I’ve found it surprising to realise how ‘noisy’ and chaotic most of my life has been. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however it’s been interesting for me to look back at my life and see that even as a child I always sought ways to find a place just to ‘be’, no distractions, no chaos; just me, my thoughts and I.
From around the age of nine or ten I used to spend a fair amount of time at the library in Acocks Green, Birmingham. For me, the transition that I felt as I stepped into the hushed reverence of the library from the busy roads and nearby shopping centre was almost magical. The library was my sanctuary and over the years, if I needed solace, this is where I could be found.
I would sit there, sometimes all day, and read random snippets of almost anything. The Encylopaedia Britannica was a favourite. I would just get a random volume, open it at any point and start reading. I remember picking out books on everything from fantasy, war, athletics, christianity, the occult, philosophy, films, postage stamps from around the world, history (medieval, Victorian, European, etc, etc.), vampires, biology, technology, health, space exploration, travel, languages, myths and legends, etc.
Although the number of books I would go through were immense, I’m not well read at all. I rarely read entire books and didn’t even borrow books to take home, well, not often anyway. I was not an academic by nature, nor was I a great student. I was (and still am) just fascinated with almost everything.
When I was 11 years old and received my first bus pass, I started to visit Birmingham Central Library, the largest of it’s kind in Europe. I spent endless hours in the reference sections, not realising that my soul mate, Gina, was probably there at exactly the same time reading books too. To a degree I also felt that same sense of belonging at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, but always felt I needed to ‘move along’. Perhaps the presence of security people does that. Even if I were alone in a room of exhibits, I would still feel like I was being shooed along by a guard. Hah! I don’t know.
Gina used to frequently visit the Museum and Art Gallery with her Grandfather, so again, we would have been there at the same time many times before we met in 1986.
For some reason, I find it funny, perhaps even a little ironic, that environments such as libraries, museums and galleries that are so peaceful, are filled with items that fire our imaginations, drive furious debates, inspire us to react passionately, whether that be in a good or bad way, coax us to examine and dissect what we read or see, or drive us to discover more and more. I wouldn’t want it any other way, of course, but the thought still puts a smile on my face.
Now, all these years later, thanks to Gina, our home is a wonderful mix of these institutions that we love so much. A beautiful blend of library, museum, art gallery and the warmth of a home, all set within the walls of a Victorian mansion. She has filled this place with history, knowledge, art, poetry and love. It truly inspires a feeling of peace and safety, and is the backdrop for almost endless conversations, laughter or passionate debates when Gina is not focused on her writing. She has made our home a truer reflection of our hearts and minds than I could ever have even imagined and I am very grateful for it.
I find peace in many ways; meditation, being close to nature, watching Gina sleep, reading, etc, but being with Gina in our home brings me the greatest peace of all.
It's where we can just 'be'.
Causes Ryoma Collia-Suzuki Supports
World Wildlife Fund
British Heart Foundation