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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Busy Days

“Are you trying to garden and run a bookstore?” asked Jim Metcalf (whose wife Stephanie, mother of three, has so much more on her plate!) when I stole away from Dog Ears just long enough to drive out to his nursery and buy some tomato plants, rosemary and cilantro while there was still a good selection. Yes, trying to garden, run a bookstore, keep a house going, train a dog, spend quality time with David (these items are not listed in order of priority, I should mention) and still have time to read a few books—those are my modest aims this time of year. With Bruce in the bookstore yesterday, I not only got to the library for the discussion of The Gift of Rain but even got out in the rain, on the rocky beach at Peterson, where I found found a few fossils while Sarah drove herself wild with glee.

We’re having a calmer day today but not a boring one. Suttons Bay author Hillary Porter stopped in, and we got some good publicity shots of her with her book, The Colors of Beech Hill, a young adult novel set in and around our own little village of Northport. Hillary graduated from Northport High School in 1989. She will be appearing at Dog Ears Books on Saturday, June 27, from 4-6 p.m. (reminders will be posted, but mark calendars now!), and I hope to have a review from one or two young readers to post before that time.

Cherry Scott visited, too, and Sarah and I were her camera subjects. Cherry, who instituted last Saturday’s “Blessing of the Pets” and plans to make it an annual event, is putting together a book of photographs of local people and their pets. The ones she showed me were such beautiful portraits that I was uncharacteristically eager to pose with my dog.

Then there was just time left in the morning to take a few preliminary looks into a new book from a writer I’ve met only once. I predict that Julie Irwin Zimmerman’s handsomely packaged guide, A Spiritual Companion to Infertility, will be helpful to a great many people, with its thoughtful discussion of issues of infertility, phrased in welcoming, readable prose and offering solid information and sensitive insight. Each chapter begins and ends with scriptural passages, concluding with appropriate prayers. These will give comfort and assistance to many readers, but every page seems to take the reader gently by the hand, saying, “You are not alone.”

A Spiritual Companion to Infertility, in fact, is exactly what the title says it is. Early in the book the author speaks of how difficult it was for her for a while to turn to the church because of all the hurt she experienced during baptisms and everything that related to babies and children. Infertility brought on not only an emotional crisis but also a spiritual crisis. Zimmerman recounts a change of heart she had when she decided not to skip church on Mother’s Day but to call her pastor ahead of time “and ask him to acknowledge the Infertile that Sunday.” She goes on:
He expressed his sympathy for our plight with a sincerity that set me at ease, and he promised he would do something. That Sunday I paid close attention as he asked our congregation to pray for all the mothers present and far away, living and dead, “as well as those women who long for motherhood.” I felt a sense of relief and triumph, and no small comfort from those words.

Zimmerman’s book is so small and easy to read that it is amazing to realize how much ground it covers. Like the novel Still Alice, which gave me a new appreciation and sympathy for what it is like to struggle with Alzheimer’s, A Spiritual Companion to Infertility gives me a much deeper understanding of the hopes, fears, anguish and many difficult and soul-searching decisions to be made by infertile couples. I would want anyone wrestling with these issues to have Julie Zimmerman’s book.

Will this be the Year of the Porcupine for Sarah and David and me? Sarah, I report with very mixed emotions, killed a young porky a few mornings ago. It was not a tiny baby (such a cute little face, though!) but still young, so its quills were shorter and more flexible, thus easier to remove from Sarah’s lips and gums. She didn’t mind or even seem to notice, and neither of us noticed that I’d missed one; a friend spotted it the next day, sticking right out of her nose. (The quill was black, too.) The big question is what, if anything, will she have learned from this experience. To avoid porcupines in the future? Or to tackle another, since she was successful with the first one?

It was sheer coincidence that my most recent book order had included Louise Erdrich’s The Porcupine Year (2008). The story begins with a sudden, unplanned canoe trip taken by Omakayas and her brother (then called Pinch, later Quill), as a result of which they must pass a night far downriver from their parents. A porcupine that joins their adventure is a charming surprise. How will their lives subsequently change? That’s the rest of the story, of course.

My closing image today, another porcupine, is from an old (1950) children’s book, Song of the Seasons, by Addison Webb, illustrated by Charles L. Ripper.

A young porcupine knows everything he ever will know almost as soon as he is born. He does not need teaching. But nobody likes him except his mother. She thinks he is wonderful.

Thank heaven for mothers, eh?

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