Sometimes a common experience can lead to unexpected satisfaction.
I was struck recently by a memory, one that was inspired by a poem published in 1938 that was referenced in a book written in 1972 that I am now reading in 2023.
A short time ago I went to the library to pick up a book. There was the familiar routine of spotting the book, walking triumphantly to the desk and presenting the library card. A scan, a due date, and I’d be on my way.
But then I turned and saw a different book seemingly looking right at me. No surprise, I was after all in a library, but this book wasn’t expected to be released for at least another several days.
I stared. I asked if that was indeed the book whose publication I had anticipated for weeks.
Looks like it, I was told. (I always recall, affectionately, the nonchalance of the response).
Bashfully, like a child seeking permission to eat a chocolate chip cookie, I asked if it was OK to also check out this book.
I was surprised by my elation. I walked out of the library buzzing with excitement. A book not expected to be available was in my possession, and I felt like I’d just scored front-row seats for the concert of the century.
It’s an odd memory, but it was a good reminder to savor the small, everyday satisfactions, like listening to a favorite podcast or musician, taking a relaxing walk around the neighborhood, eating a satisfying dessert — or being immersed in a good book.
I was early into reading Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer” recently when he described his time as a young newspaperman in the 1950s.
Under the thrill of deadline pressure and the pace of writing for a daily newspaper, Kahn wrote that he did not truly realize what he had. His appreciation came later.
Because the present, as Kahn referenced in Robert Frost’s “Carpe Diem,” is “too much for the senses/ too crowding, too confusing — /too present to imagine.”
Discovering a library book might not be the gallant embodiment of the often difficult task of seizing the day, but it was a moment that remains in my memory.
It could have been like many other forgettable mundane experiences, but instead it was one that stuck. A small joy.
It was a common experience to be appreciated in the present tense.