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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dashing In for a Quick Shout-Out

Thank heaven I have a commute that soothes my soul on the mornings and evenings I make time to go by the back roads. If you follow that link, you can see more, but I'm not going to write much this morning. Tomorrow is the day that David Roll comes to Dog Ears Books with his nationally important and very well-reviewed new book, The Hopkins Touch, a biography of Harry Hopkins, advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II, and I'm a little antsy about the event. It takes a lot of planning to have authors come to my bookstore -- getting books, exchanging e-mails, advertising, sending out press releases, posting fliers, putting invitations and notices on Facebook, etc. I don't just give an author a place to sit and let him sink or swim. It's pretty incredible, too, the quality of writers who have been willing to come up to little Northport at the end of an Up North peninsula. Your online bookseller will never come through for you like this, so think it over, and please -- if you're going to buy the book, buy it from me. I'm your local bookseller, whether you shop local or not.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Day Is It? It’s a Summer Day

(Photo I forgot to include when first posting -- makes sense of text below.)
A recent morning. Maybe last Wednesday? Jet trails in the sky caught my attention as I set out for town and bookshop.

July morning over Northport marina
Family note: My sister arrived on Wednesday, and we had dinner at the Happy Hour. Thursday evening was shrimp out in the farmyard, and Friday morning the farmers’ market in Northport, another colorful scene, for a big salad supper, with take-out ribs from the Garage Bar & Grill, but throughout all this my camera saw very little use. (Poor camera can’t talk, after all, and talk was the order of the day for several days.) Interesting that everywhere we went, it seemed there were sisters visiting sisters. Is it that time of year?

Alongside sister visit, bookstore life went on. Many browsers, customers, readers, old friends. I have a guest author coming on Wednesday so will be posting more about that soon.

Dog note: Sarah has been very happy the last few days: company at work and company at home! Our dog loves company. If she knew that one of her favorite houseguests is arriving sometime today for an overnight visit, she would already be out on the front porch, eyes glued to the driveway.

When houseguests of readers are also readers themselves, however, there are quiet morning hours over coffee not involving constant play with dogs. Can you believe I made my way through a book during this busy time? A customer had brought in a loaner for me, The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, by Wendy Welch, thinking I “might find it interesting.” (Might???!!!) Wendy and Jack’s bookstore is in Virginia, and it’s in their house in the little town, and they have cats, but despite differences in our respective bookselling lives there was a lot in her story that was very, very familiar to me. Wendy and Jack are on a book tour now, visiting indie bookstores with her book. You can follow her here. They don’t seem to have any immediate plans to travel Way Up North, but who knows what the future will bring?

Additional reading note: I also made my way through The Telling Room, a book about so much more than cheese, as you will know if you heard the author on NPR the other morning; am still making progress in Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street; and started – yes! – yet another a book, a novel set in northern Minnesota that is not within arm’s reach at the moment. There is always time for reading, sometimes time stolen here and there for a page or two.

Sinking boat....

The calm before the rain....

Friday was overcast in the morning, with rain later in the afternoon and pouring rain by dinnertime. The peaceful country lake walk my sister and I started out on was cut short by rain, forcing us to go in search of ice cream cones. Talk about a mini-vacation: ice cream cones on a rainy day – ahhhhhh!

Blogging note: Looking at search terms that brought people to Books in Northport recently, I found the following: “dog with a blog ears.” What a host of speculative associations that phrase evokes!

See the pouring rain on Friday

Thursday, July 25, 2013

“You’re Up Early”

Laundry doesn’t do itself, so when the sky begins to lighten I’m up and making coffee, and soon towels are sloshing around in the washing machine, giving me time to check e-mail before hanging wet laundry outdoors on the line. If it rains? Towels will be softer when they eventually dry. No problemo.

Perhaps I need to apologize to all the friends and acquaintances and customers and strangers who have given or sent me links or books or mss. or DVDs in the last month. The truth is that I have not yet looked at, read, or watched all these undoubtedly fascinating offerings. Running my business and keeping my household fed and cleaned and garden watered and lawn mowed and dog exercised are top priority items. Other trump cards are e-mail with and publicity for and visits with and selling the books of scheduled guest authors. A commute to work on back roads (follow link to see more) is one way I recharge on busy days. That is one luxury I do not forego.

