Shelves upon shelves upon shelves and shelves and shelves.
The moment I saw the room from outside the lodge, I couldn’t wait to get a view up close.
“Welcome to the library,” said Michael.
The room was cozy and inviting, with a large stone fireplace at the center. The huge windows flooded the room with light cut into shafts by the tall pines and fir trees that stood guard around the lodge. Countless shelves of books lined the walls and were arranged on the floor, creating separation between groupings of tables, lamps, and overstuffed leather chairs. The room seemed empty except for the two of us.
“There’s something about a place like this that just makes me ache for a good coffee,” I said. “That cortado you made yesterday was ridiculously good. Do you have a setup here? Any chance you’d be willing to…?”
“Sorry. Done for the morning,” Michael said with a smile. “You’ll have to wait ‘til the afternoon.”
“No problem,” I replied with a casually disappointed welp of a shrug, then returned to surveying the library.
“Wow. So many books,” I said. “Guess people need some sort of entertainment in the wilderness, huh?”
“Not exactly,” Michael responded. “These aren’t just books. They’re all kinds of inspiring resources that have impacted the people who’ve come through here, influencing who they are and who they’re becoming.”
I walked up to a bookshelf in the corner and ran my fingers along the back of the spines. I saw one with a tiny cup and saucer on the spine. I pulled it out and flipped through it. Seemed like a memoir on the craft of coffee. Passages were highlighted throughout; I could tell it had been well-loved.
I flipped to the back of the book and noticed a card inside, the kind traditionally used to track who had borrowed it. Michael’s name was the first one on the list. Beside it was a heartfelt response about the way the book had impacted his life.
“Hey, this is you!” I exclaimed.
“Yep, I brought it with me when I came here. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this book.” Michael responded.
“Man, I didn’t bring anything with me. I wish I had. But seriously, who carries a bunch of books with them into the wilderness? Especially when they’re Alicing after their own white rabbit straight down the rabbit hole?”
Michael laughed. “Oh, you brought some with you. Everybody does.”
“What?” I replied. “I’m pretty sure I would know if I’d brought a sheet of paper with me, much less an entire book.”
“Maybe go check,” Michael said. “I’m serious: everyone who comes here brings a bag of their inspiration with them. I’ve seen everyone with them. I’m sure yours is just sitting at your tent.”
“Funny,” I said. “I’m not heading on some kind of camp rookie snipe hunt for your entertainment.”
“Want to bet me?” Michael asked. “If you don’t find a bag at your tent, I’ll make you another cortado.”
This was all a bit weird—but, I admitted, it was not half as weird as that one time. That one time was weird.
I looked at Michael and said with a laugh, “What the heck. Why not? See you back here in 15. Better warm up the ‘spro, bro!”
“’Spro?” Michael coughed.
“Yeah,” I laughed. “I was trying out some baristastic jargon. Is ‘spro not a thing?”
“Can we try to make it a thing?” I asked.
“Okay then,” I said and headed out of the library.
I got a little turned around at first, but eventually found my way. When I arrived, sure enough, there was a pack outside my tent flap. There was a tag with my name on it. I picked it up and took it inside.
I sat down on my sleeping bag and pulled the pack into my lap. As I opened it, I saw volumes of resources that had inspired me and influenced my thinking throughout the years.
My heart filled as I looked through each one. Then it sank when I realized I was not getting any coffee. But my heart swelled again because I remembered I might still be able to be The One to make “’spro” a thing!
I looked at the contents of the bag. Sure enough, I’d written in the margins and had underlined passages that had been particularly important to me. As I flipped to the back of each item, I noticed a blank lined card, waiting for me to write my name on it and describe how this resource had impacted me.
I emptied the last book from my bag, and found a note in the bottom.
“You see? You’ve brought so much more with you than you realize. By sharing what we’ve brought on our journey so far, we strengthen each other with the things that have made us strong. Not only that, but we are better prepared to support each other in what lies ahead.
Are you ready to share your inspirations with us? If so, meet me back in the library.”
Okay, this was ridiculous. Michael was a one-man chef, and a barista, a space-and-time-traveling magician Santa Claus, and he was good at writing heartfelt notes? This was really too much.
I thought to myself, “If I was writing a story one day about this incredible experience, Michael would totally come off as a cheap hacky character inserted just to drive pivotal plot points.”
Heart full, I knew I was ready for this. I packed up my books, put my pack on, and headed down the circuitous path back toward the lodge.
I walked through the huge doors and headed toward the library. As I did, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. There on the wall was an enormous map.
How had I missed this when I walked in the first time? I must have been busy talking to Michael and marveling at the place.
The map was a full two stories tall and appeared to be painted on the wooden wall. I saw the lodge, the mountain ridge where I last saw my wildling, and the wilderness that lie on the other side. On the map was the traced line of the trail, switchbacks leading up and over the ridge and into the valley beyond.
Different landmarks on the map were labeled with odd names: Firstlandia, Trust Falls, and We Decide were a few. Many landmarks were hardly visible—greyed out and faded as if they were placeholders for undiscovered territory.
Looking closely, I realized the map was shifting and changing from moment to moment. Some of the less visible parts were becoming more clear. What kind of paint was this?! Giving Valley had grown a new section before my eyes.
Having been gazing intensely at the map, I reached out to touch it and was startled when I heard a voice behind me.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Michael asked.
I pulled my hand back. Maybe I was not supposed to touch it. “Wow. Just…wow. What is this?”
“It’s a map of all the different lands that make up our world. But you’ll notice it’s not finished yet. Honestly, I don’t think it ever will be,” Michael said.
“Yeah. That’s what we do here…we are constantly creating new worlds, exploring them and documenting our discoveries at the same time. Every person has something to contribute, and it takes finding your wildling to know what that is,” Michael explained.
“I want to do that! Man, I love it here at the camp, but I’m really eager to find my wildling and start exploring.”
“All in good time,” Michael said. “Right now, you need to shelve those resources. It might not make sense yet, but doing that is necessary for you to find your wildling. Better get started!”