Friday, August 02, 2002

Libraries are my cathedrals.

You walk in. They have more books than even you could read, about things you've never even contemplated. (Non-pornographic things.) You show a little piece of plastic, and you get to take the books home and read them. For free.

My first love was Morrison-Reeves Library. When I was a little girl, the building looked like this. Morrison-Reeves 1893-1975 Romanesque Revival built in 1893, with granite columns and carved-sandstone gargoyles and a downstairs children's reading room with a window seat. And in the adult department... the bottom, the fiction section, was ordinary enough. But it sat under two stories of spiderwebbed cast iron stacks. The floors of the stacks were glass, to let light through. If you needed nonfiction, you had to climb up narrow iron stairs, listening to the stairs creak as you went, avoiding looking at the abyss below.

I used to climb those stairs all the way to the top and back again, with both arms full of books, because I was a library page. You didn't wear a skirt when you were shelving, because people could See Things.

Morrison-Reeves built a new library in 1975; I helped move the books from the old building to the new. Then the old building was torn down to become a parking lot. I still walk those stacks in dreams.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Saturday we took the kids to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It's an odd beast -- set below one of the foggiest cliffs in the U.S. It's set halfway down the cliff because otherwise it would be up in the fog layer.

This means that you climb down 300 steps, plus a couple of long slopes, to get to the lighthouse and its first-order Fresnel lens driven by the original clockwork mechanism. Then you climb up 300 steps to get back.

I intend to spend the remainder of the week travelling by palanquin. And I understand why the original light-house keepers drank the alcohol they were supposed to use to clean the Fresnel lens.

Another Fresnel lens link.