The Lark
Published in

The Lark

The Library

Photo by Mariia Zakatiura on Unsplash

Chapter 1

I can still feel the ax blows as they felled me. Dragged me from my home, in the forest.

At first, I had heard whispers on the wind, far away the birds were squawking, more creatures came to scurry up my trunk, hide in my leaves. As the days passed the noises grew louder, human voices rang out along with loud reports. Huge crashing sounds, clouds of dust. Each week they came closer. I lost best friends who had stood with me, here, weathering all the storms. They only took us, giants of the forest, leaving our younger siblings and progeny to grow strong in the new clearings.

My journey from the forest was exciting, even as I was manhandled to the edge of the forest where a team of horses dragged me to the river. I floated along, I wondered where my journey would end. Once hauled from the river, huge horses pulled groups of us along narrow tracks which widened, as they passed timber dwellings. It was amazing to see how many of my fellow trees were collected in this space. I was carefully inspected and my magnificence admired before they commenced sawing me into long strips. The sound of the saw and the aroma of my flesh being torn will always stay in my memory.

Several seasons have passed since my new self has lain in this place. I am not unhappy. I feel there is some purpose in all this long preparation. I have watched as others of my kind have been carefully placed on long wagons and taken away. I just have to wait my turn. I can feel something wonderful will happen, I mustn’t lose hope. Back in the forest, the saplings will have grown several new limbs, new nests will have been made and hatchlings will be open-mouthed, feeding all day, waiting their turn to fly.

When I first emerged from my seed over 150 years ago, I was tiny but strong as I grew into my space in the forest. I prided myself on my strong limbs where lots of creatures visited for food from my blossoms or water from my leaves. Whether they were insects, birds, or marsupials, I provided for each. I shed old weakened limbs. The wind whistled through the hollows they left, notifying creatures of all kinds, that there was a safe shelter for them in me. I am hoping that I will feel that pride again one day.

Chapter 2

Rain in torrents, drips and drops, then blue skies for the rest of the journey. Yes, I am again being moved by a large wagon. There was lots of chattering and laughing as we set off, but now darkness is falling and all is quiet. I hope I will like this new place. Strange to me all this moving when I stood so stoically in one place. There must be a purpose to all this activity. The horses have been fed, but not unharnessed, which means another early start when the sun comes up.

In just a few weeks my new form arose. I can still feel the nails as they pierced me. I was rubbed with oil, so nourishing, to preserve me. I look back now to the day that I stood in all my glory, a Chapel, a meeting place. Lovingly crafted pews graced my interior. Spectacular windows looked out on the world, inside their rainbow colors beamed. I was sturdy, standing strong in all weathers.

People sheltered beneath my porch, shaking the rain from their clothes before entering. The children giggled and played as their parents knelt and prayed. I was once again useful, a second home for many, a joyous place, where angelic voices sang. Sometimes a sad place. Wooden casket adorned with flowers, weeping and wailing, comforting words and music. I sensed their grief.

How many years? The sides of my pews are smooth and shiny, not from polish but from the hands of hundreds of people leaning on them as they stood. My floor is uneven from the amount of traffic they have supported. Children have grown, married, become parents, grandparents and finally disappeared in the long years of happiness I have shared with them. Sadness and loneliness came when the people stopped coming.

Standing there alone and empty, I remembered a time of great excitement. There were crowds in the street, cheering, young men as they marched past in uniforms. The routine of gatherings continued. People sang and prayed, there was a lack of menfolk, the singing was higher-toned, missing their male base voices. I love all kinds of music. Wind whispering, sometimes roaring. Small birds chirping, big birds squawking. After many long months, years, a few men returned. Some were missing limbs, I wondered at that. How had that happened? Long joyful reunions were tempered with solemn words and tears. Then there came happy times again. A few remained crestfallen and sad. Looking back, that was the time that things began to change.

Remembering back, the street changed. Very few horse-drawn wagons, instead there were noisy machines, some even carried many people. Eventually, there were never any horses, just more and more noisy vehicles and fumes and smoke. Fewer people came on Sundays or any other time. People had found other ways to spend their days. The chatter was all about their trips up or down the coast, or into the hills. Picnics seemed to be the best fun they enjoyed. I began to feel neglected. Older people came struggling along with the help of a stick. Then just as suddenly there was a decision to join another congregation and I was left abandoned.

