The stick library

We have become familiar with street libraries which have popped up in the most unlikely places providing a much-needed community service. People take books that pique their interest and bring back ones they have read, but no longer wish to keep. There are no forms to fill out, no due dates nor any fines to worry about. It is a self-regulated system that works because everyone who uses it benefits. It only takes one person to start it, keep an eye on what comes and goes, tidy up every now and again, and occasionally cull. No wonder they have become such a hit.

Yesterday, as I was walking two dogs at a local park in Watson, Canberra, I discovered a variation on the theme – a stick library. My first reaction was joyous laughter. Such a charming idea matched with a quirky sense of humour, and a doggone purpose. In its vicinity, I spied four people and at least double that number of dogs. I should also mention that there was a lagoon nearby. The humans were standing at its edge, throwing sticks into the water for the dogs to fetch.

I walked up to a man whose Border Collie ran towards us with two sticks in his mouth.

‘What a great idea,’ I said, pointing to the stick library.

‘Yeah, whenever we used to come down here, no one could ever find a stick to throw,’ he said. ‘Then some guy decided to do something about it and since then, people bring sticks back for others to use.’

‘I love the community here in Watson,’ a younger woman chimed in. ‘The stick library speaks volumes about the kind of people who live here. It’s such a friendly place.’

‘Someone called ABC radio the other day to say thank you for the stick library and the switchboard lit up,’ the man added. ‘Now they’ve tracked down a guy called Tom who’ll give an interview at the local radio station.’

I nodded in appreciation and could immediately see the appeal of this good news story. After all, we are a dog loving nation. One in three households in Canberra owns a dog. You don’t have to walk very far to encounter a pooch with its special human beaming with pride as they make their way to the nearest off-leash area. Exercise is essential, especially in a city brimming with apartments. And what better exercise than to fetch a good old-fashioned stick?


Rain has washed away whole sections of country roads. Wherever I look there are potholes, thoroughfares which are no longer passable and ‘rough surface’ signs to alert drivers to the obvious. I recently punctured a tyre as I plunged into a hole much deeper than anticipated and last Thursday, a loose rock hit my windscreen leaving it with a sizable crack.

I have had ample opportunity to ponder the pothole, both real and figurative, as I white-knuckle clench the steering wheel. There have certainly been some rough rides. Last week as I drove along a dark country highway, trying to avoid both kangaroos and potholes, I suddenly found myself going over a flooded roadway. I could hear the safety ads loud and clear, ‘Do not enter floodwaters’ but it was too late. I was already deep in the water and accelerating out. The sun had dropped behind the horizon, and I was left to navigate unfamiliar, rugged roads at night.

While potholes are perilous for travellers, I find solace in the fact that we haven’t been able to bend nature to our will altogether. In the great battle between the elements and bitumen, the elements win every time.

And as I navigate the great and small potholes in my life, I draw some lessons from driving along country roads. If I am lucky to see the pothole ahead, I can always move over to the other side, as long as there is no oncoming traffic. There are often ways to mitigate the great and small disasters in life by course correcting.

Potholes make me slow down. Instead of rushing from A to B, I need to be measured and disciplined to get there safely. This is a lesson I need to learn over and over. When confronted with overwhelm, it is best to slow down and approach tasks with a well-considered plan rather than plough ahead at full speed.

Then there is the detour. At times it is well worth obeying the sign. It may take longer to get wherever I’m going but there’s a reason for the diversion. These roads are often scenic and may lead to unexpected pleasures along the way. A detour whether forced or voluntary can provide insights which otherwise could easily be missed.

I am learning to approach potholes as moments to pause and reflect. They may be an unwanted disruption, but they teach me that I can’t control everything. And ever so slowly, I am learning to accept the things I cannot change.

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