(Editor’s note: Earlier this year, Surrey Libraries received a message entitled “A love letter to Semiahmoo.” Permission was granted to share it with Peace Arch News readers.)
I must admit, it wasn’t love at first sight.
At first glance, with one arrogant look, I dismissed the concrete building with an underground parking lot that stands at the corner of 18 Avenue and 152 Street.
s“It is not my type”, I proclaimed!
I avoided meeting Semiahmoo and continued my relationship with smaller libraries with outdoor and treed-lined parking lots that were rich with characters.
Anything novel that did not meet my pre-existing notions was immediately dismissed.
I don’t remember when my love affair with Semiahmoo started, but one cloudy winter day I found myself walking up the cold and concrete steps and arriving in the middle of a big area. Cautiously scanning the unknown space, my gaze locked and my attention was swiftly beaconed to a giant fireplace in the left corner of the building.
With slow steps and suspicious looking eyes, I made my way towards what looked like an inviting living room and sat on a greyish-green leather sofa. The warmth and radiance of the flames from the fireplace was a stark contrast to the cold and rainy weather outside.
My eyes and my thoughts concentrated on admiring the intricacies and hidden mysteries of the woodcarvings displayed in a glass case near the sofa. The gems that I had not noticed in the character of this love were quietly revealing themselves to me.
There were shelves full of books that contained the secrets of the universe and its history, shelves with newspapers, journals and magazines. I was looking at the object of my adoration with new eyes.
While sitting and soaking in the warmth and the richness of this new place, I made a conscious pact with myself to give this newly found love a fighting chance.
After all, we had to get to know each other better before we started a serious and lasting relationship.
I was falling in love.
I did not want to leave Semiahmoo that day, but the looming voice on the overhead speakers made the sorrowful announcement that it was time to part. Saying goodbye was difficult. I left reluctantly that evening but I was determined to continue my love affair with this newly found treasure.
The next day, with a heart full of excitement and enthusiasm, I came back to spend more time with Semiahmoo and to discover its many facets.
After laying my bag of books on one of the tables, I sat on a chair. I did not like the view from that angle so I moved from one chair to another. Finally, I settled down and started to gaze at the knowledge and wisdom that my lover contained.
I realized more days were needed to firm up our relationship.
I slowly learned that this love was not all about us; it was also about others and their needs and aspirations. Semiahmoo had many treasures to offer, to all, and that made me love it more.
Semiahmoo is always bustling with a sea of humanity – a teacher instructing math to five children, a senior gleaning through the foreign section or “global section,” a youth sitting around a table with his earphones in, studying with friends, a child looking for a favourite book with their dad or mom, and young and old tapping away on keyboards.
There are days that I stand in amazement and observe my love with admiration – admiration of vastness and generosity of services.
My commitment was completely firmed up and undeniable when I discovered the ‘Quiet Study Room.”’ That day, I knew this budding relationship was real and that it would last forever.
It all started with me changing my ways of being, and challenging my preconceived notions, and doing and looking at things with new eyes.
P.S. Every time I see a library or institution of learning being built, I’m overjoyed. I tell myself: “One more spot to support and nurture our hearts and minds instead of building weapons of mass destruction to destroy and harm our hearts and minds.” With a heart full of gratitude, it was easy to write a love letter to the object of my adoration.
Farrah Farkhondeh Marasco, Surrey