Chapter 3

As the weeks and months passed, I began to worry for my welfare. As a giant of the forest, I could weather any storm, even regenerate after fire. Not pleasant but an inevitable part of the cycle of life. Now I needed help, human help, otherwise, I would begin to rot. Oh no! I was still weatherproof surely someone could make use of me. Help came in the form of a group of clever people, who decided, for the good of all children and people of all ages, that the town needed a Library.

A library, what was that? I had no idea. A new adventure was beginning. It took many skilled people, to see how to make use of my parts. Of course, the built structure was as sound as the day I was put here. Inside, my pews were taken apart and re-assembled as shelves, none of me was wasted. The table from the front of the Chapel, which was called the altar, was now a strong desk near my front door. Lots of paint was used to lighten up my walls inside and outside I was painted in very bright colors, Blue and Orange mostly. A sign was hung up saying ‘Library’. I didn’t have to wait long for lots of parcels to arrive. Inside were books, books and more books. I could see they were made of paper, from other members of my family. This gave me much pleasure, even the smell was of the forest. I had become used to the scented candles in the Chapel, this was more to my liking.

While all the unpacking was happening, I was once again surprised at where my thoughts strayed. Back in the forest from seed to sapling to giant, I had no control, it all just happened naturally. Then when the ax blows felled me, I couldn’t stop them. I knew nothing, not even the size of the forest, that came as a surprise when I was dragged away. Then built as a Chapel, I became complacent, thought this was the whole world. I wallowed in conceit. They needed me and I provided for them. I now realize I had no control. I was a mere building. Oh! How ignorant I was.

I am determined to stay positive. I know I will find out more every day about what it means to be a Library. The people who unpack the books are so careful. They treat each book as gently as possible. I can see that the books come in all shapes and sizes, just like the leaves on different trees. Some are thick and heavy, bound in leather, some are as tiny and thin as can be. The pages of the books are called, leaves, I feel how appropriate that is. Each day now people come to help. The books are sorted and placed on my shelves. There is a set of lower shelves where a lot of brightly colored books are arranged in quite an attractive manner. On the floor in this area are placed very plump cushions, also some soft fluffy toys. The toys seem to resemble the ones painted on the book covers, how clever.

How lovely this corner looks, I recognize a fluffy Cockatoo, a soft possum and a cute Koala. Other creatures, snakes Lizards, dogs, cats and fantastical beasts too. It will be such fun watching as the children discover them all. I think the favorites will be the Dinosaurs. At the other side of the room, two men bring in a long comfy couch, then an armchair. My guess is these will be for the older folk to sit and quietly read. On my walls around this area are posted notices and maps. Booklets of information about the area are neatly displayed. More and more of the shelves are laden with books. I am getting very excited.

Chapter 4

I have been at the Library now for several weeks, there seems to be a routine to the day. A rather plump lady comes with her Mop and bucket, dusters and brooms, she takes great pride in how I look. Sometimes she rests on the couch and picks up a magazine. I see that the pictures are of beautiful places so that when she sighs, I think she longs to visit them. When she leaves another lady comes, she settles in for the day. She changes her shoes into flat ones and tucks her sandals and handbag under the desk. She arranges everything into neat piles on the desk, all the pamphlets are arranged precisely, not one edge protrudes from the pile. She then walks around my shelves replacing the books returned yesterday, they all live in their own spots. She exudes efficiency. I like this sense of order, but I look forward to when she opens the doors. I wait to see who will come today.

At first, it is, as usual, the young boy, from the Newsagency across the road, pops in quickly and haphazardly leaves several Newspapers on the desk, he escapes quickly and skips across the road. Annoyed, the librarian, gathers them up and puts them tidily on a low table near the armchair. They have barely touched the tabletop when Ben comes in, slumps down in the armchair and takes up his favorite paper. The librarian winces as he shuffles to get comfy, she knows he will only leave when all the papers have been devoured, even the advertisements are perused carefully. Sometimes he even attempts the crosswords, folding the pages as padding for his pen strokes. Today he gets disturbed before he gets his chance, in comes Betty. Betty nods at Ben and settles herself onto the couch. They don’t talk but Ben’s morning of quiet contemplation has been disturbed. Betty takes up a paper, the one he always reads next. Harrumphing he gets up throws down his half-read paper and stomps out the door. Undisturbed Betty smiles and moves along the couch to make room for her friend, Dora, who was almost knocked over by Ben as he left. The librarian takes her chance and tidies the papers.

