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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Yipes! It's Tomorrow!

My ninth of this summer's eleven Thursday Evening Author events is only one day away, and I want to highlight the kid-friendly aspect of Bill O. Smith's books and presentation style. He does not do a "reading" but a performance! So rain or shine, 7 p.m. Thursday, bring the little ones, and we'll have fruit punch instead of iced tea at TEA this week.

P.S. Artists of all ages will appreciate Charlie Murphy's lovely illustrations of this new chickadee book, too.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Gifts of August Come Our Way

On one back road this week I noticed goldenrod beginning to flower and was startled this morning, on a more travelled road, to see bracken fern turning yellow and brown. So soon! Summer is still here, however, and the beauty of prolific coneflowers in my meadow attests to that fact. When the last of the coneflowers begin to fade, I will mourn their passing, sorrowing over their brief bloom, but then blue and purple and lavender and pink and white asters will take their place and gladden my heart in their turn.

Our TEA guest this past week was heart-gladdening writer Karen Anderson, who brought leaves from “God’s begonia” for audience members to take home and root. There is a lovely story in her book, Gradual Clearing, about Karen’s “missionary” work with a begonia that has, in her words, taken over her life. I look at the single innocent leaf on my front porch table, resting quietly in a water-filled cream pitcher, and wonder how much of my life it may grow to fill. Should I be alarmed? For now I am simply grateful to have met Karen Anderson at last, after hearing her on the radio for so many years and gratified that she was willing to come to Northport and that she was pleased by her audience at Dog Ears Books. I asked her to sign a stack of books for bookstore customers yet to come, as it is the perfect birthday, thank-you, or holiday gift.

Friday is slow-down time for me. Bruce is back in the shop after a couple weeks away for family reunion, and I celebrated my Partial Day Off (PDO) by hanging laundry outdoors at a leisurely pace (rather than in my usual predawn rush), followed by al fresco lunch under green leaves rustling in the breeze. Then clean sheets on the bed, clean tablecloth on the porch table, and small pockets of my little world gradually become more orderly. What a lovely gift it is to pause for half an hour on a quiet August day and do little more than watch leaves toss gently in a refreshing breeze! How would I ever have survived 25 years as a bookseller without the occasional backup of my loyal volunteer?

And now, already, tomorrow — Saturday the 11th of August this year is dog parade day in Northport! Can you believe it’s that time already?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Up North Early August Weather Report

In most parts of the country, the weather changes from day to day, and seasons are not clearly delineated except on calendars. One morning in late July, I walked out of the house into what felt like September. After a stormy night, waves pounding the shore of Lake Michigan a mile away were clearly audible from my front yard, and fall was in the air. Then summer returned, with beach temperatures continued for happy, vacationing swimmers. 

Cherry harvest, like summer, like fall, does not happen all at once but begins in the southernmost part of Leelanau County and gradually inches north. Thus it is that some farmers have crews in the orchard, “shaking” (cherries harvest with mechanical shakers these days rather than being picked from the trees by hand), while others have a good three weeks yet before they're ready to start.

When you live in the country, farmer or no, you develop a weather eye. 

Is it time to make hay? Is the forecast favorable? What does the sky look like? From what direction comes that breeze? How does the air feel, and what are the leaves on the trees saying? 

Our hearts and minds have weather of their own, sometimes mysterious affected by larger invisible forces. When the whole family wakes up cranky, maybe the barometric pressure is falling, while another day, be it sunny or filled with gentle rain, will bring joy and contentment.

Those of you who live here Up North will recognize Karen Anderson’s name — and her voice — from hearing her on Interlochen Public Radio. If you’ve been around long enough, her regular column in the Record-Eagle is part of your local memory. Whether you have known her before or not, Karen’s new book, a gathering of radio essays she composed and performed on air over the years, will bring calm, peaceful weather to your storm-tossed soul. She has a gift, employed with a sure, light touch, for noticing life’s small, wondrous moments and objects and them bringing to our attention.

Karen Anderson’s special gift to us this season is a lovely collection, Gradual Clearing: Weather Reports From the Heart. With each essay complete on a single page, Gradual Clearing is an undemanding book; the visions and thoughts it presents, however, make it richly rewarding. I cannot forecast how you will receive the gift — reading it immediately, cover to cover, unable to stop, or stretching the pleasure out for weeks into the future, dipping here and there — but however you do, your pleasure is guaranteed. 

And if that were not enough, Dog Ears Books is delighted to have Karen Anderson as our Thursday Evening Author this week, right here at 106 Waukazoo Street on Thursday, August 9, beginning at 7 p.m. This will be the eighth of eleven TEA events in this our 25th anniversary year and not too late for those of you who haven’t managed one yet to come celebrate with us!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Northport Loves Books

Virginia Johnson, my most recent TEA guest
[In which some old photographs appear....]

