Here Comes the Sun

Rose Fades

My celestial calendar is coming into direct view now.


Every 6 months—not long after the equinox—the sun rises in the gap in the trees that gives me a view of the Maryland valley below.

In the fall, it will make its way south through the view for about 10 days before disappearing again into the tree line. Each move in that direction brings us closer to winter.

When the leaves are down, I’ll be able to see sunrises through the forest.

But for 10 or so days each Autumn and Spring, I get up to quite a show!

…unless it is cloudy… LOL

The mornings are cool. The days are mild and brilliant.

I love the autumn.


We had a full load of pulp paper ready to go.

This is likely 20 tons that will be recycled into pulp for new paper, asphalt (I didn’t know that), roofing (I didn’t know that) and “bathroom tissue” etc. We send out about 50 tons a month this way.


We also recycle corrugated boxes in bulk using a different company.

Here they go!

The recycler brings us an empty trailer with Gaylords and pallets.


We’ve already started loading it!

Of course, we “recycle” many more “tons” as books for readers and collectors. We ship out thousands of packages every day. This helps keep thousands of trucks going on the transportation grid.

Maybe we are Maryland’s largest private paper recycler?

Maybe beyond Maryland?

I wouldn’t know who to compare us with.

Food Kitchen Donations

We will also need a food kitchen pickup. There are about 500 cans here and more coming in from our September food drive coupon.

If you subscribe to our email list, you get the Wonder Book Blog each week and notifications of special sales and deals each month.

October 1

October means autumn.

Perhaps I am in the October of my life. If so, I hope it is early October.

October is the most beautiful month in the climes where I have spent my life.

Lush, full of life and harvest, color and change.

I hope my October “life” is lush, full and the harvest is healthy.

I slept well and through the night. A first in quite a while. Two long dreams have stuck:

  1. Searching frantically through the house for a device to see the comet better with a friend.
  2. Waiting and waiting for admittance outside a concert venue with another friend.

The other dreams recently have been short broken things that bridged unhappy sleep with unhappy waking and then back again. A drear cycle that had me dreading dawn and work. And unrested.

The blood orange dawn is glowing on the horizon. In 20 minutes or so, the sun will rise and I will have my short show.

All the windows have been open for a week or so. Cool dry air flows in.

I wrote this yesterday when sleep was no boon companion:

September’s End

I lay in the cool silent blackness
I have come to know these wee hours too well
Sleep, wake, await the dawn
What is on the other side of sunrise?
Someone’s sunset far to the east
Weightless, enveloped in light bedclothes
Weightless, enveloped in the pure dark all round
I wish to float away
My mind given wings
I leave

I just rose and went to the southern sidelight of the bay window. The phone said sunrise was at 7:06. It might be a couple of minutes earlier at this elevation. I need this angle, as the sun is still a bit north. Chickadees flitted in and gently thumped onto the still dark window feeders just a couple feet away. They didn’t see—or ignored—my arm protruding from the window.

And there it was. A pinprick of light. And in moments, it was up.


Golden light filled the dark room for a bit.


Last Friday was monstrous. There are black hearts in the world.

Then the work began.

Work is healthy. Work is escape. Work occupies the hands and mind.


Now it is my left shoulder. Last year it was my right knee. For years it has been my left heel. Somehow the heel pain has abated. Perhaps it is the boot latest doctor gave me. A cumbersome foam and plastic thing, it stretches the Achilles. The Achilles that same doctor was anxious to disconnect. I ran away from the scalpel but kept the boot. I only put it on for an hour or so a week now. Usually about this time when I lie in writing.

A retired doctor friend suggested I might want to get a shot in my shoulder. Cortisone. Maybe I will. What is another shot in the arm in this the year of shots?

Saturday was the usual. Carts and carts of books loaded for my review. More carts than usual because the pediatric psychiatrist’s collection from Crozet, Virginia—brought to us in three PODS is being unboxed and carted.