The two ladies settle down for an hour, commenting to each other on the stories they are reading, they speak quietly, they know how to behave in here.

I think back to the days before the Library opened. All the books were in place, they spoke to each other, ignoring me, they hadn’t even taken time to see how important, I was, to their welfare. I admit they were full of more knowledge than I would ever know. They happily answered any questions I asked, sometimes in quite a pompous manner. I decided to enlighten them of my purpose. I think they got bored with my story of being a shelter to the forest creatures, I suspected a yawn now and then. There happened to be quite a storm that night, my roof rattled in the wind and my guttering spilled out down the windows, this was very good as it meant I could impress upon them what their fate would be if my roof leaked or my windows cracked. They would end up as pulp, all their knowledge washed away, only good for recycling, they would probably end up as cardboard boxes. My outburst had the desired effect, they all to a book, know now how important I am. I am sure that we all have a purpose, even if we have little control, we can do our best in whatever role we are given.

Betty and Dora bid goodbye to each other and the Librarian, happy to have caught up on all the news.

By mid-morning there has been a steady flow of people, some I recognize as regular visitors. I even know where they will go after putting their returned books on the trolley near the door. One old fellow in an overcoat, even though the day is sunny makes straight for the Gardening and Handyman section. There, he takes out and returns many books before making his selection. I had noticed that on many occasions he would take out the same book, obviously a favorite. Perhaps he has a project on the go and needed to refer back to the original idea he had seen. The older ladies like Romance, no surprise there, but also True Crime, the more gruesome the better. Difficult to imagine from their sweet wrinkled faces that they long for suspense and murder. The younger woman, seems obsessed with Cookery books of all shapes, sizes and cultures. Their families probably long for old-fashioned, meals, Egg and chips and Spag Bog. I am so content to see everyone enjoying me. This afternoon, for example, there will be young Mums and babies, enjoying the comfy corner, a young lady dressed as a fairy will appear. Like magic they will all listen to the story she reads from one of the colorful books. I wonder what the story will be about today. My favorite so far has been, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It reminded me of living in the forest, though I never had a girl visit me.

At first, the toddlers are restless, they try to get their mothers’ attention by tossing all the toys around, squealing and sometimes crying as a stray toy, hits them unexpectedly. The Librarian frowns her disappointment, steps in, and with a smile, she gets their attention. How I admire her, she can get control so quickly. Everyone seems to be grateful that at least someone is in control. The storyteller is late, anxious faces turn her way. In a flash, she puts on a pixie hat and sits in the storyteller’s chair. The mothers and children settle down to listen, so do I! She tells a tale of a town that is infested with rats and a piper who by playing a magic tune gets rid of them. So far so good, I think. But Oh! what a shock, the people of the town won’t pay him. He picks up his pipe and plays another magic tune, this time all the children follow him to a faraway land. Only one child is left, he has a limp and can’t keep up with the others. The boy returns, to Hamlin, the town. He tells the Townspeople that their children are gone to a happy land where people keep their promises. I love this story I hope the children do too. I hope the mothers remember, to never promise too much to their children, so that they may always keep their promises. I make a promise too, myself, I promise to always do my best to provide shelter for this precious space.

As the families are leaving the Library, the young storyteller runs up the wooden steps almost colliding with them.

“Oh! I am so sorry,” she cries. “I fell off my bike, the front wheel is bent. I ran all the way.”

Her fairy dress is torn and dirty. The mothers, comfort her as the Librarian fetches a glass of water, I am so happy to witness this scene. I feel love for them all. Can a tree feel love? As I think about this, I realize that I can. Yes! I can feel love. I love the forest. I love the creatures living there. Now I love being here in this town, learning every day about the wider world and the people that live in it.

It has been a busy day, with many regulars in this afternoon. One couple who come often intrigues me. He carries the bag of books to be returned and carefully places them on the trolly. She strides down the aisle of shelves, knowing exactly what she wants. He takes his time and moves to the back section where all the non-fiction books are kept. This man is a music lover. He devours the biographies of famous composers. Mozart is his favorite, there must be dozens of books written about this child genius who died young. Surely, he has read them all by now. He always finds one to take home. She meanwhile is sitting in the armchair, several novels piled beside her, she is reading an Artists’ magazine with such great concentration that he has to tap her shoulder when he is ready to leave. I imagine their home as quiet and peaceful, music playing while they sit and read.

