Monday, October 12, 2009


It took an hour to drive to downtown Ottawa before traipsing into the city’s main library branch and settling into a well used study carrel, one that could stand a thorough scrub down. What amazes me about libraries is that, no matter how big and how many seating areas, they always feel near capacity. Libraries welcome everyone and create a wonderful ambiance for building characters for a current or future writing piece.

As I searched for a carrel with an electrical outlet for my laptop, I came across a twentysomething Arab fellow on the stretching on the floor between bookshelves. That was a first! He later walked by, supporting himself with a cane. In the carrel on my left was a teenaged girl frantically scribbling notes in green ink into a spiral notebook. Apparently, my unpacking my writing gear was louder than she could tolerate; she departed within five minutes of my arrival. To my right is an elderly Japanese man who began shuffling through a plastic bag as soon as he sat down. As he set down a flattened cereal box, I thought he was settling in for a peaceful lunch, but he pulled out a dozen tiny sharpened pencils, opened a book about Central America and began copying the text onto a small notepad. There’s a story there.

I am in the middle of a wall-lined row of eighteen carrels. Two-thirds are occupied. It is a fairly accurate slice of the city’s demographics in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and, from initial appearances, income levels. I can’t get this at the cottage or at my rural home in British Columbia. Although all is relatively quiet as I work, I feel fully immersed within society.

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