I walk into a bookstore or library and instantly feel at home, welcomed, wanted. I pause, just standing inside the door for a moment, looking around to get my bearings, and begin to develop a map of this beautiful new world that I am about to encounter. I search for my safety zones first: Literature, Young Adult Fiction, Graphic Novels, and Children’s Books. I traverse through these territories on my map, looking for undiscovered countries and worlds to add to my travels.
Sometimes, I settle down for a while in order to take things in more deeply, more fully, to observe the locals and their customs, to hear their language. All of this helps in my decision whether to cut my visit short or stay for a prolonged time, whether or not I will return at a later date. There are castles and monarchs to visit, black-and-white circus tents to explore, games of Triumphs to be played, secret stories to hear, mysteries to solve with Victorian aristocracy. There’s so much to do and only so much time right now.
Children’s Books is a whimsical world of color, animals both real and fantastic, outrageous costumes, strange customs, and beautiful lands. It makes me smile just crossing into that territory and, once again, I pause to get my bearings. The younger lands are my favorites, where imagination and magic still run rampant without some of the rules that have been imposed by the older worlds. Wyveraries (wyverns/libraries) walk around in the open, reciting all they know about their particular letter ranges. Children flit and fly about with reckless abandon (oh, watch your head!), chasing after the bread-and-butterflies that tease them. Mighty battles are fought by the tiniest of creatures, showing bravery beyond the measure of size. Ducklings offer pigeons cookies, and princesses dance their shoes to pieces of a night. I love the rampant magic, imagination, and amazing fantasy of these worlds and I wish I could stay longer. But I have many miles to go and my time is beginning to run short, unfortunately. I must hurry.
Soon, I make ready to leave this beautiful map of imagination, my arms full of new treasures, as well as some rediscovered ones. These treasures carry the souls of these worlds and their inhabitants within them, souls that glow with a light beyond anything that can be captured in paint, charcoal, or on film. They capture the essence and beauty of their respective worlds and I carry that beautiful essence with me always, in my heart and mind, as well as in my hands.
As I move to step out the doors again, I risk one look back with a smile and the silent, ever-present promise.
I will come back. I will always come back.