When layers of air in the earth's atmosphere line up just right, an image of something directly beneath them can be projected onto corresponding layers of air tens, or even hundreds, of miles away. Imagine what that's like. A shepherd in the South of France looks up and there, floating among the clouds, an image of Cairo and its attendant pyramids shimmers expectantly.
Such airborne mirages are exceedingly rare. Called Fata Morgana after Morgan le Fay—King Arthur's fairy, half-sister—they are, like their namesake, notorious shape-shifters. Which means our shepherd's view of Cairo might first appear small, like something seen through the wrong end of a telescope, then gradually grow thin and distended, before abruptly flipping itself upside down and, like the Cheshire cat, slowly fading away.
I find myself thinking about this phenomenon because, lately, it's come to feel as if I were inhabiting a Fata Morgana.
I have worked in the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library for four happy years now. Day in and day out I have walked its aisles, retrieved and shelved its books, guided its patrons to and fro, with the result that the library's every nook and cranny, its every turn and defile, have long since become imprinted on my brain. Just as, in a darkened room of my house, I can unerringly put my hand on the nearest light-switch, so I can, in the library, put my hand on E. B. Sledge's “With the Old Breed,” despite the fact it occupies an inconspicuous spot among hundreds of similar tomes in our World War II section.
Or at least I could.
But now my familiar little world has been turned upside down. Kit and caboodle, the Easton library has been packed up, moved across town, and then reassembled in its temporary quarters at 28712 Glebe Road. While patrons probably won't notice much of a change, for those of us accustomed to spending our every working day in the place, the slight modifications necessary to accommodate the lay-out of a different building can be disorienting: when I reach for the light-switch now, it often isn't there. Still they say that old guys like me should have our minds shaken up like this from time to time, try our hands at something new, maybe learn the calculus, take up a foreign language.
Which is interesting because it turns out the proper word for describing a move like ours, one in which an entire institution is picked up and set down elsewhere, is a verb we usually associate with languages. The Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library has been translated to 28712 Glebe Road (the word seems appropriate given we're talking about an institution devoted to the preservation and dissemination of the best that language can offer).
But the really wonderful news is that our patrons have been translated with us. People are pouring into the new library and showering us with compliments. Everybody loves the place. So please, as soon as you can, translate yourself over to our new digs and check us out. You're going to like what you find.