Less frequent are trips outside of Leelanau Township, but I made time Tuesday evening to go into Traverse City with David to meet friends from Walloon Lake who were picking up a new car. They were making the trip to TC, and it’s not nearly as far for us to TC as to Walloon Lake, so we seized the opportunity. On the way into town, I regaled David with tales of “old Saugatuck” from a book a friend had sent me. The old lumber mill town of Singapore, abandoned when the trees gave out and then buried by shifting sands so that not even a ghost town remains, was a new story to me. How about you? Did you ever hear of Singapore, Michigan? Then there was the art colony, which David remembered from his own teaching days in Paw Paw and Kalamazoo. If I’d wanted to get through more work, I could have been reading mss. or watching DVDs in the car on the way to town, but somehow – call me crazy! – it felt good to take the evening off and feel as if I were on vacation like all the rest of the world.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Breezes, Perfumes, Sights and Sounds and Possibilities

An individual blossom from a basswood tree (it’s a kind of linden) doesn’t look like much, and the blossoms are not much more impressive in their clusters on the tree. Two readily observable features of linden blossoms are worthy of notice. First is their perfume. It fills the air, so that passing by a linden you breathe more deeply and ask, “What is that delicious scent?” The next thing you may notice, if all is proceeding as it should be in Nature, is that the blossoming basswood tree is humming, vibrating, alive with sound. Almost as many bees as flowers will sometimes fill the leafy branches. 

I have written about the basswood flowers and the bees before, but their blooming time has come again, and again it claims my delighted attention. – But what is this? Where were the bees yesterday morning? I understand why they would stay home this morning, in rainy wind, but where were they yesterday? I’m starting to worry.

An old verb-form for bloom or blossom is ‘blow,’ lingering in the adjective ‘full-blown.’ Another name for service berry (or Saskatoon berry, if you want to sound fancy) was ‘shadblow,’ because the shrub blossomed at the same time of year that the shad were running. Old garden books speak of the time such-and-such a plant will ‘blow.’ It makes me think that the linden perfume is “blowing in the wind.”

"Blooming, buzzing confusion"? – isn’t it delightful? Lilies and daisies, harebells and that smaller, more delicate relative of hollyhock, malva. Our neighbor has put in countless hours of work on her aunt’s old garden, to beautiful effect.

Mystery Poet has struck again. Latest offering, in my p.o. box on Monday morning, had the usual complement of interesting postage stamps. 

Inside were four short lines:

summer says I can
winter says I will
fall says I do
spring says you too

Can I? There is so much to do!!! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

No Great, Over-Arching Theme

Left behind
My mind is full of scraps these days. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. For instance, my bookstore "Lost and Found" department (which exists only intermittently, as needed) currently holds a sweatshirt removed by a young browser and left behind on Monday evening, July 15. On each of the very, very warm days following, up until yesterday's cool relief, I would come to work and look at that sweatshirt and feel all the heat of the morning and the day to come pressing down on me. If it's yours, please call the bookstore!

Leeks flowering on forest floor
My obsession with wild leeks continues. The woods in northern Michigan is not -- I'm so glad! -- a tropical jungle full of twisty vines, killer snakes, and insects dealing death by malaria. (Of ticks we shall not speak today.) When the spring wildflowers have finished, the floor beneath the canopy shows mostly leaf litter, fallen trees and branches, a few wildflowers past blooming stage but still identifiable, and then, still flowering, a miniature forest of leeks. And now? The leeks also are joining the seed-making frenzy of late July.

This is one of my scattered thought threads at present: everything is making seeds. What are cherries and raspberries but vehicles for the dispersal of seeds? So --
Leaves are for the sake of the roots,
Fruits for the sake of the seeds....
There I pause and consider how to continue.
All is for the sake of the future
Of which leaves and fruits can only dream.
??? Maybe....

