Sources of Joy – Day 71
This is my favourite, and briefest of ballads. Simon and Garfunkel in unison.
By the time my twenty-first birthday came around it was no secret that I was a real bookworm. We all know bookworms are not real. I have never found a worm in any book. The collocation of real + bookworm must be excessively high in speech and in writing. If you think I am being pernickety and humourless, then that is fine with me. This is the accepted fate of most bookworms. I simply think it is silly to say, “real bookworm”, because you are either a bookworm or you are not; that is the reality. You are either hot or cold; you cannot be both.
One other thing you need to know about me now is that to this day whenever my family asked me what gift I would like for my birthday I would always be lost for words. World peace and human rights and justice for all cannot be purchased in little brown paper packages tied up with string. Despite the scrunched-up faces and the disbelieving “Are you sure that’s what you want?” parental response to my answer in advance of my coming-of-age birthday, I knew what I wanted this time: bookends. Yes, I wanted carved soapstone bookends.
Yes, the eldest unmarried child wished to mark this occasion with contemporary African art. Promotion of Shona sculpture internationally meant that this art form had become a popular vehicle of expression. There was a glut of primarily soapstone sculpture – large and tourist-size small in Zimbabwe, and ad hoc markets sprung up on roadsides everywhere offering seemingly mass-produced articles for sale quite cheaply. Rare was the home which did not have at least one ornamental object made out of soapstone. Chapungu Village in Harare was where the best of the best had their work on exhibit. This was always a much more vibrant environment than the National Gallery of Zimbabwe which also gave strong backing to artists on the brink of international acclaim, as well as showcasing works of those who had already achieved it.
Rarer still were bookends made out of soapstone. I had looked in many markets and found only one set of bookends. One. I did not like it. My Dad, the practical builder, immediately saw the impediment to my truly-desired proposed gift. He knew from experience that mastering concept of right angles did not come easily to many Shona people. Let’s just say that “straight” and “square” in the eyes of many Shonas is so far from precise as to be quite disastrous from a building point of view. My father concluded that he would have to commission a sculpturer. My mother came up with the idea of my father explaining to one such sculpturer what “square” meant, and with the idea that I should go with my father, and find someone willing to do the job.
I got that precious gift almost thirty years ago. Today I was polishing all sorts of things. I polished my bookends too, and I gradually got my new office in our new abode in order. The bookends were sculpted from one piece of stone. I had a choice all those years ago over which block of stone was used.
I am going to love my reading corner.
A very happy day as things start to take shape.