Friday, December 11, 2009

To find your quiet corner

Everyone needs time alone. Even if you are the type of person with the filters and focus to write dissertations amongst mosh pits, having at least a small portion of each day to your own thoughts, in some safe haven that's conducive for contemplating and occasional creation can (in my opinion) yield infinite potential benefit. Whether that benefit is simple mental health or devising the next best master plan, it usually takes the right time and place to break from "the noise" and / or life's lovely distractions.

The fractured modern conscious is old subject matter: stocks tick; iPods click; cars, planes and trains whiz all simultaneous with computers computating every inch under orbiting satellites - so what. The world spins, humans rarely flinch. And though we barely dot the geologic time line, we are phenomenal adaptors. Despite our expanding abilities to take on the exponentially increasing external flux, most real, adaptive progress comes from our ability to wade through the madness, and carve enough of an uninterrupted time interval to narrow-down the necessary productive focus. It takes a lot to engineer these new super-colliders or defeat the best chess computers - but we do.

Living on the road, I increased the length of those focused time intervals in the cool, comforting confines of America's public libraries. Seeking safety from the sun, wind, and ranging temperature, it quickly became part of the loose, but consistent routine throughout much of the journey. Especially in the smaller towns of rural regions not known for extravagant attractions, I would define a very good day as waking early, enjoying and mentally recording along a 5 or 6 hour ride, making it to the only town for miles around, securing food, shelter, and then silently settle in a peaceful quiet corner of the local public library. The absolute best example of this occurrence was my most desolate day from Delta to Milford, Utah. After a long, sun-scorched ride with nothing but distant mining pits in between, I found the quaint little Milford library to be a desert treasure.

In general, the library, much like a church, is a sanctuary of sorts - a designated place where simple house rules help define a certain setting. It is the library that provides a refuge within the dirty disturbing urban, and it is the special environment to enjoy the world of books, indulge the imagination and seek out self-educating enrichment. There's no better way to take a passing sample of town than this true community center, where under one roof, at any given time, you might have children learning to read, students collaborating over group projects, or a homeless man knee-deep in a book of philosophy. A town is not a town without one, since not everyone can afford their own bat cave.

After all, it is the concept of each individual finding his or her own bat cave - whether that's a quiet corner of the public library, or making that special place within your own private dwelling: a crafty wood shop, a cool music room, a tooled-up garage, a back-room study, or chef-ready kitchen - all places where you can churn butter on your own terms. If it turns out good, consider sharing your creation. Homemade butter is hard to beat.

Salt Lake City Public Library

4th Floor SLC Public Library

Eugene, Oregon Public Library - Guggenheim Design

Baker City, Oregon Public Library alongside The Powder River


  1. you the man Ryan i will always be inspired by what you have done.

  2. This is similar to my own experiences touring in 20 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces. For the last couple of tours I have carried a netbook computer, so I no longer depend entirely on libraries for internet access or writing place, but I do love the respite they provide as well as reference materials, local information and often a table of used books for sale. Librarians are usually delightful and knowledgeable people (full disclosure, one of my sisters is a librarian).