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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Conflict! Every Way You Turn!

Timely photo unconnected to text that follows

Imagine (asking readers to imagine seems to be a theme of mine this week) two headstrong individuals in the same organization, each determined to rule alone as autocrat. That’s a recipe for conflict, whether the organization is a nation state or a high school club. If only the two would-be autocrats could join forces and work out ideas together, then go even further and present their ideas to the organization for feedback, what wonders they might achieve! Am I dreaming?

And then there is the national political scene, but I’m not venturing into that minefield today, except to say I am so glad not to have chosen a life in politics!

Idealism, pragmatism, or blind dogmatism; out to win at all costs or hoping to change the world; in it for self or for country – anyone who chooses a life in politics has got to start out with or quickly develop a thick skin, because it’s one thing to realize that no one, even dear self, is universally beloved and quite another, I’m sure, to be ducking slung mud on a daily basis, in public. I have chosen to dedicate my life to a different realm of what Greek philosophers called “the good,” that of literacy and literature and scholarship and art. And yet, even the quietest life presents conflicts, as I’m sure every reader is aware.

Some are small, momentary, and easily resolved.

Whether to linger over coffee and pastry or go for a walk with the dog – that was my first conflict last Wednesday morning, but I resolved it fairly easily by sitting in a park with Sarah for a while, sharing bites with her, and then doing our one-mile walk. No doubt a mere mile was not enough to counteract the effects of the pastry, but that was not a conflict for me, because I don’t have energy to fret about calories in the summer.

Remember those lovely yellow flags not so very long ago? Already Joe-Pye-weed has taken their place as streamside flowers in bloom, and there is loosestrife, too, and also – oh, good heavens! – a few very early goldenrod blossoms rushing the season.

Look closely....


Loosestrife is an invasive alien we are called upon to despise as an enemy, but I can’t help loving its colorful spires and old-fashioned evocative name. Loosestrife sounds much more poetic than “conflict resolution,” doesn’t it? It is impossible to imagine a flower with the latter name! At least in English it seems impossible, but maybe there is a lilting Japanese or Ojibway phrase that would do the job beautifully.

More vexing for the bookseller in a summer tourist town are schedule conflicts that plague efforts to assemble audiences for author events. Impossible to find a date when no one else has something going on! Tuesday evenings are out for much of the summer (township library author series), and Friday evenings in Northport are for Music in the Park, and both the libraries series and Music in the Park are traditional, classic, wonderful public gatherings with which one would not want to conflict, anyway. Every weekend, it seems, has a festival going on somewhere in the area.

So I hit upon Thursday, thinking to land safely on an evening not already crowded with obligations for my target audience of friends and readers and bookstore supporters – but alas! Back to that unfortunately true sentence two paragraphs back: It is impossible to find a date when no one else has something going on.

Kathleen Stocking and I had agreed on Thursday, August 4, at 7 p.m. for a presentation she would give in connection with her new book. Kathleen has traveled all over the world in the past twenty years, always circling back to her Leelanau home when between trips, and she has a lot to share, and it is an honor to have her agree to give a talk in Northport. All good! Imagine, then, my dismay when a local visiting the bookshop looked carefully at our flier for the event and observed that the Leelanau Conservancy’s annual picnic is the same day!

Kathleen and I had already announced the event and put out publicity. We’ve been telling everyone. Too late to change the date now! “What will be, will be,” Kathleen Stocking observes philosophically.

Here are my suggestions:

(1)        It is possible to go online and bid on auction items, rather than waiting for the physical gathering. That’s one idea. Do that.

(2)        Another thought is that the picnic begins at 5:30, and Kathleen Stocking will not be speaking at Dog Ears Books until 7 p.m., so it would be possible to go to the picnic, place a couple of silent auction bids (if you didn’t do it earlier online), and then come on up the last six miles to Northport.

Of course, if you hadn’t planned to attend the Conservancy picnic, you don’t have that particular schedule conflict, and as for others, there may be a way around them, too. (3) Having family or friends visiting? Bring them along! It’s free entertainment, the talk will be lively and stimulating, and you can get ice cream nearby afterwards.

Please think about squashing us onto your calendar for August 4th! You’ll be glad you did. How many people do you know who have taught in a private school (under armed guard) in El Salvador and taught in the Peace Corps in Thailand and Romania? Her experiences gave her plenty of food for thought, and she will share many of her thoughts with us this coming week, as well as signing copies of her book for anyone who cares to purchase.


Dawn said...

She sounds fascinating! I hope you have a huge crowd!

Dawn said...

But wait...did you say GOLDENROD??? ALREADY? NOOOOOO!!!!!

P. J. Grath said...

Yeah. That's what I thought when I saw it.

Gerrt said...

Over here the ragweed is coming right along. GAHHHH!
But I am hoping to be at Dog Ears on Thursday. I don't think I'm allergic to goldenrod.

P. J. Grath said...

Gerry, I promise not to have either ragweed or goldenrod in my flower vases. Coneflowers will be the floral feature of the evening. They are blooming madly now in my (overgrown) meadow.