I sat on a wooden bench yesterday outside the Woodstock Library, a bench set upon the wide expanse of green lawn, directly opposite a tree with exposed roots that looked to be two hundred years old, to my
novice eye. I was waiting for a friend; we planned a walk around the quaint lanes behind the library. The afternoon was cold but sunny. I felt a quiet shrouding around me, a palpable silence that seemed made to order for quiet observation, for flashbacks of library related instances that have been a part of my life since I first moved to Woodstock twenty nine years ago.
I thought back to the many Julys that I attended the Annual Library Fair, when townspeople gathered on the lawn that had been transformed with food booths serving up hot dogs, burgers, veggie offerings, and corn on the cob; the rummage tent, a plant exchange, and long tables where folks could sit to eat and chat. On the side lawn live bands performed, kids went into the bouncy house, had their faces painted, and visited the dress up booth where they made hats of ribbons and flowers; the book sale in the barn behind the library was always packed. It was a day of celebration, a day of wide, wide smiles as locals greeted friends and acquaintances they hadn’t seen in quite a while. Hugging was de rigueur.
A newly constructed shelf had been attached to a front window of the squat library building, I noticed. Prior to the pandemic the window had never been opened or used in such a fashion; now the window was raised as needed; on the shelf sat one of those round bells with the thingee on top to tap to attract attention. One uses the window to request a book, or pick up a previously ordered book, without going into the library. Yet another pandemic induced adjustment that we observe with almost numb recognition. I watch a masked woman quietly busy on the lawn twenty five feet from me as she dismantles a thanksgiving display that had been set up in a circle.
The first time I drove up to Woodstock from West Milford, NJ, I was eager to check out a town where I might choose to relocate. It was a day in late November, similar in temperature to yesterday. I had coffee in a local hang out spot, sat writing in my notebook, then left to walk through town and see what I could see. A male voice behind me said, “Can I have your autograph?” Laughing, I turned to see the owner of this new pick up line. He laughed too. We walked together, with him pointing out places and people as we walked. After passing through the main part of town, my companion took me to the library, saying, “I love libraries, don’t you?” Well, yes, I do.
We walked through the library, lowering our voices, then he took me into the local history section where he talked about the history of Woodstock and some local people who currently made up the population. His ongoing monologue, in a mysteriously deep and velvety voice, expressed a love and conversely, a cynicism, about the town. It did not dissuade me. Instead that trip propelled me to visit again a few months later, and I made the move up the following summer. The library will always be connected to fond memories of my first glimpse of Woodstock.