Chapter 5

It is dark and quiet now, I decide to ask my books, (Yes! I think of them as ‘my books’) if they will tell me all they know about this world. They scoff at me for being so ridiculous, apparently, no one knows everything. One of the Encyclopedias speaks up, “I think we could all tell stories in turn, which may give you some idea of the world, after all that is what books are for. Who will go first? I think we can all learn something new, every-day. Even I have gaps in my knowledge.”

“My story is about the ocean. Shall I go first?” This book, tells us all about life near the ocean, about the men who go out to fish, about the Lighthouses that guide them safely in the dark, so that they get home safely. We all listen quietly, as he finishes, in the dark distance, I imagine the waves hitting the shore, I feel I can hear them. The books all laugh when I say this. “My goodness” says the Encyclopedia, “you really have a lot to learn. We are here inside a Library in a coastal town, your home now is near the sea, we are as far east on the continent of Australia as you can go”. I am enjoying these long nights full of stories.

After many such nights, listening to stories of the sea, I am trying to decide my favorite adventures. Moby Dick was great. Treasure Island was also fantastic but I think my favorite is the true story of Scot of the Antarctic. The men Scot chose to travel with him on that venture were true heroes. In death they were glorious. It is amazing to think of all those wooden boats too, that helped discover that the world is round not flat. That there were other nations over the horizon other civilizations. Through every tale, I felt proud to be a Tree. Made me feel the sacrifices of forests to make all those great ships. Even the battles were fought with the help of us trees. The Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, on and on it goes, a rich history indeed. One of the Encyclopedias proudly showed us pictures of great ships. Darwin’s Beagle was my favorite, used to gain knowledge of fauna and flora, not destroy like the fighting ships. Not used to conquer or invade, yes definitely my favorite.

The people who use the Library are of sizes, shapes and colors, it reminds me of the forest there were never two trees or ferns or shrubs alike. Of course, depending on the genus there were certain resemblances. So, it is with people. One of the mothers who brings her children to Storytime has beautiful flame-colored hair, both her son and daughter have the same glorious hair. Another mother has dark skin and tight curls, her daughters look like miniature copies, with shining faces and curls. I like to think that these families would find each other if they ever got lost. The story of Hansel and Gretel getting lost in the forest was quite upsetting to me and I noticed some of the children snuggled close to their mothers as the story unfolded. I was glad that the birds covered the sleeping children with leaves to keep them warm, that was the best part of the story for me.

My friends, the books, tell me not to take the Story-time books too seriously. Apparently, they were written long ago, when children lived in more dangerous societies, the stories were a way of teaching them, the dangers of wandering away.

Every few weeks the Librarian closely inspects the books. Of course, she never puts a book back on the shelves if it is damaged, but books sometimes get old and tattered, these she carries to her desk and decides what course to take. She makes a note of the titles, if the book is a Classic or widely read, she orders a new copy. She has a special trolley for the books that she judges to be no longer of good quality, she places the trolley outside under my porch with a sign saying $2 each. The books are quickly taken away by passers-by, I imagine them in their new homes, hope they are read and treasured. It sometimes happens that she puts out the very book that is telling us their story. Oh, dear! We never know the ending, but to amuse ourselves we try out different ones, some of the books are so clever at this. I just enjoy their banter.

As the daylight is fading and the Librarian is tidying around, wanting to close, a new borrower comes in. She is poorly dressed and her hair strays over her face, which is lined with care. She walks slowly, glancing at the books, never touching. Perhaps she is looking for one book, in particular, she takes her time. Our Librarian is patient, at first, but after a while, she approaches the newcomer and begins talking to her. They talk and talk but never seem to come to a conclusion. They are now sitting side by side on the couch. It is lovely to watch as the Librarian takes the lady’s hand in her own stroking it calmly. Suddenly another person arrives, a much younger person, barely a woman.

“There you are, Nan. We have been looking for you everywhere.” She smiles at the librarian, “I do hope she hasn’t been any trouble”.

“No not at all. I remember Mary, from many years ago, she was always in here. We have been remembering those days. So sad to hear that Frank died, they were always together, she misses him.”

The Librarian looks at the young woman, “are you her main carer, you look too young, if you don’t mind my saying so.” “Oh no! my mother usually takes care of Nan, but she is a bit under the weather today so I offered. I didn’t realize how quickly she could disappear. I am so glad to have found her, thank you for your trouble.” “No trouble, get your mum to bring her in sometimes, she feels comfortable here, she could sit and chat to me about old times. She remembers when this was the Chapel and how she loves the old building.” I thought I would burst with pride when I overheard this.

