There are places that are full of words, yet they are quiet. They are called libraries. One book takes up little room, only an inch or so. But when you open a book, it starts to grow. It can grow to the size of the world. But this happens only if the one who opens it can read. To those who cannot read, the book is just an object. It is a pile of papers fastened together, and the marks on it mean nothing.

But then comes someone who can read, like Lydia. She seizes the book and kindles a light with it.

Lydia had come to the library to return some books. She had read them during her summer vacation, and now summer was over and the books were due.

During the summer Lydia had made trips to the wild meadow behind her uncle's summer home. In the library, she remembered that meadow. She had taken along a blanket, a bottle of juice and a book. She had slept or read among the humming of bumblebees until Grandmother called to her from the porch steps. Sometimes the wind seized the pages and riffled through the book as if looking for some important piece of information.

The library reminded Lydia of that meadow, even though there she had to stay inside and sleeping was not quite proper. But sometimes she was just as contented in the library's reading-room as she had been in the meadow.

"Are all the books in the world in here?" Lydia had asked the librarian when she came to the library for the first time.

That had been many years ago. Now she knew better. There was no place where all the world's books would fit, however little space each of them occupied.

It was at the library that Lydia made friends with Sulevi. Sulevi was a quiet boy who was in the same grade as she, but in a different classroom, and she knew him only by sight.

Sulevi sat reading a book in which were pictures of mushrooms, and the only vacant seat was next to him. After Lydia had returned her books, she sat down beside Sulevi to read.

"What are you reading?" Lydia asked after a while.

"A mushroom book," Sulevi replied, without turning his head.

"Which mushroom is that?" Lydia asked, pointing to a little picture.

"That is a Podaxis Pistillaris."

"Can you eat it?"

"Better not to."

"Is it poisonous?"

"No, but otherwise dangerous. It's a very unusual mushroom."

"Really?" Lydia became interested. Everything that was unusual and dangerous appealed to her. "How is it dangerous?"

"If a person gets its spores on him, mushrooms start growing on him," Sulevi informed her.

Lydia shuddered. "How does anyone dare to go into the woods, if mushrooms like that are lurking there?" she wondered.

"There is no danger from them here. They don't grow around here. Podaxis Pistillaris only grows in the wilderness areas of California," Sulevi said. He glanced at Lydia's book. "What book is that? That one you're reading?"

"It has songs and poems in it," Lydia said.

"Oh," Sulevi said and again buried himself in his mushroom book. But Lydia read:

All of you read the book of life
And find in it what you will.
You come from far away, from the void,
To where the book lies open still.
Light as a feather in the wind
Or plodding, shunning the sun,
Some truly possess a thousand feet
While others seem to have none.
All of you read what can be seen
And even what cannot .
After time has turned the page,
Even you will have come to naught.
And the book is always the same.
The change is in those who read.
With you I looked at a book,
And you, you let me read.

© Leena Krohn