Earwig Bookmarks

Today, in a rare stint of warm weather, I hurried through some burnt piles of books, which Isabel, my landlady, was just going to throw away!!! In fact, they did dump about 3/4 of the books INTO THE GARBAGE before I said STOP!

Basically the books are from Isabel's late father, who was one of the first doctors on Tierra del Fuego. Sentimental for Isabel, right? Her house burned down a couple of years ago and these books are one of the few remnants of the house and of her dad. Books not in great condition, charred black on the spines and fore edges, and completely out of order. Which is bad for an encyclopedia whose whole existence is based on order--good ole alpha order.

They were awesome hard-bound encyclopedia type books with stellar pictures, examples, photos, glossy thick paper, quality stuff. And really, truly: they just don't make 'em like that anymore. I went through some of the pictures and craziness that is encyclopedianess when I first arrived here from my travels to Ecuador in August. They were stacked high on a desk buried in my bedroom before I shoveled all the clutter out of it. (You should have seen this place when I first got here, but that's a different story.) In August I asked Isabel what she planned to do with the books. She told me their story and said that she was going to take them to a specialist to have them reassembled.

After two months, they were shoved inside a doorless cabinet and tossed outside, in the Patagonian wind-rain-sun-wind-weather-120 km wind-vertical rain-street dogs and street cats-patagonia elements for christsake-weather. Then the earwigs moved in. Nests of them. Thousands of the creepy scissoring insects creeping and scissoring in and out of the loose blackened hinges. I put a plastic shopping bag over my hand and shook the tijeretas (earwigs in spanish) off of the remaining encyclopedic pieces, flipping through the pages again and missing something that I cannot remember. A series of pages with fruits and WWII and Gauguin and Ghana. One page in particular I nearly nabbed back in August. But I didn't because that one page would be integral in the remaking of the book. Part of me is still rapt in my first experience of those pages, but I can't remember exactly what lured me and I can't say with any certainty that if I saw it again, I would recognize it.

There is so much in this about non-attachment. Losing a parent (even at a 'natural' age), losing your home and all your belongings to fire, then throwing out what's left. I have gotten rid of everything and started over more times than I have fingers. But here I am packratting away the burned leftovers of another packrat. Incidentally, Isabel never would have taken the initiative to throw the papers out herself. It was the cleaning lady, who is also named Ysabel but with a Y, who couldn't handle all the earwigs inside the kitchen, so she started to clean up the mess that was in the backyard in hopes of slowing the swarms spiraling up through the drain in the kitchen sink.

I don't know what I will do with the books. A series of poems maybe, because the idea of ordering the world alphabetically fascinates me endlessly. Or just cutting up the pages and doing collages. So... maybe it isn't just a love of books, especially if I cut them up. But it pained me too much to see them bagged up and hefted to the side of the road to await the dump truck!

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