Summer of 2018 has seen two landmark literary anniversaries in the village of Northport: the 50th anniversary of the Leelanau Township Library on Nagonaba Street and the 25th anniversary of Dog Ears Books, born on Waukazoo Street and now back on Waukazoo again. A half-century and a quarter-century — noteworthy milestones in the life of our village, our township, and our county.

Volunteer-maintained library garden
Although the current Leelanau Township Library building opened to the public on May 20, 1968, Northport residents were investing in their library as early as 1856, when Rev. George Smith noted in his diary that books were to be purchased in Chicago for use by the “Town Library.”  Before moving to its present home in 1968, the library’s collection was housed at various times in an earlier Township Hall; in different homes and businesses; on the second floor of a local store; and in a house on Waukazoo Street.

Original Dog Ears Books
Dog Ears Books first appeared much later, opening for business on July 4, 1993 on Waukazoo Street in a little shed next door to the old Woody’s Settling Inn. (Who remembers?) Both shed and restaurant have since disappeared, replaced by Tucker’s, but after a stretch of several years in different buildings on Nagonaba Street, I am content to be back on Waukazoo Street, near the modest beginnings of my bookstore and next door to the studio and gallery of my husband, artist David Grath. 

Both library and bookstore have seen support for their endeavors increase over the years. The two book venues have loyal followers among summer residents, as well as the love of year-round residents.

One library fan, Pauline McClure, summed up her experiences as a former long-time volunteer at the Leelanau Township Library over the years by saying, “One of my greatest joys was patrons coming in and gushing over their favorite library or, at this time of year, returning from wherever and expressing how much they missed and loved this library, asking what would ‘we’ do without you, and so forth. The ‘we,’ of course, is a community of loyal patrons and visitors who realize what a treasured resource we enjoy in this small, award-winning library."

Appreciative library audience
A bookstore customer friend and Northport resident who also happens to be a nationally known writer, Sarah Shoemaker (author of Mr. Rochester, the biggest book launch I ever hosted), when asked about her favorite book find at Dog Ears Books, responded instead in general terms: “What I have found at Dog Ears is a warm welcome, an open mind and heart, good and wise advice on books and life in general. I love the author visits, the chance to sit and listen to an author read, and to ask questions and buy the books and get them signed. I love that there are so many books at Dog Ears that have a local connection.” The bookstore has a wide-ranging collection, in terms of both content and price, but naturally focuses as much as possible on Michigan history and fiction. When book-lovers like Sarah take the time to peruse and appreciate my collection, I am richly rewarded.

The late Mac Thomas launches his life story at Dog Ears Books
In the course of its history, the Leelanau Township Library has invited a wide array of guest authors for its Summer Writers Series in July and its Poetry Month events in April. Dog Ears Books has brought many writers to Northport over the years, as well, and has hosted its own author events. In fact, library and bookstore guests have overlapped more than once. One such was the late Al Bona, a good friend and a marvelous local poet. Here he is reading at the library:

Al Bona at library poetry evening
And so, while the general public may see libraries and bookstores as competitors, librarians and booksellers don’t see their work in that light. Our aims are complementary, and we often work together. Librarian Nellie Danke agrees with me. "We share many of the same goals and both want to promote reading, writing and learning,” says Danke. “The community really benefits from having more than one resource.”

(As a side note, I'll add that bookstore owners in various Leelanau County villages have generally regarded one another as colleagues, rather than as competitors. We call each other to inquire about things our customers have that we don't have in stock often send each other customers on general principle. That collegiality is a wonderful aspect for me of bookselling here Up North.)

The Leelanau Township Library has been presenting its  annual Summer Writers Series on Tuesday evenings this summer, and Dog Ears Books (as readers of this blog are already well aware) has been hosting a summer-long literary season called  "Thursday Evening Authors," TEA for short, to celebrate our quarter-century mark. See my sidebar for remaining events and visit the library website for theirs.

Under a beach umbrella, in a gently swinging hammock, or in front of a cozy fire while a blizzard rages outdoors, we in Northport count books -- and writers -- as valued neighbors. Northport loves books, and the Leelanau Township Library and Dog Ears Books are happy to welcome locals and visitors alike to indulge that love. As you can see from this sampling of images, we are making literary memories to last a lifetime.

Many writer friends pictured here
Postscript: The story of my bookstore would not be complete without mention of my loyal volunteer of many years, Bruce Bales. Without Bruce, I would never have had a day off in the summer! Bruce, Dog Ears Books salutes you and thanks you!

My volunteer "contingent," Bruce Bales
And I should not omit mention of Sarah, since so many bookstore visitors adore our darling doggie. Here she is a few years younger, charming summer visitors. And for those who were concerned, I'll tell you that she came through her surgery on Thursday with flying colors. The girl is good! Thanks to everyone who's been asking!