Chapter 6.

After dark when my door is locked, cleaner gone home, we are settling down to listen to a Wild Adventure. One of the younger books suggested we should share an exciting story, for a change. I love all stories, so am ready to listen to the tale of The Count of Monte Cristo. The title alone is exotic.

I feel something strange, nothing to do with the story, a strange irritation on my side wall. I ask the Dumas book to pause the story and we all listen carefully. There is definitely something happening outside. There is a hissing noise, a rattling noise, the books begin to whisper their ideas of what is going on. As quickly as they began the noises stop. The night is quiet again.

The book takes us to strange and beautiful places, the plot twists and turns, the excitement builds. We are all entranced. Only when the story ends do I wonder again about the outside noises.

What is going on? The Librarian rushes in. Bangs her bag on the desk. Rustles through all the stuff, in there, tossing out old receipts, tissues, half packets of mints. With an exasperated sigh she finally reaches out her phone. I have never seen her in such a flap. She is talking so fast I can only get a few of the words. Spoilt; paint; graffiti. She seems more relaxed now she has shared her news, she places the bag under her desk. Sweeping the debris from her bag into the waste paper basket, she pops a mint in her mouth. I do like the smell of mints.

Ben is first in as usual, the newspapers are not here yet, so he ventures a word to the Librarian, he calls her Dawn. I have never heard her name before. I think it suits her, she is quiet like the dawn, creeps quietly up to people, like the dawn creeps into the sky. From dark to light you can hardly perceive the Sun rising, unless, as I have heard in some of our stories how glorious and colourful the dawn can be. I shall call her Dawn from now on, I am sure she wouldn’t mind. I know from the books that many people are fussy about the way they are addressed. Especially people in power. Your Majesty, for a King or Queen. Your Royal Highness for the Prince and Princesses. My Lord seems to be used a lot in stories and of course, The Count in last night’s thrilling story. I have such a lot to learn. There are books in other languages here too. I don’t think I will ever understand them’

Just then in rushed the boy with the papers, without stopping for breath, he says, “Sorry I’m late. Have you seen it?” “Yes” both Dawn and Ben say in unison. Seen what? I long to ask, but they all walk outside together. Then I hear other footsteps. There must be quite a crowd now. They are down the side of my wall, where I felt the strangeness last night. One deep voice is speaking now. “If anyone of you know who is responsible for this vandalism, speak up.” There is silence. “Very well, then I shall have to make further enquiries, there has been a spate of these abominable crimes. Yes! It is a crime to deface a building. Such a priceless building too. Built from a giant tree, felled long ago and brought here with great difficulty.” My heart swells with pride that I am so treasured, but what has happened to cause all this anger. “Don’t worry I will soon find the person or persons responsible, in the meantime I suggest that you, young man get paint and brushes and do us all a favour by covering this monstrosity.” With this I hear the heavy footsteps plod back to the street.

As each day passes, I listen closely to the conversations. Everyone who comes in has an opinion to share. I have learnt that some-one, or may be more than one person, painted rude words on my wall. I am outraged. I have never harmed anyone. The books tell me that lots of things in life are unfair even wicked. I contemplate this and remember many wrong deeds from the stories. Even the children’s books have naughty characters, the always seem to reform at the end of the story. Perhaps the towns-people will be able to reform the people who harmed me. When the papers come in today, I notice Ben take one of them over to Dawn. She spreads it out on the desk. Oh! I can see picture of me, I had never seen one before. The porch and front of me look perfect, just as I had imagined, but the picture of my side wall is dreadful. There are swiggles and words crudely painted in vivid colours. Then the next picture shows that area painted over in cream coloured paint. Dawn and Ben are talking about a new idea.

Chapter 7.

We have quite a lot of people in here today. Of course, Dawn is here, she has a folder which she opens on the desk. I recognize the voice and step of the tall man in blue, he is carrying a heavy case. The old man in the overcoat ambles in. Then the cleaning lady, I am sensing something out of the ordinary is about to happen. Ben arrives along with the Story-teller. They all nod a greeting to each other, while Dawn and the large man in blue arrange folding chairs for them to all sit, facing my one and only blank wall. How strange.

A contraption is taken from the heavy case and placed on the desk behind the chairs. Dawn closes my door and places a screen in front of my largest window. What a magical sight. There are pictures appearing on my wall. Dawn begins pointing with a long stick at the images as they appear. “This” she says, “Is our idea”.

