As I started my sabbatical this year, I did something I don’t normally do; I went away. Usually I do my transition / decompression preparing-to-write time at home. This year I took off for Santa Barbara, to hole up in the home of an artist I met via AirBnB, to walk the shoreline, to paint and read and do a lot of nothing – to prepare my brain to move from a life of doing to a life of being and thinking.
I had several encounters with joyful serendipity this trip. I can only attribute that high number to the simple act of slowing down and then stopping; being open to seeing and experiencing and feeling instead of the mad rush to the next meeting.
It was Saturday. I had driven from Santa Barbara to Ojai – somewhere I had never been, and to be honest, until several days prior, hadn’t really even known where it was. I was heading there now to surprise old friends who had moved there several years ago.
Our visit was pure delight, catching up about kids and life, marveling at what we didn’t know when we were young, simply because we could not possibly have learned it yet.
As I drove out of the parking lot of Joyce and Jerry’s shop, I had intended to turn left onto Ojai Ave. But traffic was busy, and after waiting through many cycles of the traffic light down the street, I finally turned right instead, figuring I would just maneuver through the neighborhood streets and eventually be on my way.
And that’s when I saw it.
A neighborhood street corner sporting a wall of books. Real books. On shelves built into that exterior wall. The sign facing the corner said Bart’s Books.
Jerry and Joyce had told me that one of the things they loved about living in Ojai was that it is like a forgotten time. “People don’t lock their doors,” they told me. “Merchants just put their stuff out on the sidewalk.” I had pictured a rack of clothes or a display of lawnmowers. But I could not have imagined this.
I parked in awe. I had landed in a world like no other – a world where books are simply an expected part of walking down the street.
Walking inside those walls, I felt my worldview shift. The exterior walls of the house were gone. In their place were bookshelves. And courtyards. Places for sitting and reading, books upon books, all outside in the sun.
I lost my words. Mouth and eyes wide open, I approached the man at the counter and gasped, “This is magical!”
He smiled. I was clearly not the first person to have shared that awestruck look we see in a 3 year old at Disneyland, meeting Mickey Mouse live and in person, amazed that he is right there and real. To his credit, he refrained from saying, “We get that a lot…”
Bart’s Books has been around for 50 years. From their website…
In 1964 Bart’s Books was little more than a sparkle in the eye of Richard Bartinsdale whose collection of books had gotten so overwhelming that he constructed a series of book cases along the sidewalk so that passersby could peruse the titles.
In lieu of a cash register, “Bart” left coffee cans atop the book cases. People would select a title or two and leave payment in the cans, giving birth to Bart’s world famous tradition of selling books via the honor system.
The chairs and tables beckoned, but the books beckoned more. How can one sit when surrounded by this huge selection, all just THERE, outside in the sun? I wandered as if I was in a field of unicorns, as if I’d never seen bookshelves overflowing. But this was different. This felt organic and ancient, as if this is how the earth intended for us to share wisdom with each other.
Two books jumped into my arms – a compilation of writings about changing the world by changing ourselves, and one on a theme that has been calling strongly to me of late – a memoir about living in Paris (where I am feeling called these days to visit or perhaps live next?).
But mostly I left with the feeling that there is nothing we can dream that we cannot create. I felt in every cell that we can absolutely create a world that is living in harmony, bringing out the best in each other. Because I had felt the ancient call to wisdom on the wings of a cool breeze and the warm summer sun.
Please invite others along on this journey of discovery and exploration of the creative process. Just click on the “share” links below. Thanks!