Is "Zen poet" an oxymoron? Does "living in the moment" mean not having words running through your head? I wonder.

The little five-letter word ‘condo,’ shortened form of the longer, more dreadful word ‘condominium,’ has power to strike terror into my heart, as more and more people we know sell their houses and move into condos. The shared space of condo gardens has no room for a private flock of chickens, let alone a couple head of cattle. A condo dweller has walls in common with neighbors, as with apartment living, along with property taxes and maintenance costs, as with a house. Most of the appeal seems to be that other people are doing the maintenance work. But please, leave me my mower and pruners, and do not rob me of my poultry and livestock dreams! In my old farmhouse, I feel the truth of Primo Levi’s words:
I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy, and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine. 
 -       Primo Levi, “My House,” in Other People’s Trades
This second book I've picked up of Primo Levi essays is as captivating as the first, the topics more abstract, the treatments much briefer. (Flash nonfiction?) This morning I woke early, made coffee, picked up Payne's Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street and read a few chapters, fell back asleep, and woke to re-read a few pages of The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment. So funny!  Laugh out loud! Then it was time to go woods-hiking with Sarah. 

A couple of my annual customers from Chicago invited us for cocktails aboard their Grand Banks trawler. Of all motored boats, the trawler is my favorite, and our boat-board hosts are some of my favorite bookstore visitors, so what a lovely interlude! After several days of killer heat, to sit on a boat out along the marina wall as the wind shifted around to come from the north, cooling and refreshing! “Where are we?” I asked. “Is this Northport?” The creek pool on Wednesday, the trawler on Friday – two mini-vacations in one week, not counting mornings in the woods. That's good. I need to do more vacationing, even if it's only an hour at a time.

Woodcutter's tracks filling in
Back in the woods again, I see the way Nature is healing scars made by human incursion. No intention is necessary on Nature's part, either. It just does. Sends down roots, makes leaves and flowers, forms seeds and scatters them. Where trees were cut and removed, the canopy lets in sunlight, and a forest of seedlings compete to become trees in their turn. 

Trees that want to be
"To every thing there is a season." This is ours. We are here now.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not Much Time for Commentary

"Take your dog to work day?" someone asked. After the work, we had a lot of fun.
This is obviously not our private playground any more.
Instead of dogs frolicking, there will be golfers soon.
I'd eaten quite a bit of chicken curry before realizing I hadn't taken its picture first,
but I got a photograph of David's refreshing rice noodle and shrimp sausage before too much of it was gone. This was the first evening of Thai food at Lelu Cafe.
This morning I captured spiderwort's blue better than the other day.
Many blossoms yet to come on this stem!
Time for beautiful lilies ...
... and the first raspberries are coming on, too.
I did not take my camera on yesterday afternoon's mini-vacation with Sarah. We were living in the moments, luxuriating in a refreshing pool created by a rushing creek emptying into a large lake. A mother duck and two ducklings kept their distance. Brilliant blue dragonflies were not bothered by our presence. I picked through small stones. Sarah stood around in water up to her belly, content to be cool.

Tonight Loreen Niewenhuis will be at the Leelanau Township Library in Northport, beginning her presentation at 7:30 p.m. Loreen has done two 1,000-mile walks, one around Lake Michigan and the second comprising different stretches of the five Great Lakes. On book tour now with her second book, she has also begun her third adventure, exploring Great Lakes islands. Most of the library series events are on Tuesdays, so a Thursday event is unusual, but it's when Loreen had time in her schedule. She is a lively, personable presenter. Catch her if you can!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Long, Busy Day

Too much fun!
Sarah's visit with Laddie was not the first item on Monday's to-do list, but after she had her usual woods walk and stick play and David and I had had morning coffee at home, after the garden was watered, after I'd brought cleaning supplies and everything needed for the day to the bookstore, updated my blog, and been to the bank and post office, then -- confident that Bruce would open for me at 10 o'clock -- Sarah and I made our way out to Cherry Home. Thinking I'd get a lot of good photographs of Sarah's first encounter with an agility course (set up on the beach) was foolish. Sarah was out of her mind with excitement! First she needed to run on the beach and in and out of the water with Laddie, and then when it was time to jump through the hoop and over the hurdles and walk the raised platform and teeter-totter, all for yummy "training treats," she was almost too enthusiastic to focus. But for her first time, she did pretty well.

