My co-workers and I were cleaning out the attic at work a couple years ago, and we found a box of old books belonging to the late Dr. Eugene Leslie. Our offices are located in the old Leslie family home (which the good Dr. and his wife donated to the City of Ann Arbor upon their passing), so it is not uncommon to find artifacts and relics that pay testament to Dr. Leslie's staggering intellect and insatiable curiosity. After digging through layers of literature about everything from beekeeping to fire brick buying, I found a nasty, old bible. The covers were black leather worn paper-thin. The spine had disintegrated and pages were loosely contained in the shape of a book. I opened the bible and found, on the inside cover, a prayer written in pencil:
"Put any burden upon me, only sustain me.
Send me anywhere, only go with me.
Sever any tie, but that which binds me to thy service and to thy heart."
I thought it was an especially beautiful prayer, and have since discovered that it was the prayer of Dr. David Livingstone (an extremely impressive and inspiring man in his own right...I think he and Dr. Leslie would have gotten along quite well). So, I decided to keep the bible, ailing though it was.
Which brings us to December 2011.
Elin was going to Iceland for Christmas, and I sent the bible along with her, knowing that her uncle Leifur is a bookbinder by trade. I'd seen some of his craft on a previous visit and was amazed at the beauty of the books he'd bound. With guarded optimism, I asked her to get Leifur's opinion on the book, to see if it was at all serviceable. I wasn't expecting a good prognosis, given the condition. What Elin brought back from her Christmas vacation was this:
The book is now hardbound. In fish skin. With gold inscriptions. It's as solid as a brick; the rich, leather-like surface is as beautiful to look at as it is to touch. It still smells like ocean, although I suspect that will fade with time. It's a true treasure.
It has taken about 6 months of procrastination and false-starts but I finally finished a meaningful "thank you" that I hope in some small way reflects my appreciation. Going in the mail to Iceland next week:
God's Bear II: Watercolor, acrylic, and India ink on Arches 140 lb. hot-press watercolor block.