Why do I do this? It isn't even only with my own stuff (see below for an index). I write about the Biden win here, Bob Ferguson here, and the 2017 Women's March here, to cite just a few examples, in similar terms. I look in the eyes of the people who come to my events, and I just have to raise my hands to the sky. How does any of it happen?
I wasn't raised to expect any of this.
Forgive me if I'm overcome with gratitude, or wishing to divulge more details about this or that event. The great composers wrote devotional music with an analogous fervor, the ancients wrote their psalms, and before that gods were praised and stories told around open fires.
We feel better when we're thankful.
In this 2017 story, Shoeshiner Tim tells me, "the world don't owe you nothin'." I write in the post about how and why those words so liberated to me. Tim has since passed on, but I carry his words in my pocket. Thankfulness is how I stay sane and how I stay happy. I have to keep front and center what's more important than any accolade; I know I don't deserve the goodwill that's been thrown my way. But I do my best to earn it.
So without further ado, let's talk about the four events I just gave at the Redmond Library!
You may recall my book, The Lines that Make Us, was Redmond Library's, Microsoft's, and the City of Redmond's choice for their 2020 Summer Reading Program. I'm touched particularly because I worked as a page at Redmond Library for six years, and never for one second imagined my book would even be in their system, let alone a well-above-average 36 copies, nor certainly their choice for the single Summer Book. They usually choose a few titles per summer. This all ended a month ago, and I'm still blushing.
Then there's the Friends of the Redmond Library financing this whole thing, and the exquisite turnout across four events. People who came more than once. Faces who beamed at me through the screens, their essence cutting through the pixels like so much chaff in the breeze. Dozens upon dozens, from teens to ninety-year olds, all with a kind word. It's more than I could ever dream of for an online event.
What particularly strikes me about this event (or four events, rather; they'll go online eventually) is the full-circle nature they engender within me. It goes beyond the fact that I once worked there. It was my first job. I was lonely as a child, and at 14 I began volunteering, coming in with a degree of frequency that quickly led to a hire. The staff, a delightful gaggle of mid-aged women and younger, kindly associates, pages and librarians, took me under their wing with kindness and loving warmth. Kindness and loving warmth? Who finds such things in junior high school? There are many moments from across those six years I best remember now not as events but emotions, gentle nudges from a loving past. The words have names and faces: Bev, Kim, Lynn, Joe, Shuja, Carol, Andy, Malinda, Margaret, Angela, Heather, Sue, Darcy, and many more (I’m not leaving your names out, you others! Blame it on the word count!)… and Dan. Most of these people have drifted out of my life, but Dan has remained a presence.
Very few people have known me for more than several years, let alone twenty. Did any part of me know he and I would collaborate two decades later on a project as important to him or I as this? Dan moved mountains of the most personal nature to make this happen. Many other lovelies were involved (here’s looking at you, Dori and Mary), but for much of the process and because of our history, I felt a certain uniquely collegiate affinity working for Dan. The echoes of years past infused our happy dealings now. A lost memory of walking by him on a weekend afternoon, or me shelving CDs while listening to him help customers the nearby reference desk; a tall fellow, gentle, measured in movement and reflective in speech. Do you know the kind of person whose chuckle you can always trust as truthful?
It was a haven, the Redmond Library. I felt a sense of belonging in that space, with those people, which I’m convinced played a role in who I am today. In this book and its outlook existing in the first place. For many years the blog was called “The View From Nathan’s Bus;” I still think of it as that, even if it’s now just titled “Blog” in the navigation bar above, for space reasons. It’s about a certain choice of perspective, less mine than the one I’ve absorbed by such kind souls as Dan and the others. Getting to do this series felt like a completion of the promise those early teen years held, returning something to the folks who helped me find my footing. My view. The book contains echoes of their generosity, as filtered through by me, by time, and by the folks on the street.
How many great things exist because someone took a youngster under their wing, made them feel loved?
Thanks, you wonderful people.
More Nathan thank-tastic gratitude explosions:
here (one of my first– Seattle Art Museum),
here (on co-hosting with the great Susanna Ryan),
here (an epic 3-parter about Elliot Bay),
here (on the book launch plus last color darkroom show),
here (Seattle Channel),
here (Seattle's 35 Most Influential),
here (Wall of Fame),
here (winning best film at Amsterdam),
here (WA State book awards),
here (MOHAI lecture),
here (PLU author lectures),
here (Top 10 bestseller status), and
here (MOHAI again, clarifying an issue that concerned me).