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Sunday, October 2, 2022


Enthusiasm in My Household Pack

The Artist liked to say, crediting Jim Harrison with originating the phrase, that “advancing age brings a diminishing portfolio of enthusiasms.” Recently a friend on Facebook credited Tom McGuane with those words, and then a long interview with McGuane had McGuane himself giving the credit to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Credit whom you will, many people have apparently found the idea true to their lives. 

Or did they only like the apparent truth of a witty phrase? I wonder.

Obviously, I never lived with F. Scott Fitzgerald, nor with Tom McGuane or Jim Harrison. David Grath’s enthusiasm, however, is something that enriched our life together on a daily basis, whether on cross-country road trips or mere jaunts to thrift shops and drives down to Cedar for ice cream. Some of our enthusiasms changed over the years (some falling away but new ones coming along), and our energy in later decades was not what it had been in our 20s, 30s, and 40s. (We didn’t go out to bars and stay until closing time any more, certainly!) But did the number of our respective and shared enthusiasms diminish? That would be harder to say, as what naturally enthusiastic person would have the patience to sit down and make a numbered list of their heart-quickening activities and experiences?

Horses introduce this post because, while I was always the horse-crazy girl and never left that enthusiasm behind, the Artist had loved horses as a boy and always loved seeing them, especially with me. Of course, we never drove by them without at least remarking and often stopping to visit. “Which one is yours?” we would ask each other.

But the Artist also waxed enthusiastic over Peterbilt trucks, big boat-like American cars, and stylish motorcycles, depending on me to notice tiny things such as the little lichens called “British soldiers.” In general, when it came to landscape, I called his attention to ephemera at our feet, and he called mine to look up and to the horizon. “Big picture! Big picture!” he would say.

In Kalamazoo, when we lived there, we were forever noticing architectural details on older homes and downtown buildings. On foggy evenings, we would drive out to the country to catch the “Japanese landscape” effects. Out west, the grandeur of mountains, skies, and long sweeps of desert and grassland called forth our admiration. (We were both “big picture” viewers out there.) And it was a rare drive here in Leelanau County when the Artist didn’t say aloud, in tones of grateful reverence, “We live in a beautiful place.” So now I say that to Sunny Juliet when we’re in the car and crest a hill that gives us a view of Lake Michigan: “We live in a beautiful place.” Then I tell her, “That’s what your daddy always said.”

Lake Michigan, winter view

You may recall that the Artist did not fall in love with Peasy right away, the dog we were only able to have for a year. Eventually, though, they bonded. “Do you love him a little bit?” I asked. His response: “How could I not? It would be churlish not to love him.” Well, yes, as the dog came to worship David so absolutely! (Me he adored, David he worshipped.) He also said, “He’s so full of life! I miss that in myself, and I love it in him.”

No really good pictures of the two of them together -- sigh!

I never saw the Artist as anything but “full of life.” Even on those last winter mornings in the ghost town, when I came home from rambles over desert and foothills with neighbor and dogs to find him still in bed, watching television, he was enthusiastic in his urgings for me to watch with him a show about dogs … or hurricanes … or history. “I’m learning a lot,” he often said, and he never tired of learning. Or of seeing beauty, telling me that his helicopter flight from the little hospital in Willcox to a larger one in the Phoenix area had been “transcendent!”

Sometimes Sunny Juliet needs to curb her wild enthusiasm, but I appreciate her joyfulness. It makes me smile and even laugh at times. When I feel distant even from the natural beauty surrounding me, she brings me back to the immediate present.

An Enthusiastic Author

It is always a joy to host Newbery-winning author Lynne Rae Perkins in my bookstore. On Saturday she brought her own mice! I’d put three little mice on the table ahead of time, but she had made hers, and their markings were those of Violet and Jobie, the mice in her eponymous children’s book (too good for adults to pass by, is my verdict) who did not seek adventure but had adventure thrust upon them. 

Those of you who missed Lynne in the store can stop by for a signed copy of her book while my bookstore is open -- for the last month of the 2022 season, because come the end of October, I’ll be going on seasonal retirement until May, and I’ll just say right here that July 2023 will be the 30th anniversary of Dog Ears Books, so there is that ahead of me, too.

Books Read Since Last Listed

93. Bythell, Shaun. Confessions of a Bookseller (nonfiction)

94. Balzac, Honoré de. Le Curé de Tours (fiction)

95. Woodward, Bob & Robert Costa. Peril (nonfiction)

96. Shafak, Elif. The Island of Missing Trees (fiction)

97. Perkins, Lynne Rae. Violet & Jobie in the Wild (fiction – juv.)

98. Harrison, Jim. The Raw and the Cooked (nonfiction)

99. Oomen, Anne-Marie. As Long As I Know You: The Mom Book (nonfiction)

100. Brann, Esther. Five Puppies For Sale (fiction – juv. – 1948)

101. Harrington, C.C. Wildoak (fiction – YA – ARC)

102. Colwin, Laurie. Happy All the Time (fiction)

103. Jamison, Kay Redfield. Nothing Was the Same (nonfiction)

104. Proust, Marcel. The Past Recaptured (fiction)

Apple Enthusiasm

I’ll need all the enthusiasm I can muster to keep at the apple projects this month. My trees are bearing more heavily than ever before, and the apples are big and beautiful. How many apples will it take to fill the dryer with slices? Not many, I’m afraid, which means there will be lots of applesauce, as well, and maybe a pie or two.

Happy October, everyone!


Karen Casebeer said...

I'm in a group of women reading The Grace in Aging by Kathleen Singh. I took your blog on enthusiasm to last night's meeting, and your ideas, and David's, resonated with them.

P. J. Grath said...

Their unself-conscious enthusiasm is one of the wonderful things about children -- AND dogs -- and older people who are not afraid to be enthusiastic probably give as much happiness as they experience. It is a rare and wondrous thing to be able to respond to life with joy in the midst of sorrow and illness and increasingly limited abilities, but I have been fortunate enough to know many who have done it -- and some who still are doing it now. Hope I can live up to their example as the years go by.

Jeanie Furlan said...

I love hearing about David saying to you, “Big picture!” It seems just right the the Artist is looking at his surroundings as a side-screen view. And you can direct him to the little lichens, and he, calling them British soldiers. Maybe there is a male/female divide of this view of life, at least Antonio and I seem to have that. He loves the leaf-changing trees and finds every one in Prospect Park or on the highway to New England. I love the walks in our neighborhood where I stop to admire a flowery planter or bush-filled garden. Nature finds its way to entertain, even for a City Mouse!

P. J. Grath said...

It's good to walk or ride along with another person and see twice as much as we might see alone, though now I try to see for both myself and for David. I can imagine the two of us pointing out different aspects of our surroundings to each other. And I know that City Mice find natural, as well as man-made items, in their landscapes! Nice to picture you and Antonio on walks around Brooklyn or drives in New England --.