Then home with Sarah to hose her clean of sand and algae and clean myself up for the rest of the day.

Flash fiction and longer short stories
Bruce and I overlapped at the bookstore for the last hour. My guest author, Katey Schultz, said she would arrive early, so I planned to stay right through the two hours between 5 and 7 p.m. David came at 6 to set up chairs for me.

In introducing my guest for the evening, I read a short passage from The Telling Room, by Michael Paternini:
A story is time itself, boxed and compressed. It is the briefest entertainment and simulacrum of real life, which is big and messy and requires a strange kind of endurance. The story is stylized for that flash of laughter and pain, thwarted desire and odd consummation, while life waterfalls with it—all of it—every day: prodigious, cloying, in decay. And when the story is finally over—even if the protagonist survives a spray of gunfire and goes on living—it’s over. Meanwhile, life carries on, river-swift.
The word "flash," along with "survives a spray of gunfire" added to the appropriateness of a description of why stories matter to us.

Katey Schultz
Katey Schultz is teaching creative writing at Interlochen Arts Academy this summer for her fourth year in a row. Flashes of War is her first book. She is currently at work on a novel that grew out of one of the stories in the current collection. Many of the fictional voices in her stories are men (young and old) and boys. There are women's voices, too. When you read the stories for yourself on the pages of her book, you will not year a lovely young woman but a diverse cast of characters, some you recognize and many you will be meeting for the first time. How does she do it? Katey said that the origin of all her stories is the same: she is struck by some kind of disconnect between two events or images. Both are true, so there can't be a contradiction. She begins then, to construct a narrative to connect what seems jarringly disconnected.

Preparing to read amid David Grath's art
At one reading she did before an audience containing several military veterans, one young man asked her in the Q&A where she had served. Schultz has never been in the military, never even fired a gun at a target. That tells you something about the power of these stories.

Life is moving along, river-swift. July is half-over. On the last day of July, Dog Ears Books will host David L. Roll, author of a new book about Harry Hopkins and FDR during World War II. That will be on Wednesday, July 31, 7 p.m.

The date of the dog parade is Saturday, August 10. You can register at Dog Ears Books. There is a poster in the front window of the bookstore with details, so when you're walking by in the evening on your way to the Garage Bar & Grill, please take note.

Lacy flying saucer

Monday, July 15, 2013

Why Blog? Why Bother?

Long summer days begin early

Blogging. Why? Is it communication or compulsion? Generous offering or mere self-indulgence? Sharing or performing? Fixing memories or bypassing experience?

All of the above?

Even so, evening comes too soon
My initial impulse back in 2007 was to share my life with friends, family, and bookstore customers who have only vacation time in Leelanau and ache for it the rest of the year. Quickly it became an avenue for self-expression, a substitute (pale or more vivid?) for the more concentrated, more creative writing I too rarely find time to do. There is also an aspect in my blogging that involves dreaming a future, e.g., the whole chicken thing. But, like a chicken, I’m sure that’s only scratching the surface of a deep tangle of complex motivations.

Right now it’s summer, though, and my bookstore life is fulltime and then some. Husband and dog and gardens take what attention I can give them: husband and dog – lucky for them! -- have an advantage over gardens in that the former can come to the bookstore, while the latter cannot.

Got most of mowing done before mower belt broke
Squash only needs watering
Attention needed here

(Needs no caption)
Torn and tired as I often feel, my world is beautiful in all its aspects – home, bookstore, and country commute from one to the other -- and I’m here now. I’m here now. Other bloggers contribute to enlarging my world with their thoughts and photographs, so why shouldn’t I do the same? I guess I also like to think that when I’m gone, when “now” has become “back then,” someone will remember “P.J. was here.” In case I never get any books of my own written, at least there will once have been “Books in Northport.”

Tonight, 7 p.m., Katey Schultz at Dog Ears Books.