This accomplishes three things:

  1. Each pallet emptied creates one more space. We continue to be desperate for space.
  2. If there is a lull in regular duties, people can do this to pass the time.
  3. It creates more work for me.

A few weeks ago, an old friend commented on the book story I wrote that involved a visit to Black Ankle winery. She gently chided me for not visiting her winery.

I searched my memory. Nothing. Then I searched my emails.

She had written to me about another story in June 2020.

…Anyway, your writing has certainly put a whole new light on this past several months, and brought something really positive to your readers. Thank you for sharing…

She had invited me to her winery in New Market, Maryland.

I had forgotten completely.

I have an excuse.

I blame COVID.

Those were terrifying months.

Sue and Howard Wilson. One time booksellers.

It has been too many years since we left the book business, but as I read, I almost smell the delightful scents of old books. Your stories bring back so many wonderful memories for both of us. I ran Dad’s bookshop for 11 years, until the Internet intruded.

Sue was a second-generation bookseller. Her father, C W Wood, was a legendary bookman. He was from the post Depression generation. When I knew him, he was older but oh so sharp. Gray haired with an unmissable knowing twinkle in his eye. If he was at an auction, I knew I wouldn’t be getting anything great.

He had an antiquarian shop in an ancient brick building in New Market. That town was well known as The Antiques Capital of Maryland. It was a mecca in the days when people drove to destinations and “shopped.” Now most people buy images they see on their computers or phones.

When he passed in the early 90s, Sue and Howard continued the trade.

I recall vividly being called in to buy books in a dirt crawl space under the building there. Likely by C W. The boxes were dusty and falling apart. I got filthy. But you go where the books are. And I recall the buy as being positive.

Well, I wasn’t going to miss a second opportunity to visit. I was ripe for another winery experience.

Saturday, I left work a couple hours early and headed east on I 70. It is only a couple exits away. Soon I was driving over a cow grate—in this case a deer grate—spanning a little creek. High fencing rose on either side. The farm lane wound round some ancient outbuildings. Then there was a field. A tent was set up, and a woman was playing a fiddle and a man a guitar. A few dozen people were seated, sipping wine and taking in the perfect day.

I parked near, but not under, a soaring walnut tree. A sign planted in the grass cautioned.

Winery Walnuts

This time of year, the heavy nuts in big green husks drop. They would certainly leave dents in my truck.

Winery Walnuts

I met my three friends already chatting with Sue near the dairy barn, which had been converted into a wine-making operation.

I hadn’t seen her for… decades? Two?

Then Howard appeared. Time melted away.

It was clear all three of us had done a lot of work in the interim.

We were given a tour through the barn her father built in anticipation of going off to war. He wanted his mother to have some source of income while he was overseas.

It is harvest time.

Tons of grapes were in crates stacked high. I think these were Syrah grapes. They were delicious!

They have a bunch of huge stainless steel tanks. He explained why the pressing needs to be bled off periodically. I forgot the reason, but watching the “near wine” flow in gallons was inspiring. We were each given a plastic cup and sampled the juice. *

* I’m informed the wine is being “pumped over” daily from the bottom to the top, so the juice get more contact with the grape skins. When it is just right, it goes into oak barrels for aging. Easy for Leonardo…

Galileo wrote, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”

When I experience wine, I think of it as sunshine, grapes and rain from a time and a place—usually indicated on the bottle’s label.

I like an old bottle from Italy or Spain or France on occasion. I try to recall what I was doing when the wine was grapes on a dry flinty hillside in Europe.

At this point in my life, it was most likely something to do with bookselling… LOL…

I was reminded of the “collection” I picked up for nothing in Potomac some years ago. The house belonged to a deceased hoarder. Boxes and boxes of books were stacked in the 1960s aluminum sided split level’s basement. Most of the boxes had names written on them.

Grisham, Michener, Puzo… crap…

But I agreed to haul them away—mostly for Books by the Foot.

I looked around the rambling basement, and behind a wall, I saw stacks of wine crates. Wonderful names like Rothschild. Dates in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Wine Crate

I inquired. The broker “oohed and aahed.” His son was a wine broker in NYC.

