I had no reason to be there, so I wandered from room to room, confused by a layout which had long ago ceased to make much sense. The building was a curious mixture of modern elements and antique pieces from every decade of its existence. Scratched metal bookcases with rounded corners, laden with tomes which were out of print for lack of interest or through age, rose three stories through rectangular gaps in floors of green glass. To see footsteps above me while running my fingers along the hardbound spines was somehow strange, and for a moment, it was as though I did not know who I was, where I was, or why it even mattered. It seemed as though I could hold onto a single breath for as long as I wanted while I remained lost in there.
Records lined the walls, fiction towered over my head ... there was so much more there than in the libraries I once frequented back in the Soy. When I shook off the dream state caused by strong sunlight on old carpet and came out of my literature and architecture induced reverie, I decided to "test" the troves, at least, as best one small person with not quite a quarter of a decade behind her could.
The author I pulled out of my head was Geneva Stratton-Porter, who published under the male pseudonym "Gene" back at the turn of the century. She was at the height of her popularity when she was killed in a traffic accident in 1924, but since then, her body of work, which is rather formulaic and has not aged very well, has languished in increasing obscurity. The swamp many of her pieces are set in has all but vanished, and there are very few people in her home state of Indiana who know of the Limberlost, much less know anything of the woman who walked the trails and of the books she wrote. Some of her more popular works are occasionally brought back to print by local presses, and I possess many of these. What did the main branch of the library here have, if anything?
I was not expecting to find anything at all, but remarkably, their collection included four or five books of hers. I own more than they do, but the advantage the library has over me is that it existed when Gene Stratton-Porter's books were well known - that is, they had been gifted works which are now out of print. There were two I had not read (and which appear to have been published posthumously in 1927), and I picked them up and leafed through their pages, running the back of my hands over the thick paper. I was about to put them back on the shelf when I realized that I did have a library card!
What is independence? It cannot be the ability to live without needing others, for that seems to be quite impossible. Perhaps it is the ability to live responsibly without posing an undue burden on others, particularly those you care about.