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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

“Dad? Mom? Are We Grounded Yet?”

Always ready for adventure --

Being grounded can hurt. Not going out. Not seeing friends. No fun at all! (My fiendishly brilliant parents added to the exquisite punishment: they took away our library cards for the duration!) Anyway, with shelter-in-place beginning back in March, sometimes it feels as if we’ve all been grounded for a very long time. How long since you’ve eaten inside a restaurant? Hugged a friend not part of your household bubble? Planned an exciting vacation with confidence? Robert Gray of “Shelf Awareness” posted the other day about “staycations” and how they demand bigger bookcases for all of us readers staying home this summer. 


It seems that plenty of people from elsewhere are vacationing Up North this year, though, rather than staying home -- but they want books, too, as it turns out. Monday would have been a day off for me, but having caught up on yard work over the weekend and retrieved the new laptop to replace the old (after its logic board failed), I came to Northport to open my bookstore and was greeted by a steady stream of happy shoppers.  

Because while being grounded as punishment is generally felt as a bad thing, there is another sense in which humans seek to be grounded, and while some might not think of reading as “being fully present” in body or connected to earth/nature, for those of us who are readers, holding a book in our hands … looking up from the page to the room in which we sit or to sheltering branches of a tree above us … definitely calms us and gives us a feeling of being “at home in the world.”  

Three of my happy customers on Monday were renting a cabin down near Glen Arbor and, having spent the weekend on the beach, were ready for a rainy day (as Monday was) and the opportunity to lie around with open books, asking nothing more of life than maybe a glass of wine to sip. Many locals and visitors alike, deprived of the usual plethora of summer festivals, seem to be finding quieter pursuits these days. A stop at someone’s roadside stand can feel like a pleasant “encounter,” even if the stand is operated on the honor system and offers no conversation, because cherries, cookies, eggs, maple syrup, and (now) fresh sweet corn all come saturated with a lifetime of happy summer vacation memories.

Similarly, our books are friends, old and new, waiting patiently for our attention whenever we have it to give and evoking old memories at the same time they are creating new ones. For me, after a day filled with morning errands, hours in the bookstore, shopping and meal preparation and laundry and outdoor tasks, that evening moment of sinking into a book on my front porch is accompanied by a happy sigh of contentment, taking me back to all those summers as a kid, reading on the front porch across from a cornfield (or soybeans, in alternate years). Yes, I am home, this is who I am, and this is where I belong. 

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