Megan Goodacre

designer @shopify

The weight of my love

When we moved from one side of the country to the middle of it, from paradise to winter, we brought everything with us. Including 5,000 pounds of books.

Robinson, Frederic Cayley. Bird about to fly off.

Through rich and poor we were frugal.
He doesn’t collect expensive mountain bikes or technology. He hasn’t bought a convertible. He wore the same brown jacket—which I bought for him—for 17 years. He only recently retired the jacket (by leaving it on a bench in a train station in England, but that’s another story).

I don’t buy purses or jewellery and have never understood that female cliche. I don’t want diamonds or gold. When we married, we gave each other plain silver rings.

Days into our relationship we discovered that we were both spendthrifts in one area: books. In those early days of building a home together, we weren’t always comfortable spending money on ourselves but we put books in a category all their own. To us, books were as necessary as food or shelter. 

Our goal was not to pare down our stuff. Our goal was to get our stuff onto that damned truck.

Photo by Tadeu Jnr on Unsplash.

Years later, when we moved from one side of the country to the middle of it, from paradise to winter, we had never moved such a distance. Well, that’s not quite true. We once moved from Canada to France in search of adventure, but that time we took only what could fit into our suitcases; it was closer to travelling than moving. But that’s another story too.

My mental picture of moving was of some nice people in coveralls rolling neatly stacked cardboard boxes onto a spacious clean truck; the boxes would  nestle into place like a game of Tetris.

The moving company gave us a quote based on a maximum weight of 8,000 pounds. As long as our possessions didn’t weigh more than that, we could take whatever fit on the truck.

Unless you’ve taken all of your earthly goods and weighed each one on the bathroom scale, you probably don’t know how much the contents of your house weighs. We asked ourselves, “Who has 8,000 pounds of stuff? We’ll sort it out when we get there.”

It was an excrutiatingly busy time. I was in the throes of writing my first knitting book in one province while Charles was starting a new job in another. Our goal was not to curate our stuff. Our goal was to get our stuff onto that damned truck.

From paradise to winter

So we moved everything

We moved the antique sewing table with the solid iron base. The extra sofa and chairs. Broken garden equipment. The crock pot we never used.

And every single book.

Turns out, we didn’t have 8,000 pounds of stuff. We had 13,000 pounds of stuff.

I know I can’t blame it all on the books. But books aren’t light. A paperback weighs about a pound. Big hardcovers can be 3 pounds, easy. And every pound over the 8,000 pound limit cost us 50 cents.

I resented our books for their heaviness. I dragged our book collection into the middle of our new living room and gutted it. I was ruthless. Was I going to read this book again? Did I like this book? No? Off with its head!

Irrational as the Queen of Hearts, I punished my beloved books for their weight. For the move. For the winter in this new place to which we had dislocated all 13,000 pounds of ourselves.

Many of the books that the movers had hefted onto the truck, Charles hefted out of the house to the alley behind the charity shop. Like so many unwanted puppies. I had hardened my heart.

Seeking weightlessness, I bought a Kindle. Although there is something cheap and nasty about the black plastic, I praised myself for being so practical. I could get rid of all the heavy books and heavy shelves and never look back.

But I am not the Queen of Hearts. And a book is not simply a vessel for writing. It is an object of significance in and of itself. It has heft, texture, smell, colour, memories. You can fall in love with a book that’s written in a foreign language. Or a book that has no words at all. Books are more than the words they contain.

A book is a flexible mirror of the mind and the body. Its overall size and proportions, the color and texture of the paper, the sound it makes as the pages turn, and the smell of the paper, adhesive and ink, all blend with the size and form and placement of the type to reveal a little about the world in which it was made. If the book appears to be only a paper machine, produced at their own convenience by other machines, only machines will want to read it.

Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style

I couldn’t stay angry at books. So, I let them back into my life.

Have I re-grown my collection of 5,000 pounds? No. Our smaller house means our book collection must be finite. I’m more discerning and definitely more ruthless. If a book doesn’t make the cut it goes to charity right away so that it can start a new life. And there are many books that I buy on Kindle. The weightlessness and instant gratification of digital has changed how I collect and read books. Although my physical collection of books has slimmed down, my digital collection is massive.

If I love a digital book, I buy the physical book as well. So that I can feel the weight of the book in my hand and place it lovingly on the shelf.

Photo by Javardh on Unsplash