The other day I sat reading a book and paused, thinking it must be time to start preparing dinner. I reached into a small basket on my desk for a bookmark and came up empty-handed. The basket also holds my glasses, stamps, and various notes. Pulling the basket to my lap, I looked deeper to see if they’d slipped to the bottom of the basket. Nothing. How could that be? I have dozens of bookmarks. Collecting them is my passion. I pick them up everywhere I go: bookshops, libraries, museums, giftshops. They are the perfect souvenir as they are small, flat, weightless, and a wonderful reminder of my travels and adventures. When I taught English and journalism, I’d have my students make their own bookmarks, a fun way to encourage reading. I still have a few of those gifted to me by my students.
Realizing the basket no longer held any bookmarks, I swiveled my chair around from my computer to look at the bookshelves behind me. My gaze settled on one book with papers peeking out from its pages. Seizing the book from the shelf, I fanned the pages uncovering three bookmarks! Surveying the bookshelves, most books had one visible marker, and some had six or seven. Every book had some variation of a marker: a page point, a colored flag, torn bits of paper, a card, a letter, a photograph, and even a dollar bill or two in addition to the traditional bookmark.
My conundrum? I wanted to remember these marked passages, and I needed more bookmarks. The rest of my evening I sat on the floor, opening one book at a time to the marked page, deciding whether to keep the marker or give myself permission to remove the bookmark for another read. I placed the newly released markers on the couch behind me. I freed 30 bookmarks from just three shelves. Twenty-one shelves remained.
With a new supply of bookmarks, I paused my search. The exercise proved insightful and a refresher of former reads. Feeling satisfied, I stood and turned to collect my reclaimed stash of bookmarks from the couch to place them in the basket. Looking down at this partial portrait of my past, I remembered a visit to Trinity College, hiking with students in Yosemite, a romantic weekend in Cambria, browsing a bookshop in Portugal, writing in Italy, and a hotel stay in Giza. One book held a poem written by a good friend describing our friendship and why she chose Love That Dog by Sharon Creech as her gift to me. This morning, the bookmarks still linger on the couch, and I’m back on the floor to reread Love that Dog with a new-found appreciation for bookmarks.