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Monday, July 9, 2018

They Come From Near and Far!

Saturday evening and Sunday morning I was busy getting ready for the annual visit from my mother and sisters.  Living in Illinois, they look forward to the cooler temperatures of northern Michigan for their July getaway and the chance to dip their toes into Lake Michigan. They stay at Sunrise Landing, and we spend evenings at the farmhouse, so I had had floors to sweep, grass to mow, groceries to buy, and meals to plan. Italian sodas, smoked trout paté, a big pan of burritos; vanilla ice cream, brownies, strawberries; brioche buns from 9 Bean Rows for our hamburger night. That much seemed like a good start. I’m so glad the weather is neither punishingly hot nor disappointingly cold and rainy for my family’s time in Leelanau, yoo. We’ll enjoy our mornings and evenings together before and after my bookshop days! And my delphinium blooms are certainly ready for company.

Too bad my family has to leave on Thursday morning and will have to miss the Dog Ears Books TEA with poet Richard Gilmore Loftus. Richard’s new book, Dress Whites, received a review from Kirkus that must have put him over the moon! Read it here. While living in New York City a while ago, he published chapbooks of poetry, was published in literary magazines, and gave a few readings which I for one will be eager to ask him about. (Where in Manhattan did he read? When? What kind of audiences did he have?) I know he has New York stories to share, including some about famous neighbors. And how many guys do you know who dated a candy cane in Balanchine’s “Nutcracker”?

Before Manhattan, this poet lived in iconic Greenwich Village (the dream of my adolescent years!), and he has also lived and traveled in Ireland, Spain, Mexico, South Africa, and Rwanda, doing volunteer teaching in the last two countries. He worked as IT manager for Delta Dental (he calls Delta his Medici), has built wooden boats, and is presently making his first violin. 

Loftus has Up North bona fides, too. Having noted that my blog often stresses authors’ northern Michigan roots and connections, he assures me that he has “spent much time, much of my life - winter, summer, spring, and fall - in the Manistee, Glen Arbor, and Traverse City environs. In that regard, I am pretty sure my credentials are in order.” 

So you see that at the same time I’ve been getting ready for a family visit, I’ve also been gearing up for my next TEA guest, because every week has a Thursday in it and thus another guest to Thursday Evening Authors. 

Richard Loftus will be with us this coming Thursday, July 12, beginning at 7 p.m. I like his poetry, and I think you will, too. So now, in anticipation, I’ll tantalize you with one of the poet’s own statements about his writing:

“I have a desire to convey well in words the beauty I've been privileged to witness. We shall see. So far, it's been an interesting and rewarding journey.” 

An interesting life and gratitude for it. Great combination! I am grateful for and enjoying every day this week and also looking forward to Thursday.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Inspired to Take a Different Road -- Slowly

We are now in “high season.” This very week was 4th of July and, of course, still is Cherry Festival in Traverse City. Cherry harvest is a little late here in the northernmost part of Leelanau County, due to an unusually cold April. We’ve certainly had warm weather lately, though, and the summer people and tourists are swarming to restaurants, shops, tasting rooms, and beaches. High season is the busiest time of year for almost everyone in Leelanau County. 

But Kim Schneider, my July 5 TEA guest, must have inspired me, because on Friday morning I jumped the traces for a modest morning adventure. 

After hanging laundry out before sunrise, I made it to the farm market before official opening hour (most of the vendors ready for business), did bank and post office errands, and then took myself, with Sarah, out for a slow drive to Peterson Park and a stroll around the grounds for — hard to believe — my first visit of the year. Peterson Park looks different with the old dead trees taken down and new little trees of various species planted. Probably a lot like the early days, one third-generation local observed, except that this time a monoculture planting was avoided, which bodes well for the park’s future. With more open area, the views are longer and wider. There is a shaded picnic shelter and also tables in the sun, so take your pick. Whenever I go up there in the morning, with coffee or without, I think what a lovely vacation breakfast gathering spot the place would make, especially on summer Fridays. Fruit and croissants from the farm market, fresh coffee, maybe cook up some bacon and eggs on one of the park grills. 

Sarah and I didn’t take the rustic stairs down to the beach. (That much time we didn’t have.) Peterson Park beach, though, is my favorite place to send people who want to hunt along the shore for Petoskey stones. Kim Schneider asked people who came to her TEA event for their suggestions of ideas she could add if 100 Things to Do in Traverse City Before You Die goes to a second edition. (Would an enlarged second edition have to be called 150 [or however many] Things to Do, etc.? I don’t know.) I’d definitely have Peterson Park on my list, and my other suggestion would be the pow-wow in August in Peshawbestown, an event I sometimes find difficult to fit into my calendar — so much going on all summer! — yet whenever I get there, the chance to relax under the trees and watch the dancers brings peace to my spirit. I call it “that pow-wow feeling,” and it’s another way for me to slow down and simply be here. Important to take advantages of quiet moments and hours along the way, isn’t it?

Back in town, I did my last pre-opening errand on foot, pausing on the corner of Mill and Nagonaba to appreciate what I've always called my "lipstick" roses. I rescued the bush when I was working in a friend's garden business and one client wanted all his old roses dug out and replaced with new hybrid teas. Unable to throw these old-fashioned darlings on the compost pile, I put the bush in my car instead to take up to Northport and plant next to my bookstore, back when Dog Ears was housed in the little bark-covered building on that corner that is now the home of Porcupine. They bloom still, my lipstick roses, with their brilliant shade that reminds me of the lipstick my mother used to wear when I was a little girl. 

