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Sunday, August 13, 2017

August Races Along, As Do Busy Days and Nights



Have I ever had a busier, more event-packed “day off”? Friday morning (after housework and dog walk) began with a drive to Traverse City to restock one of my best-selling (metaphorically hay-making) summer books, then a quick turn-around to get to Northport for the weekly farm market and to do errands before heading up to Arcadia Woods for the annual summer luncheon of a group of fiction writer friends. Four leisurely hours of shop talk and catching up over wine and salads and fresh fruit tart. It was refreshing to sit with friends on a rainy day while Grand Traverse Bay lay cool and blue beyond the windows.



I’ll confess that on the way to Traverse City I stopped to photograph fields of sunflowers (see more sunflower photos here), and between Arcadia Woods and Northport I detoured through the little Woolsey Airport parking lot to photograph the old dairy building against stormy skies.




After the extended lunch, I went back to the bookstore to give Bruce a much-needed break. He had been deluged with book customers all day, nonstop, and after his break the two of us carried on until closing time. (One of the children's book sections had been so depleted by shoppers that I had to move things around on Saturday morning to fill the shelves again.)




At five o'clock on Friday I hurried home to put a quick supper on the table before leaving with a friend to drive down to Holy Rosary in Isadore for a world-class chamber music concert. 




Isadore is literally nothing more than a country crossroads. What would its original Polish farmer settlers think to hear Mozart played with such panache so close to their fields? On the way home, we only had to dodge one deer in the road, and it was dark, so I wasn’t going very fast.



I closed my eyes for a minute or two, and suddenly it was Saturday, the day of the annual Northport dog parade. The twenty-first annual dog parade in Northport, mind you, and also the first time an agility competition has followed the parade. A red-letter day! David and Sarah and I were only spectators, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. David thought it must have been the biggest dog parade ever, and Sarah wagged her tail throughout the whole event. I’m told the agility competition was also a great success.









Not sharp focus but great costume look...

and many attempted photos turn out worse.
We love little Rudy!!!
Parade participant greets spectator Sarah

And now another dog parade is over for a whole ’nother year. Hard to believe. 


Time is racing. Coneflowers and tall native grasses sway in my meadow, Eagle Highway is bordered in chicory blue, and modest roadside ditches are beautiful now with fresh cattails, Joe-Pyeweed blossoms, and – although it is a terribly invasive alien we do not want to encourage – the bright spires of purple loosestrife. August vacationers are cramming in their last weeks of fun before school starts again. 







The daughter of an old friend came by the bookstore, and my heart warmed to see in her face the features of her mother. It made me feel old but happy, too. When my friend died, it broke my heart to think I would never see her again, so I love seeing her in her daughter’s face. The other daughter has a new novel out, and I want to read it but don’t want to be rushed when I do. I want time to slow down, but no, it doesn’t. Time is racing.


I hear an autumn sound and look up to see a V of Canada geese overhead. No, not yet! Where did the sandhill cranes go with their young ones? Gone already? Thistle seeds are ripening, to the joy of the goldfinches looping along the driveway, and the branches of my little apple trees are heavy with fruit. There will be more dried apples this winter, I think with a happy sigh. But no, let’s not think too much of winter yet....


It’s still summer, still “the season,” and yet time is racing. I try to keep up with dishes and laundry, along with working seven days a week, and between us, David and I keep the grass mowed. “How do we do it?” he asks and then answers his own question: “A little at a time.” 

Not only have I fallen behind with my reading as time races by, but I’ve even fallen behind with writing about the books I’ve read. For instance, Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving. I commented on Facebook that this is probably one of the most important books I’ve ever read, and yet I’ll probably have to re-read it if I want to compose any kind of meaningful and persuasive essay. I’d love to have a discussion with other people about it – say, if the library book group read it in 2018 or if “Trinity Reads” chose it as their focal book of the coming year.


The coming year? There are still months left in 2017, I remind myself, and I can’t let September 13 pass without some special observance of the date. It will be the 10th anniversary of my first blog post, the 10th birthday of Books in Northport. Whoever thought I would keep at this for ten years? But whoever thought, back in 1993, that I might celebrate a quarter-century of bookselling in 2018?

The other evening, musing on time’s fleet passage, the disappearance of old friends, the way successive generations are coming along now at what seems like breakneck speed, and the difficulty of making time for remaining friends to reunite, I got out Mardi Link’s Drummond Girls to re-read. Drummond Girls is one of those accessible memoirs that can seem almost fluffy at first but then surprises by deepening as the chapters go by, much as, in the book, the women’s friendships and confidence and other relationships deepen as they mature.


