale house in the Texas Hill Country, where spring is a carpet of blue flowers, where lavender blooms on red dirt farms, and where the vines are laden with grapes.
My son, James, will be the contractor. Dyslexia was a factor in his choice to study architecture on the job instead of formally. Like Andrew Henry’s, my community will include others with their small houses designed just the way they like them.
My dream is to create an intentional community. Andrew Henry told me this 51 years ago. Hmm… what should I call it?
Get in touch with me for suggestions!
St. Mark’s School of Texas Literary Festival 2017
If I could have imagined as a little girl that one day I could check out my own
books from libraries worldwide, I would have smiled the kind of smile that makes
people wonder, What’s up with her?
And where’d she get those shoes?