It is July.
My last remaining brother, Tony, died on April 15. 2021. That June, I returned to San Francisco to join his family and friends in placing his ashes in San Francisco Bay off Marin County. In a blog, I wrote around then I used his measure—12 years old than I—as the timeline for my future. If that is correct, I have used 12 of the 144 months remaining. 132 left.
That’s kind of morbid, I know. But it is also a challenge to do as much as I can with the time remaining.
I took advantage of 2021. I visited and toured around San Francisco in April and June. In May, I visited New Orleans for the first time. July took me to Iceland. August to Buffalo and Niagara Falls. November was Southern Italy and Capri. December was Philly. January Luxor, Egypt. February Sicily. March into April was Scotland. May into June London.
I am itching to get away again. Soon.
Am I running away from mortality or chasing it?
I went home and laid down on Thursday evening. I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe it was the grueling week trying to prove I am a master of all the carts of books that pass through the book factory. Each day I did dozens.
It was futile. Like battling an army, and when you knock down one soldier, another rises to take its place. Forever.
Sisyphus was a Greek king who cheated death twice. This so angered Zeus that he doomed the man to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down again when it neared the top. For eternity.
Working on carts seemed like an eternity this week. What was I thinking? The book version of the Holy Grail might appear?
There was this King Arthur in a nice jacket.
Lots of other great books as well. LOTS.
An endless supply.
What was I thinking? What am I thinking? You can’t fight doom. Nor delay it for a moment. It will come when the fates decree.
I want to go somewhere. Soon. Where?
I’m working on it.
Why did I feel so crappy today?
Was the ardent spirits I chased too much this week?
Maybe the peanuts. I bought a big bag of peanuts salted in the shell. I sat at the top of the driveway for two evenings, cracking goober peas. Goodness, how delicious. I had a dog with me both times. I’d toss peanuts down the driveway, and Merry or Pip would sniff them out.
I have a love-hate relationship with peanuts. I love them. Sometimes they don’t like me. Especially if I overindulge. The driveway has dozens of peanut shells on it now. I will drive over them until they are no more.
Maybe it was the coyote.
Anyway, Thursday evening was water only. Rest. Reflection.
I stayed in bed and wrote. I lay under the whirling ceiling fan, which cooled things just a bit. I watched the day dim as I wrote. I dozed and awoke in the dark.
When I was conscious again, the words, “She walks in beauty like the night…” came to my mind.
I couldn’t recall the next lines. * (see end)
What does that poem mean? Byron. I never liked his work much.
What had I seen to trigger that?
A night of resetting.
Moon and June. Last night was the thinnest waxing crescent.
O Lady Moon, your horns point to the East;“O Lady Moon” by Christina Rossetti.
Shine, be increased!
O Lady Moon, your horns point to the West;
Wane, be at rest! **
** If the horns are pointing to your left, the moon is increasing (waxing.) To your right, it is decreasing (waning.)
The 29th was the new moon.
Those coyotes had nothing to howl at Wednesday.
The full moon will mark my birthday. Maybe that’s why I didn’t feel well. July depresses me.
The last day of June. Clif and I are driving down to Germantown. We are meeting Patrick to do a house call.
I feel like crap today. A coyote started howling about 3 a.m. It started far below the house and slowly made its way up toward the house. I just lay there in the dark, listening. It eventually got close to the house. I rose and turned on the outside lights. I didn’t see any glowing eyes. I crawled back into bed after checking on Merry and Pippin. They weren’t happy either. They gave off little “woofing” barks periodically from their big pen. I listened as the creature made its way above to the house toward the mountain ridge and the wilderness beyond. Then it met a pack, and there was yipping yowling cacophony. Were they friends or foes? By then, the dawn was breaking and birds singing. No reason to try to sleep. I looked at the news on my phone. All bad.
I felt so good yesterday. I had a good sleep on Tuesday night.
I grilled on the deck every night this week. Steaks Monday. A pack of 6 filets from Costco for $35. I ate half of one. I cut the rest in half and froze them. I’ll have 11 more meals out of that. Tuesday and Wednesday, I cooked big fat chicken and pineapple sausages from Costco. Three 5 packs on sale for $13. I cooked a 5 pack. I ate two each night. No bread. Plops of mustard, kimchee ketchup and dill relish on a plate to dip into. Freeze the rest. I put such a dent in the freezers during COVID. The inventory of anonymous foil-wrapped slabs is increasing again.
This house call may be good. Patrick and I chatted with the fellow for quite a while on Monday. Most of the books were his deceased wife’s.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I say those words quite often. Books and death. The end of library often means an end of a life. The collection is broken up and goes to new collections. Phoenixes rising from the ashes.
He said she had “thousands.”
“Thousands” has different meanings for different people I have learned over the years. It can range from a few hundred to 20,000.
“I’m going to keep her Folio Society. I can’t have the built-in shelves look empty.”
That piqued my interest. Folio Society books are wonderful. Likely, the rest of the collection would be literate.
The phone memo that had been taped to my office door read “Free.” He confirmed that. Free is good.
I thought he said he wanted to take some time to prepare for us. But he set up a meeting with Patrick for today.
