by Paul White
The book was old and covered in worn, cracked, scratched leather. It must have in existence for almost forever, during which time it was used and abused, thumbed through again and again. Its pages turned countless times, corners bent, folded and straightened once more.
The gilt worn from the edges of those pages and, what little was left, was no longer bright and shiny but aged to an antique bronze. The blood-red silk ribbon, the page marker, was frayed. Long strands of silk thread dangled scruffily over the page.
Each of those pages slowly yellowing from the edges, a creeping discolouration permeating into the heart of the book, whose paper was itself becoming brittle. Little jagged tears, tiny fissures working their way onto the paper. Some pages were stained, others becoming loose as the hand stitching gave way to time.
I could smell this book. I could detect, after all this time, the faint hint of leather, the paper, the ink, the history. I wondered where this book had been during its life. It must have travelled. Passed from one owner to another. Surely it could not have been just here, sat upon that dusty wooden shelf?
No. Between the pages, I found a pressed flower, a violet, perfectly preserved and as colourful as the day it was entombed within this tome. I wonder where it was picked and by whom? I am sure it was placed there as a keepsake, a memory, possible one of love.
Another page reveals another gift, a small leaf, birch I think. Possibly placed here one autumn, for it consisted of only the veins, a delicate lacy skeleton of deciduous parting.
I should read this book, each and every page, slowly digesting it word by word. Not only to be whisked away into its inner fantasy but to seek out any clues about the trinkets, the love tokens I have found within it covers.
To discover what journeys, what travels this book has endured and with whom, to what places and sights. I wonder deeply whose hands have held these bindings, whose fingers have turned these pages and, above all, what stories, other than the one printed inside, could this book tell if it were able to speak?
I think on, considering this book and life and living. I assess and contrast and associate, to the conclusion this book, which I now hold in my hands, is not unlike my life, your life, our lives.
We all grow old and along the way much of our lustre fades, we become worn, scratched, cracked and grazed with all life throws at us. Often we are used, frequently abused, cared for and then discarded, shelved and forgotten until someone pulls us from the shelf, blows the dust off of us and once more brings us into the daylight.
We all hold secrets, stories of love, of lust, of travel and past times. Memories of youth and recklessness. We bear many scars to confirm such irrational actions, which we were once brave enough to undertake. More so, we all have at least one story to tell, at least one story so indelibly inked into our soul we could not forget the tale even if we wished. Because that tale, like the printed words upon these pages, is what makes us who we are, it is what makes us unique.
It is what makes us……us.
© Paul White 2014