There is much discussion. I feel the excitement. I know all the books are listening too, so they will tell me anything I have missed. Dawn welcomes them all to the Library and I gather that, the people here today are the Library Committee. They usually meet in Mullumbimby at the Shire offices, however they decided they needed to be here today, to discuss my, Makeover. Makeover, what a strange word, I must discuss this later with the Encyclopedias, they will know what it means. Apparently, it involves paint and people.

Another person arrives, he is quite young with long hair and an air of importance about him. Not sure I like the look of him. He carries some rolled papers under his arm. Dawn greets him with a hug, that’s new, I have never seen her hug anyone before. “This is Andrew, the Artist I told you about” she beams. The rest of the Committee nod in Andrew’s direction, they, like me, seem a bit cool. What happens when he un-rolls the paper is astonishing?

The thrill that ran through the people was like a tidal wave of excitement. The sheets of paper were all painted with scenes from, MY life! There was my story told in pictures. The tall giants in the forest. The floating logs on the mighty river. The timber yard, the dullest of my days. Me as the Chapel with people crowding up to my porch. Then me as I am now, a Library. I was entranced. What next? Are they going to produce a book telling my story? Now they quieted and listen intently to Dawn. She is explaining a plan. It seems that since I was defaced the community have decided to tell my story so that everyone will know that I am the oldest building in town. That I will be a Tourist attraction. (something else for me to ask about tonight.) That no-one would ever dare to deface me or damage me in anyway ever again. She is turning to Andrew now. Everyone regards him with more respect and they are all listening carefully. He is asking for volunteers. He is asking them to volunteer to go to the local schools and recruit the roughest, toughest children they have. Why?

“Tourist attractions can take many forms. Natural ones like The Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest organism on earth, are unique. Man made ones like The Pyramids are shrouded in mystery and antiquity. Of course, not all tourist attractions are natural or historical, in Australia we have Theme parks where people gather for amusements. Art galleries and Museums famous for their large collections of paintings or objects that people like to admire.” The Encyclopedia is happy to have a turn at displaying his knowledge. I am really interested. “Why do you think, I could be a Tourist attraction?”

“In a way I think you are a Museum.”

This is a shock to me, the encyclopedia continues on, “Yes I really think so. You came from the forest long ago, you were built into a place of worship and now you hold us books, precious sources of knowledge.”

“What is a Tourist and why would the town want to attract them?” My curiosity is overwhelming.

A smaller voice pipes up, it is one of the pamphlets, on the display stand.

“I am made for tourists.” He announces proudly. “Tourist come to admire the attractions, then they stay in the local accommodation, they eat at the local restaurants, they buy all kinds of things at the shops.”

“In other words,” cuts in the Encyclopedia, “Tourists can save a town from dying. Lots of projects have happened in this long drought, all the outback towns are doing their best to attract more tourists and getting them to stay and spend.” I am pondering all night about this, just what are they going to do to me? What is a Makeover?

Chapter 8

When the dawn came up this morning and the rainbow colours shone brightly on my friends, the books, I was still thinking about the tourists and the makeover. I was anxious, to know more. Then when Dawn came in, she spread a new brochure on the desk. Everyone who has come in since has taken one of these brochures. I need the new brochure to tell me its story. It is busy today it seems like the whole town feels like I do and are coming just to find out. I can feel the excitement.

Now at closing time, Ben walks in with four young boys. Dawn takes them outside so once again I have no idea what is happening. Ow! That was cold quite a shock. Water is cascading down my walls, brushes are tickling my walls. I can see dirty water running down my windows. I can hear footsteps on my roof. More water flushing out my gutters. Oh! dear I was not prepared for this. I cannot remember having a bath before. It reminds me of the rhyme I heard last week at Story-time. ‘It’s raining it’s pouring the old man is snoring.’ Me being the old man, I wasn’t snoring, but I wasn’t awake to what was happening either.

There is just one copy of the new brochure left. He is so happy to tell his story.

“I am the Library copy, see Dawn has labeled me, ‘Not to be taken out of the library’.”

He must be very important I am anxious to hear the rest of his story.

“See here on my cover is a beautiful photograph depicting ‘The Silo Trail’. This is a trail through the Wimmera district in Victoria. The Area was dying because of the long drought, but now they have encouraged people to come and see the Art works painted on all the Silos. The plan is to do this here in your town.”

