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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I Am Back, AND Anna Lavinia Has Arrived!

Prairie wind, Illinois
Catching up with a blog after a long hiatus can be difficult. My task is more daunting than usual since I was off adventuring for almost two weeks, visiting family and friends, seeing old sights much changed and new scenery that took my breath away. I also spent a full week with a friend of many years whom I was meeting in person for the very first time. I was reading, too, while away....

Having started Tony Park’s new novel, African Dawn, I took that with me on my drive to Illinois, thinking it would accompany me on the flight West—but no, the story was so exciting that during my stay at my mother’s house I raced to the novel’s conclusion and had to borrow something from my mother (Born in Shame, by Nora Roberts) to take with me to Arizona. How much did I read on the plane? Not much! Views of my beloved planet from above scattered clouds had me too excited to take my nose from the window. I felt like Neil Armstrong! Earth! My planet! My beautiful home!

My first night at Helen’s house (after we stayed up talking until 1 a.m., which is 4 a.m. Michigan time), I wrapped up my reading of the Nora Roberts novel and selected from her well-filled shelves (oh, the agony of decision when one’s hostess is another booklover and bookseller!) a nonfiction tale with the intriguing title, Auto Nomad in Barbary, the author Wilson MacArthur. Fascinating as the story was, I fell asleep over it every night and never did finish, but one night I set it aside for Tom Stoppard’s play, Arcadia, of which I only managed nine pages before overtaken by sleep but which I finished the next morning, laughing so hard I was afraid I'd wake Helen.

Library guest room--perfect!
Helen and I made various sorts of explorations around her home of Carefree, Arizona. We toured museums in Scottsdale, thrift shops in Cave Creek, and magnificent scenery up north around Jerome and Sedona. We also did a day of major bookshopping, with delightful visits to Alcuin Books in Scottsdale and Old Town Books in Tempe. You know the term “busman’s holiday”? We two had a “booksellers’ holiday”!

Helen and proprietor at Alcuin Books, Scottsdale, Arizona

Bookseller at Old Town Books in Tempe
Before departure, I filled two large boxes to mail home and then had to borrow a book from Helen for the plane. The one that begged to make the trip east with me was The Lost Garden, a novel set in rural World War II England (Devon) by Helen Humphreys. Here is the first of many passages I copied out of that lovely book, this one very appropriate to a travel adventure,
 ...for when you wander it is hard to believe that you will not one day revisit the places that have captured your imagination and struck a chord of sympathy.
Desert and mountains near Carefree and Cave Creek, Arizona
Tuzigoot Monument
Outside Jerome, Arizona
Looking across valley towards Sedona to the east
Certainly I hope that Helen and I will have many future visits! She is an indoor person, I prefer outdoors; she a night owl, I a morning person; but for all that and other differences, we definitely found ourselves to be what Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) called “kindred spirits”--in our case, a pair of booksellin' fools who happen also to share a birthday!

Here we are outside Jerome, Arizona
Back in Illinois, I spent another couple of happy days with my mother and sisters before facing the arduous drive back to Michigan via I-80 and I-94. Expressways! How I hate driving them! Is it any wonder I yielded to the temptation of the Paw Paw exit? My reward for leaving the “superslab” was finding a new store of used books in Paw Paw, Fat Cat Books in the old Village Playhouse building. That was fun!

FatCat Books, Paw Paw, Michigan, home of Grimmsley the Cat
Kalamazoo keeps changing, and the changes confuse and bewilder, but old country roads are still lovely and comforting, as were flowering dogwood at the home of my friends (Laurie and I did our third annual garlic mustard pull-out) and a late breakfast the next day with my son before a drive home taken the way I’ve always dreamed of traveling, i.e., without a plan, and without consulting a map. I wandered north and then west, north a while more and west again. I was on dirt road once for several miles, going west, but eventually, as I figured it would, the dirt road intersected with two-lane blacktop, and i turned north again. By the time I got through Grand Rapids (a short expressway excursion) and was on dear, familiar M-37, the trip seemed all but accomplished, and very delightfully so.

Home, sweet home! David! Sarah! The next morning, Northport and Dog Ears Books! Now I am hurrying to read Dante’s Paradiso and looking forward to various literary events and meetings with friends. There is also grass to mow, there are trees to plant, there is the garden to dig, so these are busy times.

But here’s a little piece of bookstore excitement: the long-awaited re-release of Palmer Brown’s The Silver Nutmeg finally arrived, and my back-ordered copies are at last in hand. A couple of people reserved copies, but I have extras, too, for anyone who already loves Anna Lavinia and Toby’s story and also for those who want to experience the enchantment and magic of The Silver Nutmeg for the first time.

Open the door to adventure--

--and prepare to take the plunge!


Gerry said...

What an excellent adventure! So much beautiful country to see, so little time.

Kathy said...

Arizona! Lucky you... Your time with Helen sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing your vacation with us, Pamela.

P. J. Grath said...

Helen and I did have a wonderful time and could easily have spent another week adventuring together, but we were happy to have a whole week. I was especially grateful for her hospitality!

Anonymous said...

Loving hearing about -- and seeing -- your trip!

Ian said...

It was great to get an unexpected visit with enough time to spend together, and to see your sketches (well, sketch). Make sure to send me a copy of the pic from Crow's Nest? "If anyone can make me look good, it's you!"

P. J. Grath said...

Glad to share this travel sketch. As you can no doubt imagine, there was SO much more! Ian, I will be sending you prints of the picture I took of you and also a couple I took of your grandmother that turned out very well. Will be sending her the same, as I know she will love the one of you. xxxooo!!!

Dawn said...

Welcome back! Sounds like a wonderful trip. I love that part of the country, glad you had a good time!

BB-Idaho said...

It sounds like you visited a number of independent bookstores like your own. Curious, did you find much in similarities or

P. J. Grath said...

Each indie bookstore is an individual as its owner, and in the realm of used and antiquarian books the individuality is even more pronounced. At the same time, booksellers meeting in one another's shops share a special bond. Your question, BB, tells me that I need to write a whole post on this subject very soon.

tonypark said...

Glad you liked the book!