Sarah and friends

Monday, July 30, 2018

Who Belongs ?

Local crowd? All locals?
These past couple of days, I was really feeling like a stranger here. You forget about it for a while, but then a few things happen and people say things to you in a certain way, and it all adds up. You may be welcome here, but at the end of the day, you’re not part of this. You never have been and you never will be. 
Steve Hamilton, Die a Stranger (an Alex McKnight novel)
I’ve been thinking again lately about who belongs and who doesn’t, since I’m not “from here,” as we say, and tourists visiting my bookstore in the summer often ask me if I am. Sometimes they are looking for someone or something and wonder if I can give them directions or information; other times they’re merely curious. But no, I’m not “from here.” Born in South Dakota, raised in Illinois, long-time downstate and elsewhere resident until 25 years ago, I don’t have generations of county roots.

Steve Hamilton’s McKnight character, living in Paradise, Michigan, is in a similar position, having moved to the U.P. from Detroit. Do writers, I wonder, working in solitude as they do, relate naturally to solitary fictional characters? Maybe so, but that doesn’t explain the broad appeal to general readers of the outsider, the loner, the one who doesn’t quite fit in.

crowd moseying along
And so, I wonder, is that a feeling we all (or most of us) secretly harbor, the suspicion that we’re on the periphery, looking in? Or — another possibility — do we sometimes feel so surrounded, even crowded, by other people and demands that we like to fantasize ourselves as loners escaping from the crowd? 

Moon -- solitary and serene

Maybe even sometimes one, sometimes the other feeling?What do you think?
…The air was still almost warm. Then the wind picked up and as it hit my face it brought along an unmistakable message. It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way. The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. 

And oh, yeah, there’s that, too.

Sarah's winter face

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Season Rolls Along

Cherries are ripening or ripe or already harvested, depending on which part of the county we're talking about. The crows are out in force, darn 'em! Crew shaking on Eagle Highway this morning. It may seem, on some rare overcast day, that the pause button has been hit, but in reality nature and time never slow down. 

We had a standing-room-only overflow crowd this past Thursday for Dennis Turner's TEA presentation, everyone fascinated by his story of Belgian nuns acting as rescuers and spies during World War II. Here is the beginning of the crowd assembling, having been warned to come early for good seats:

Here is Dennis, ready to go:

And here is the full house in David Grath's gallery and the overflow into Dog Ears Books, the series host:

Can you believe there are five Thursdays in August this year? Next week's guest, Virginia Johnson, brings us back to Michigan with her memoir of growing up on a self-sustaining farm during the Great Depression and beyond. Virginia sees many parallels between the way her parents farmed and today's back-to-the-landers with CSAs and regular farm market appearances. My regular readers know I have a strong inner farmer, so I'm pleased to have agriculture represented by a speaker this summer. Please join us -- again! -- on Thursday, August 2, 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Pause Button

Aren’t there certain times of the year, particular days, when you would love to hit a PAUSE button and stop time, stretching a single day into a couple of weeks? I have that urge every year in the spring when the first impressionist flush of color touches branches trees across the fields, and we must all have the feeling during perfect vacation moments or watching young grandchildren at play. For me, summer rain delivers at least the illusion of a pause in time. 

On sunny days, I am conscious of the progress of daylight from dark to first light to sunrise, of the sun’s rapid climb and then its descent and setting, but the light of an overcast day, with the source behind clouds, is more diffuse, and so the hours are not marked off with any kind of clarity. Cool, rainy nights are “good sleeping weather,” and the hushed days are good reading weather. Having reached the final page of Paul Theroux’s book of travel essays, Fresh Air Fiend, I passed it on to the Artist and have been making my way slowly, in fits and starts, through a novel, The Book of Crows, by Sam Meekings. There is nothing cozier than reading side by side on the porch on a rainy summer evening, our dog at our feet. 

I know my sensation is not an objective reality. Time has not stopped or even slowed down. But it feels to me as if it has, and that feels good! And a rainy summer Sunday is the best!

When the rains come, I don’t need to water my gardens and can give myself a temporary reprieve from laundry (I don’t mind hanging laundry outdoors in the sun and then having it rained on, delivering “rainwater softness” to our clothes and linens, but I don’t stand outside in the rain with clothespins in my mouth), and on Sunday, the bank and post office and library are all closed, and the farm market was on Friday. So, no morning errands! Summer, however, does not admit of “days off,” and so we will soon be in Northport, taking up our stations on Waukazoo Street. But that can be pretty cozy, too, as our visitors will attest. 

And so summer flows on….

This coming Thursday at Dog Ears Books
This coming Thursday is the sixth of my TEA events (Thursday Evening Authors), with Dennis Turner reading from his novel, based on historical fact, What Did You Do in the War, Sister? That’s at 7 p.m., as usual. Hope to see you there!