Almost nine years ago I was in the middle of a Winston Churchill immersion experience, in England with my daughter who is a big fan of the man. We visited the Churchill War Rooms museum in London, his country estate at Chartwell, his birthplace at Blenheim Palace, and his grave.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was a huge collection of quotes, unfortunately displayed in an “interactive” touchscreen format so that I couldn’t easily or thoroughly access them, and I didn’t have the time to write any down, but the essence of one stuck in my mind the way a tasty seed lodges between the teeth and surprises you later on with its savor. I counted on the trusty Internet to help me find the quote after I returned home.
From London we’d taken a side trip to Chartwell, Churchill’s beloved country estate in Kent. We were in his very library, with his own books and furniture. I could just imagine him sitting there enjoying some book that had nothing to do with the government or war; this was the place he came to when he needed to decompress from the strain of his usual days.
|from the Internet|
I told the docent about the quote I had read the day before, in which Churchill had advised us to think of our books as our friends, and if we couldn’t read them all, at least we could take them off the shelves and touch the pages, and perhaps read a line or two. She didn’t know of this quote, but it was permitted to handle the books on the library shelves, so I did take one down and try to follow his advice.
It was one of those times when I just want to sit down and be there. I’d have liked to read a few lines from several books, or a chapter from one book, or see how they all were organized. But I was so nervous about meeting this book friend that I didn’t even catch his name. I was trying to keep up a conversation with the docent, and we needed to get through the house to the grounds before the rain started….Now it seems like a fairy story that I was ever there at all.
It’s the anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, Anna reminded me on her blog that is a compilation of “Seven Quick Takes” on him today. I was going to leave a comment on her blog about how I never could find that quote — and I had tried so hard. But then I thought, it’s been a couple of years since I searched; maybe, just maybe if I look again….
And it came up in flash, on Goodreads. One of these experiences that makes you love the Internet.
If you cannot read all your books…fondle them—peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.
Mr. Churchill, I honor you on the day of your death; may you rest in peace. One day I hope to get back and spend an hour soaking up your library and making friends with your books.