My mother's lipstick, working in my friend's garden business, the early days of my bookstore -- to me, all this history is contained in these colorful blooms. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Time Also to Think

The image above (not a very good one) doesn't show this morning's sky. I referred to the moon over the barn on June 30 but was unable to upload my image then, so here it is on July 3. Sadly, I remain unable to upload the image from Fleda Brown’s TEA event at Dog Ears Books. The moon was on my phone, Fleda on the Artist’s camera. Technical challenges continue. 

But each night continues to give way to another day, and up at 4:30 a.m. on this day before the 4th of July, I picked up a book set aside a year ago or more, about halfway through, The Physicist & the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time. One reason I set it aside was my inner editor’s constant carping: I wanted more smoothly flowing sentences, cleared of unnecessary obstructions, and I found repetitions annoying, jumbled chronology confusing. My other reason was more personal: Since first making the acquaintance of Henri Bergson’s work, I have loved him, and to read an account of the “controversy” during his lifetime, controversy fomented by interested philosophers, scientists, and journalists who pitted him against Einstein as if the two were boxers in a ring — well, it was just too, too sad. Bergson and Einstein had very different concerns,  therefore different thought objects, definitions, and arguments, and neither was vitally interested in the other’s chief concern. How does a downhill skier compete with a figure skater? Skiers will judge for one, skaters for the other, ¿claro?

Philosophy stimulates thought in ways different from the stimulation of fiction. My mornings this summer more often begin with novels, but life used to be very different. Back in graduate school days, all my mornings began with philosophical arguments. One night, I recall, I slept not at all, so furious was I with Bertrand Russell’s clumsy attack on Bergson, whom he had completely failed to understand. I spent that night spent writing furiously, arguing with one dead philosopher for his failure to comprehend another! 

During my first year of graduate work, in fact, the only way I could go to sleep at all most nights was to turn to the familiar novels of Jane Austen. I had all of them lined up at the head of my bed, so that when I reached the last page of one I could pick up the next, working my way to the end the line and then starting over at the beginning. Jane Austen was a comfort. Bertrand Russell was not. 

But mornings — ah, it is not such a bad thing to have one’s mind jolted awake by thought in the morning! And today it occurred to me long before sunrise that while certain philosophers have criticized what they disdainfully call “the god’s-eye view,” a perspective they say human beings often try to assume but can never realistically inhabit, the “subatomic view” is just as much outside human experience. Solid objects are not solid, the physicist tells us. Solidity does not exist! Accepting that there are gaps and spaces between atoms, what has this to do with life as we live it? With the “too, too solid” nature of our bodies and floors and the earth itself in terms of our experience (though we gardeners know healthy living soil to be full of earthworms and fungi and bacteria — anything but “rock solid”)? My question is, why is the subatomic view to be preferred? Why is it any more legitimate than the view from heaven? If one of those perspectives is suspect for being outside our experience, surely the other is, also.

Then, unbidden, an image of a doe and fawn comes to my mind. Not bothering their heads with philosophy, they stand motionless by the side of the road, the fawn obedient to its mother’s signals. Be still. Watch me. Listen. Follow me when I let you know it’s time. In some ways we share a world with deer, and in other ways we inhabit very different realms. Venn diagrams, our lives are, intersecting only at one edge, forming a delicate lentil of overlap. 

After a while the sky to the west takes on a rosy tinge, reflecting sunrise, and Sarah and I stroll out into the grass. She takes off like a shot toward the barn. Must have seen a rabbit. Thing is, she often doesn’t see the rabbits if they don’t move.

Dog, rabbits deer. They are closer to my notice and understanding than gods and atomic particles, but even to pay attention to these other creatures means taking a break from the books. Not just “the books,” as in novels and philosophy, history, economics, and such, but “the books” in terms of the profit-and-loss thinking necessary to running a largely seasonal business during “high season.” 

And it occurred to me also this morning that running an essentially one-person business, as I have for 25 years now, is a lot like conducting a second marriage alongside and simultaneously with the first. There is the anticipation stage, preparation for the initial launch (engagement). Then one goes public (wedding), followed by the leap into a honeymoon, the nature of which can never be precisely foreseen, and further surprises of life together. If the business is successful, one year follows another, but none is ever just like the previous, as each brings new challenges to be met. Children? Well, as a bookseller, though my guest authors are adults, I have almost family feelings for the authors and books I choose to promote.

My husband, as friends and regular readers know, is an artist — “the Artist,” I have taken to calling him lately — and so he too has another “marriage” on the side. Art has been his life for over half a century, while I have been married to a bookstore for only a quarter-century. How does that work out for us? Are we jealous of each other’s other partners? In a word, no. There are occasions when one of us, in fact, gives priority to the other’s other partner over our own. At those times we are each other’s support system. At other times, I go my way with the books, the Artist goes his way with painting, and we come back together with new stories to share, and that’s good, too. 

All these marriages — that of two human beings, of one with a business, of the other with his art — also involve many more people. Some friendships blossom and fade, others persist and deepen, but every single one of them has a place in the rich marriage history. 

These are some of my thoughts this morning, before sunrise, when I have time to think, to let my mind roam.

Happy 4th of July, everyone! And don’t forget, our TEA guest (Thursday Evening Author) this week, on July 5, is Kim Schneider. That’s at 7 p.m. on Waukazoo Street, so join us if you can — and bring your visiting relatives! They’ll pick up all kinds of ideas for how to entertain themselves when they visit you.

Photo of long-ago photo. Who remembers that place and time?