Even as time races by and I am challenged to find enough reading time, I find myself picking up books I’ve already read – because for me re-reading any book is like a visit with an old friend. (If I didn’t enjoy it the first time, there would never be a second.) Never to re-read? I can’t imagine that. It would be like saying, "I’ve had lunch with those friends once, so why get together again?" Or, "I saw the dog parade last year, and once was enough!" When love and laughter and poignant insight are on offer, who would ever say no?








Friday, August 4, 2017

Our Busy Days and Nights

He stands by his statement!

Wednesday evening, August 2, was the long-awaited reception for my husband, David Grath, at the Dennos Museum Center, where his one-man exhibition, “Three Decades of Landscape Painting,” will be up through September 9. And when the $5 million new addition is completed and opened in late fall, as planned (or surely, by the end of the year?), the permanent collections gallery will include one large David Grath painting. (Not the one pictured below, but turn left when you enter the gallery, and you'll see the one I mean. You see part of it above, over David's shoulder.)

We stand together, thrilled to be there
It was a thrilling, memorable evening for us -- one we will never forget as long as we live. Owing to the many delays, pushing the reception back beyond the film festival to August, many of our friends had conflicts and could not attend, but enough people managed to get there to make a lovely, large crowd. To say that we had a “wonderful time” would be understating the case wildly. It seemed almost like a dream.

Gathered to hear director's welcome and introductions
I must not neglect to mention Eugene Jenneman, director of the Dennos, and his wonderful staff; the magnificent caterers; and our own dear friend Dan Stewart, intrepid videographer of the evening. We are grateful to so many people for making this happen and joining us in a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of David's work!

Artist David Grath and museum director Gene Jenneman

Videographer Daniel Stewart

An unusually early bookstore morning
The very next morning I came to Northport shortly after the crack of dawn to clean and organize myself, the bookstore, and the gallery for an evening author event. The big storm came during my 3-6 p.m. break at home, so I was able to get to the bookstore again to meet my guest author without dodging lightning bolts.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” indeed! The Leelanau Conservancy cancelled its 4-6 p.m. event in Leland, and a Northport woman called the bookstore to see if Gregory Nobles was still on for the evening. Yes, indeed, I told her. Some people arrived late, but eventually we had a respectable turnout for a lively evening of tales about John James Audubon.



Author Gregory Nobles
I had been struggling to put into words my general response to the book, which was that reading it was immersion in the America of two hundred years ago. Much more than merely a biography. Then as Greg began to explain the way Audubon placed each species of bird on the page of his huge elephant folios, picturing the species in its natural surroundings, I had a brainstorm: Just as Audubon put a species in its place, its own regional habitat, so Nobles puts Audubon in his cultural time in American history.

And again, many thanks are in order: to guest author Gregory Nobles; his wife, Anne Harper; to our new township librarian, Nellie, for loaning us A/V equipment for Greg's slide show; to my talented and overworked husband, artist David Grath, for setting up chairs in his gallery for the evening event; and to the intrepid audience who braved the elements to come to the bookstore, gladdening the hearts of author and bookseller alike. Great to have you all here!

Sarah Shoemaker and Bronwyn Jones
Two major evenings successfully accomplished, I overslept a bit on Friday morning and had to hustle to get myself to Northport in time to shop at the weekly farm market, do my usual weekday morning errands, return borrowed A/V equipment to the township library, and open by 10 o’clock to accommodate a conversation between writers Sarah Shoemaker and Bronwyn Jones. It is a bookseller’s privilege to eavesdrop on visiting writers as well as being entertained by guest presenters. Sarah and Bronwyn will be presenting an event onstage at Kirkbride Hall in the Grand Traverse Commons at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 10, so check that out if you’re in Traverse City.

David had to be in his gallery early today, also, meeting people who wanted to buy paintings. For one woman, buying a David Grath painting at last was a dream come true. Making dreams come true, seeing dreams come true, having our own dreams come true – even in the dizzying blur that is our busy summer, we are grateful for the richness of our wonderful life. 

Summer -- a beautiful blur of days!


Monday, July 31, 2017

August ALREADY? (Did I Say This Last Year?)


Chicory-chick, cha-la, cha-la


The last day of July is upon us! Back when was a kid and again when I lived downstate, periods of life when August meant vacation to me, it seemed as if it would never come, as if July were an endless month. Not so since I became an Up North business owner 24 years ago. After a few years I came to understand that the Leelanau business owner’s summer is divided into three distinct periods:

1)  4th of July will never get here!

2)  Omigod, it’s 4th of July already!

3)  4th of July is over! Summer’s almost gone!

