Other Paths

The other morning my husband brought me a well-loved but worn paperback belonging to his friend Jeremiah. Filament tape held its spine and covers together, but the text block had come unglued from the spine. Though the pages were together in chunks, the book needed a paper bag or a rubber band to stay intact.

My husband had offered my services as a “bookbinder.” This overstatement is based on the various treasured, decrepit volumes of his I have repaired over the years (with duct tape in the old days, and now more carefully).

As I began to have a go at the job, I thought how I might have liked to be a bookbinder. In my fantasy, the job site is in a beautiful old library, well-lighted and smelling of books and glue. The worktables are large and the colleagues amiable. Our tools arranged conveniently, we wear white gloves and handle ancient books carefully. We are bent in concentration to our tasks.

In real life I used my jar of PVA (the magic adhesive real bookbinders do sometimes use) and added a piece of rice paper to the paperback spine. Then I glued the block of pages to the spine and covered the remnants of filament tape with a strip of binding cloth.

And while I was gluing, I had a whole series of thoughts about the careers and jobs we pick, jobs that pick us, about choices and changes.

My husband didn’t want to leave his career in Anchorage, I was the one lobbying long and hard for the move, but he has reinvented himself here, readjusting his job and making friends.

Jeremiah, his wife, and another hardworking young couple own the tiny Owl Sprit Café on the ground floor of my husband’s (two-story) office building just off Port Townsend’s main street. (The Owl Sprit is fairly new – job changes there!) The café is tiny and serves delicious local food thoughtfully prepared. It’s a comfort on a stormy winter eve and a cheerful spot for lunch.

Which is where my husband eats most days – he sits at the counter for a bowl of soup, huge salad, and conversation with the owners.

But back to the task at hand. I piled books around and on top of the little paperback, tipped on its edge so pages would adhere to spine, and I thought about my friend, the wordsmith. In the midst of a career shift herself, having already used her wordsmithing to be newspaper reporter and editor, and web site managing editor, she told me that when she was young, she didn’t realize how many more career iterations might be possible.

Gluing the book also made me think of my Port Townsend bookbinder friends – source of the PVA and binding cloth. I’m glad for their new enterprise – they sold the bindery and opened an enormously popular tavern and bottle shop, the Pourhouse, right on the water in town. People and chat all day long – the opposite of their bookbinding life.

Jeremiah’s book is repaired now – changed – different – I hope it works for him.

4 thoughts on “Other Paths

  1. It does sound like a lovely vocation. I sometimes think of the monk’s who produced the beautiful illuminated manuscripts — was it fulfilling or did it just become tedious? One imagines beautiful stone cloisters and perhaps a bit of ethereal chanting in the background…

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