Joyce from Barnhart, Montana

Living the Examined (Good) Life at the Library - After living in the same house for 23 years, our family moved 4 miles south down the highway, 4 miles away from our grocery store, gas station and other conveniences, but we were moving that much closer to the new county library. And I couldn’t have been happier.

It only took a few visits to learn the layout of the new library. The first section I noticed was fiction. The reference section is off in the corner, magazines near the front counter and the main non-fiction section is central and contains my favorites: books on how to do anything, including living life well.  

I’ve read up on one topic or another for at least a few stolen moments almost daily since moving here. My first attempt at trompe l’oeil – a sort of 3D painting technique used to trick the eye – was when I helped my friend, Vicki transform her newly purchased café into a garden dining tea room with the help of a couple of library books. She tells me that children and adults alike try to grab onto the handle and open the door I painted on the wall.

After studying every book in the library on the subject of feng shui and applying the principles to my house, I’ve helped friends arrange their furniture and belongings to improve their chi too. Feng shui is the art of placement and works beautifully to aid not only the appearance of a home, but the lives of the residents. The main guideline is simply to remove clutter and leave room for ‘good’.  My son calls it “mom’s voodoo” but I swear that a carefully placed red dot repaired our broken icemaker last summer. With my daughter as a witness,  we heard it fill with water within 20 minutes. A half hour later the tray emptied into the bin. We looked at each other with silly grins and big eyes, hardly able to believe it was possible to repair something using a red marker instead of the usual butter knife/ superglue/better call your dad approach.

 Last mother’s day, my youngest wrote a letter to me thanking me not only for being a fun mom but teaching her the meaning of life. I couldn’t have done it before reading some of the wisdom of the ages from Confucius, Socrates and the saints as well as Chopra and Dyer. I’ve been practicing meditation, taking notes and studying them for a couple of years now and have had the briefest glimpse of the metaphysical while waiting in the carpool line.

While the answer to the question “Why are we here?” question remains indistinct, there are concrete lessons to be learned from these books.  When one of my friends told me that she loved the new sweater she bought until her husband told her it was too small, I was able to quote “the truly self-actualized person is independent of the good opinions of others”. I know, it’s a wonder I have any friends and I usually don’t quote philosophy to them but it was a very cute sweater!

The entire family had fun taking a library book quiz this week to determine if they are left, middle or right brain thinkers. My family is good like that, humoring me and my latest insight into the human experience. Incidentally, we discovered anyone who takes five minutes to set up and number their quiz answer sheet when all that is required is to count the yes answers is left brained. The one who counted her answers by arranging some pretzels on the table will probably need a math tutor but never a decorator.

I’ve tried gold leafing, learned how to clean a swimming pool, build a business website, treat the household bearded dragon’s poor appetite and so much more – all compliments of the Barnhart branch of the Jefferson County library.

Life is better here, in our new house which is four miles farther from everything, but closer to the library.