Last year around this time, I was in Westchester, Pennsylvania for a funeral. A funeral I’ve not yet fully come to accept. At times it feels like a dream from which I’ve not awakened, nor can until I’m ready. While we were there, I visited interesting places and curiously searched out memorable spaces. I found this independent bookstore called Baldwin Book Barn on the outskirts of the city, tucked into the Chester County hills. My son and I are both passionate lovers of the written page and devotees to vintage, so this was a definite go to.
When we arrived, the bookstore did not disappoint. It appeared as though we’d transferred to an alternate world. The book barn, built in 1822 with Pennsylvania stone, was replete with cozy nooks, stone walls, and floors and floors jammed pack with wooden shelves of all kinds of books. The wood burning stove added the touch that took you back to a place you’d never actually been but wish you had. It was a Christmas postcard come to life. As I went from floor to floor, I’d catch glimpses of my son standing before a book-filled shelf, hunched over a table reading, leafing through pages, or sitting on the floor beneath a tower of books. The look on his face, I’m sure, mirrored mine. One of wonder and a strange mixture of excitement and peace. The type of mixture conjured up in sacred spaces. All of this stood in stark contrast to, but in a strange way, a direct connection to what we were in the city for. The peace that engulfed me surpassed the sadness deep in the well of my interior.
I rounded a corner and a photo of a painting of a little girl spoke directly to my state of mind. She stood off the wall and connected to my spirit. The books stretched out behind her. She before them. My childhood and my present folded into that moment. That sacred moment where everything felt okay. In this instance, the experience elevated the space to one of a divine connection, a synergetic symphony where time condensed. The outside world came into perspective and disappeared at the same. I saw the whole of myself, my love for the mysterious, books, and the lives from which they emanated. My appreciation of being stepped forth into the light pointing at death serving as a reminder to live.