“We don’t have Silos.” Chorused the books. “That is true”, said the brochure. “See inside my pages are sketches and plans on how to make Art works on the outside walls of the Library.” We are all stunned. We never thought of that. When Andrew had brought in his lovely paintings, we had envisaged a book about, the life of a tree. That explains all the cleaning, I think.

The last few weeks have been so busy. The Library remains open and all the usual people come. There is much discussion of the pictures appearing on my walls. Andrew, the Artist, has built a great team to help him achieve this project. There are always several boys and girls painting, they are having a great time. The progress of the Art works is closely followed by all the townsfolk. Lots of photographs taken, some even printed out and displayed on a special display board inside. This is how the books and I can also follow the progress. Some nights we have talked of nothing else. As the scenes of my journey become clearer, I have been able to tell them of the big events of my life. I know that elephants have good memories, I always love Story-time when the children learn about the wild animals from the beautiful picture books. I think I have an elephant-like memory too. I know that each year as I grew in the forest another memory ring was added to my trunk. (Oh! I never thought of that before, I am like an elephant, we both have good memories and trunks.) By counting my rings when I was removed from my home, the timber people knew my age. My rings also register the climate, the thickness of them depends on the rainfall, heat, and cold. I love being a tree, I keep useful records.

Not all the painting days went to plan. I am sure Andrew and Dawn kept a close eye on the weather, some days it rained and none of the children came to paint. One day the painting was in full swing. Older children up ladders, younger ones painting the grasses and flowers in around my edge. It was all going well when whoosh the wind suddenly changed, from a light breeze to a full-on gale. Then the rain came down in torrents. There was pandemonium as they all scrabbled to get inside. They dripped everywhere. Large puddles formed in the hollows of my old floor. The noise was incredible, as the girls screamed and the boys yelled. Dawn quickly took charge. She banged her fist down on the desk, they all turned to look. Then in a quiet voice, so that they all had to be quiet to listen, she told them she had already phoned the Fire-station and got an updated weather report. It was a squall, totally unexpected, it would end as quickly as it began. One boy threw up his hand, “I know” he offered, “like a cold front coming through, probably got here before they expected it. These things happen. My Dad works for the bureau, they often get caught unawares, then people blame them for not forecasting properly.” Dawn, patiently waited for him to finish, then she organized the children to go to the small staff room out back, girls first, so they could dry off. Andrew got the cleaners mop and bucket, and in a flash, he managed to dry the floor. By the time the children were dry, the storm had passed and the sun shone again. Rainbows spilled inside through my windows. Andrew and Dawn decided that there would be no more work that day. I think some of the children were disappointed, but when they were told to go home, not back to school a rousing cheer went up.

Chapter 9

At last the day is here. The books and I have felt the excitement rising in all the conversations the Library visitors have, from being quite a quiet place I have become a meeting place for everyone to express their opinions. Most people seem to be in agreement, that Andrew has done a good job. He has, by organizing this project, given a sense of community to the town. The children of all ages have been so involved, and everyone is so proud of what they have achieved.

One mystery remains, who started this? Yes, it is all due to the naughty children who first graffitied my wall. The books and I have no idea if the culprits were ever found. From that unfortunate action has come all this great work. Would anybody, have thought of painting my life story otherwise. I think, maybe, the perpetrators were never found. I like to think that they have helped with the proper painting and will go forward to become artists themselves.

The music is so beautiful, the whole town is singing Waltzing Matilda. Then the small children sing, ‘Give me a home amongst the gum trees.’ Many speeches follow. Andrew is applauded and so are Dawn and the committee. The loudest cheers are kept for all the children who painted me. Tables are set out down the main street, they are covered with lots of delicious cakes, everyone in town has, brought a plate of food to share. Such a wonderful gathering, I am so proud to be at the center of all this joy.

When the street is quiet again and the books and I are alone, we notice a new pile of brochures on the desk. These brochures proudly tell the story of this town, its early settlers and the glorious tale of its oldest building ME.

This story was inspired by the small Library in Brunswick Heads. I wanted to bring attention to the world around us and how we are all connected to the environment. Of course it is a work of imagination, I hope the reader enjoys it and is inspired to value our forests and libraries.

Christine.

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Christine Frances Annette Andrews

I am retired, enjoy reading, writing and painting watercolours. I keep a curious outlook on life. Remember the past. Live in the present. Welcome the future