It’s really a little different in Northport, because we also have the dog parade in August. This year it’s August 12, the theme is “Hairy Tales,” registration is $5 a dog, I’m doing registration (but so are other places—see posters around town), and for the first time in Northport’s dog parade history, an agility competition will follow the parade. Anyway, you can substitute “dog parade” for “4th of July” in the list above, and you’ll have the Northport variation.

Second cutting
My point – and I am coming to it – is that this week will be a very busy one and, consequently, the bookstore schedule will be radically different for a couple of days.

Wednesday, August 2 – Dog Ears Books CLOSED!

Thursday, August 3 – Dog Ears Books open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed at 3 p.m., and then open again in the evening for 7 p.m. event with Gregory Nobles, author of John James Audubon: The Nature of the American Woodsman.

The reason I’ll be closed this Wednesday is that the reception for David’s show at the Dennos Museum will finally take place that evening! Technically, it is not the “opening” of the show, since paintings have been on the walls and visitors given free admission throughout the week of the Traverse City Film Festival, but museum members are accustomed to a party for special exhibits, so Wednesday it is, at last. I have no idea if the renovations were be complete (last I heard, floor was not finished), but David Grath, Sally Rogers, Diane Carr, and the work of all three artists will be feted on August 2. I don’t have to “do anything” that evening but should be presentable and well rested, so that is my Wednesday plan.

Back when Gregory Nobles and I planned his bookstore presentation and book signing for August 3, I had no idea it would follow by 24 hours one of the most important evenings in my husband’s life (originally, the museum opening seemed it would take place in late June), but things change -- and while plans must often be revised, I didn’t want to confuse anyone who’s been watching my blog all summer and seeing Greg scheduled for August 3. August 3 it is! 7 p.m.! He is ready, and I will be, and I look forward to an enjoyable and informative evening. Greg has a whole slide show planned!



This morning at the bank my teller asked, “Are you ready for the big weekend?” “It’s only Monday!” I told her. “I have big events on Wednesday and Thursday! I can’t think as far ahead as the weekend yet!”

Summer – it’s always a blur....

Old wasp nest blown down, victim of time

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Fullness and Connections



Woods, fields, meadows, gardens are lush by the last days of July, especially this year, following our long, drawn-out, cool and moist spring and early summer. Cherry boughs bend low with fruit not yet shaken off the trees. Corn displays its near-tropical growth, and small grains wave richly in the breeze.

Hotel and motel rooms and B&B accommodations are also full. (Woe betide the would-be visitor looking for a room now for August!) Restaurants are full to overflowing, and grocery store lines stretch long. I’m sure many beaches are full on sunny days, but if Petoskey stone hunting in the rain is your thing, you might have the shoreline to yourself today.



Tuesday night was the last evening in the Friends of the Library Summer Author Series, and Sarah Shoemaker had the crowd eating out of her hand and lining up afterward to buy copies of Mr. Rochester, my runaway best-selling book for 2017.  Selling out of a title and having to restock sounds like the opposite of fullness, but it's been terribly gratifying to me to see Sarah's sales numbers mount since Mr. R (as I call him familiarly) was released on May 9.



Calendars are full (and already filling up for September, believe it or not). Days and nights and hours are full. We squeeze in visits with family and old friends wherever and whenever and however we can. An old friend I hadn’t seen for 25 years came for a breakfast visit with his family one morning this week. At my suggestion, they came to our house so we wouldn’t have to stand in line at a restaurant and then worry that their little girl would get bored and fidgety, and we had a lovely time. Now it may be another five years before we see each other again. And wouldn’t you know I forgot to get my camera out at the house! Made up for that omission at bookstore and gallery.



Summer is a time for reconnecting. Some people are reconnecting with their summer places, vacation memories, and retracing childhood souvenirs. Families and friends reconnect with reunions and shared vacations. And in the bookstore I reconnect with customers who are coming for an annual visit or coming back for the first time in ten years. One woman today had to hunt through photographs on her phone to find one she had taken of Sarah – she thought two years ago, then tried three and four, but it turned out to have been five years ago that she’d photographed our little darling. Thus today’s memorable bookstore quote: “I’ve deleted pictures of my relatives, but I couldn’t delete this picture of your dog!” Darling little Sarah!


Above was written on Wednesday. Now on Thursday I feel compelled to note that our basswood trees are full of sweet-smelling blossoms, and once the sun burns off the morning dew the bees will again come buzzing, irresistibly drawn to the nectar. Last year the blossoming branches seemed far too quiet. This year they are once more humming, afternoon and evening, with busy pollinators weaving tight, complicated, but invisible webs and trails through the air. That's more like it!