This blog, published free of charge since September 2007, is a way for me to stay in touch with seasonal bookstore visitors from afar and with all customers and friends when I am closed for my annual "seasonal retirement" in the winter. Thank you so much for following Books in Northport and for supporting Dog Ears Books.
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Friday, December 27, 2013
A Raging Blizzard in My Head as Year's End Nears
The world Up North is big and white and cold
has become of your Up North blogging bookseller’s forays into the realm of thoughtful
essay? Gone by the wayside? I hope not. It’s just – I mean – it isn’t that my
thoughts are exactly just lying around on the surface of life like bodies in a
tanning salon with nothing to do but soak up rays. It’s more that there is too
much going on right now in mind and heart and life for me to settle down,
narrow my focus to a single topic, and explore it in depth. Each snowflake may
be a uniquely wonderful – literally, full of wonder, or, that is, we are when
we contemplate it -- work of nature, but in a blizzard, who can take the time
to contemplate each one?
Holidays have been one obvious focus
lately. Presents, mailing presents, calling and e-mailing and writing to and
generally being in touch with family and friends, planning holiday meals,
attending social events, not to mention (but here I go mentioning it) keeping
up with book orders and bookshop hours. It’s all quite lovely but does not exactly
encourage or allow hours of quiet reflection.
Which tree is creaking and ready to fall?
this is not much of a holiday topic, but I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. A lot. I’m remembering
friends lost long ago, as well as those who have died more recently. I’m
thinking about what a friend calls the mysterious “here/not here” phenomenon
that makes death of a loved one so difficult to absorb, much less accept. I
think about how difficult holidays are for those dealing with loss. At the same
time, one does not want to deny holidays and the cheer and comfort they can
bring to so many. It’s all there at once – life, in all its ambiguity and
contradiction and sun and shadow, babies being born at the very moment others
are dying. Those are some of my background thoughts this December, ebbing and
Books don’t stop coming at a bookseller
because of the holidays or thoughts of death. Marjorie Farrell did one recent book review for me, but I have another hanging fire and another review book coming
in the mail soon. I’m thinking I’ll save the former to publish after the first
of the year, even though the release date is December 31, because how many of
my little coterie of readers will be up for leisurely book review reading as
New Year’s Eve approaches? My Christmas Day and day-after treat was reading a
friend’s YA novel manuscript. I mean it. It really was a lovely treat. None
of this is complaint!
It is, I hope, some kind of explanation. Reading and writing can feed each
other, but they can also compete for available time.
Winter itself both encourages and
discourages quiet reflection. Once the holidays are over, there will be many
quiet hours and quiet days; for now, however, holiday bustle combining with
frigid temperatures and very deep snow make every day and every errand a challenge.
Strategies must be plotted, campaigns carefully planned in advance of effort.
My sorties with Sarah into the cold world of deep snow – those alone require a
lot more than just sailing out the front door. Sarah may sail, of course, but I
must first bundle and then trudge and pay close attention to footing.
calm, contemplative winter meditation, not forsaken even during the holiday
season, has been drawing. In 2012 my solitary project for the year was to go out and sit still
for an hour once a week, soaking in and sketching the small world I call my
home ground, Leelanau Township from roughly Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern to St.
Wenceslaus Church. It was cold going out in the winter for those stillness
sessions – but easier to find time then than during spring planting or summer
The new drawing project I have purposely left more freeform: no daily or weekly hours
that I “must” fill or try to meet; no limits on subject matter or locale.
Calling the project “Morning Drawing Meditations” set the tone I wanted to
establish, and so far, beginning ahead of the new year, it’s going well. On
mornings I get up too late to fit in a session, I don’t beat myself up, and
whenever I do sit down with drawing pad and pencils I love losing track of time
and leaving all other concerns behind.
draw, the blizzard in my brain subsides. I’m not in my brain or my thoughts at
all, reflective or otherwise. There is simply a subject in front of me – a
butternut squash, a few yams or pears, a crumpled potato chip bag, a mitten – something
to look at carefully, seeing its complexity and uniqueness. Like that
snowflake, you know?
reflection and even argumentation will revive again with the new year. For now,