I’ll try to write the whole story sometime.

But the long and short of it is—the boxes and crates were great. The wine inside them was crap. The guy had bought sale wine and took it home in premium containers. Many of them were leaking. The basement was quite warm. The wine had been stored next to the furnace.

The long and short of it is I was asked to haul the stuff away. No “wine expert” would touch it. It has been stored here since.

Wonder Book Wine

I haven’t tried a bottle. Maybe some of it isn’t poison.

Wonder Book Wine

Still, it is neat to think that in these bottles are sun and rain and grapes from when I was a kid.

The tour continued up in the barn’s loft. We were able to peer down into the tanks and watch juice swirling about.

Then we went outside. On the other side of the barn is a vast cream-colored pea-pebble gravel “Zen garden” with tables and chairs set out for a more contemplative wine tasting than the music field.

We sat there in the perfect weather. We tasted 6 or 8 New Market Plains wines.

We reminisced about books and bookselling and old friends and how much Frederick County has changed.

Howard told us more about winemaking than I could ever absorb.

Thank goodness some people know how to make great wine.

(I’m glad I’m a pretty good bookseller. We all serve in different roles.)

The wine, the venue, the day, the friends was one of those perfect blends—so rare.

I bought a bunch of bottles to take home.

I’m planning on going, tomorrow, Saturday, after work. Maybe I’ll bring a Jack Russell—leashed. I’ll sit on a blanket in the field and listen to music and absorb the vineyard vibes. Acres of vines all around.

Sun, soil, grapes… no rain is forecast.

Go and discover this place soon! Winter is not far off. Although I bet it could be cozy then as well.

Soon everyone will have discovered it. But it won’t be crowded. They have acres.

The week was all work.

Books continue to pour in.

I worked with Annika to add a lot of fresh “eye candy” to The Boutique.

You have no idea how difficult it is to take good pictures of old books.

Victor Hugo Set

I went through a dramatic learning curve months ago. Unfortunately, I’d mostly forgotten the procedure. But Annika soon got the hang of it.

You won’t see the new images yet. They’ve been loaded onto the new website. It will launch later this month.

Hope you like it!

It took a long time and cost a lot of money.

But doesn’t anything worth doing?

Each night I went home and planted some of the hundreds of pounds of hosta and spiderwort my friend gave me. I stuck in daffodil bulbs next to the clumps and tossed shovel loads of composted cow manure over them. It is “composted”—it doesn’t smell. It is more like peat moss than anything else.

My shoulder ached, but it had to be done.

Winter is coming.

I’m no grasshopper. I am a driven “ant.” (see Aesop.)

There were a lot of great finds.

I’ve always been a William Carlos Williams fan ever since my old teacher at Connecticut College Pulitzer Prize winning poet William Meredith introduced me to him. I studied poetry writing for four years under him. I wish I’d been a better student. Still trying … Maybe someone will create a prize for bookselling? I won’t hold my breath.

I’d never seen this book before.

The Knife of the Times

Williams was also an accomplished physician.

When I opened it:

Norman Macleod Signature

Wow! Could it be? Norman Macleod was a fellow poet and friend.

But who the h*** scribbled in red crayon over it? Let me know if you can make it out. Maybe it is somebody incredibly important!

And while this cookbook isn’t real valuable, it is gorgeous. It always amazes me when we come across a survivor in such perfect condition.

I’d like to have fancy French meal sometime soon. Maybe it is time to go to Chez Francois. I haven’t been since I was kid on a very important date.

What am I waiting for?

And while the sunrises on the mountain are stunning, the sunset—which drops behind the mountain behind the house—are nothing to scoff at either.


Cheers to old books and old wine and old friends. And to new friends and new wines and new (old) books.

2 Comments on Article

  1. Joe Phillips commented on

    Books and wine….the perfect combo. Thanks for sharing Chuck!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Great to hear from you Joe!
      Thank you for reading and writing!

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