It is Patrick’s first house call. He had asked for a way to grow in the company. The problem is the management team throughout the 4 locations is so stable and tenured at this time it is tough to move people up—even if they are deserving.
I’m working on it. How to expand from a pyramid shape.
In Patrick’s case, it was an idea to move sideways. He made his first pickup Monday. A church sale’s leftovers. He brought some fresh-baked loaves of bread the lady had made.
[I remember her! She used to have the books brought here, and she would hand me bread. Long ago… Pre COVID.]
This will perhaps be a new position. House calls can be fun. They are almost always interesting. We can’t get to all the requests. Even Larry, our scout, gets too many referrals.
Clif and I left Patrick to finish packing and loading.
Well, there were a thousand books or so. But also five thousand CDs and DVDs. We are getting way too many of those now. The market is shrinking every year. I thought he was going to box the books up, but most were stacked on the floor lining the walls from the front door to the kitchen.
So it is a good thing there were only a thousand or so. We wouldn’t have had enough boxes. He had boxed the DVDs and CDs. Those were in the garage. Clif and Patrick tossed them into the van Patrick brought.
I chatted with the man and inspected the collection.
“She loved her books. I just wanted to get them somewhere where they will be appreciated. She was quite a person. I was very lucky.”
All the while, I kept glancing at the Folio books that we weren’t getting.
When the boxes in the garage were cleared, there wasn’t much left to pack, and the space in the kitchen was extremely tight. So we left and headed down to Gaithersburg. We left Patrick to pack and load. He will go to Frederick when he is done and get another empty van and return to Gaithersburg. Clif and I will head back from Gaithersburg with their second van after we pull some books for Books by the Foot. Cooking and Gardening.
Does that make sense?
We headed down I 270 and got stuck in the traffic for the Montgomery County sinkhole that has been causing havoc on the Interstate for the last few weeks. Some contractor propped up a piece of plywood along the highway with the hand-painted words, “PUTIN’S FAULT” on it. The Frederick sinkhole is only just now starting to be repaired. It has caused a lot of problems near our warehouse since early May.
So we will have had 4 vans in play today. I’m taking a second van to the Frederick store today to switch out a second full one. Seems like a lot of people are in the mood to sell books recently.
This was what the little box truck looked like when Patrick dropped it off.
That may have been one of the easiest house calls ever.
The week has been carts, carts, carts for me. I feel like a queen bee whose sole function is to spit out eggs. My function is to process carts. Cherry-pick the books with “potential” or that can be marketed at the stores. The rest get sent to the Farm—Books by the Foot. It is the books last chance generally. Some go off to Madeline or Annika for research.
Annika has several carts for me to look at. I managed to get to one on Wednesday. She said Clark had found an underpriced Einstein book before uploading a batch of manually priced books this week. “Someone” had thought to put this on for a $29 fixed price. It is worth about 50 times that. I wonder how many mistakes I make? We can’t research everything. I’m glad Clark has some kind of screening program that is a firewall for things like this. Still, I know a lot of bargains fly out of here every day. It’s ok. A sale is a sale…
And like why is this a $500 book?
Clark and his programming deemed it so. Some guy in Australia is desperate for this thing.
Supply and demand.
The weekend was all carts too. I cleared the decks by Sunday evening. Monday morning they started filling in again—like crazy. Who was the guy that kept pushing the same rock uphill? Sisyphus?
I was busy doing other things on Thursday. These are the carts that filled in while I was away.
Well, it is what I do. I enjoy it mostly. When I don’t enjoy it so much, it is a kind of duty that I’m obligated (addicted) to attend to.
One thing about these stories is if I say I am going to do something, it becomes a public thing, and I usually try to follow through.
Last week I wrote about birdhouses. Well, I forced myself to go online and buy some. So many were $50 and up—crazy. JoAnn Fabrics had some very cheap ones, but then I saw I’d need to put them together. No way! Finally, I found Lowe’s had some reasonable styles in cedar. I ordered 6 wren and 8 bluebird styles. I figured that I would have them shipped here, but it said “Store Pickup Only.” I’ve heard of such things, but I’m old school and want to ship it or go to a store and shop for it. This seems like trouble. Especially as the default pickup was a Lowe’s in West Virginia! I finally figured out how to get it to a store in Frederick. I paid and got an immediate confirmation text. How annoying. Another text followed. Then another. The next one said they were available for pickup—NOW. Unbelievable. I stopped in on my way home, and they were in a shopping cart near the front door. I showed my order number and was rolling out to my truck in seconds.
Wow! Is that what e-commerce has come to?
Now I just need to hang them.
I also ordered 4 varieties of trillium that I don’t have. They are coming in the fall. I’m excited to see them come up next spring. I never thought I could actually get them commercially. I moved some stones one evening this week. A new garden bed in the making. It will be the perfect place to showcase the new trilliums.
A garden is a library
Each plant a volume
Its species a title
Thousands of varieties
Each with a name
Latin and English
They are shelved in beds
or sometimes terraces
They can be arranged
Rows or formations
But best in chaos
A natural jumble
set here and there
and pleasing to the eye
like a library
must be full
to please the eye
Building. Always building.
The new warehouses! They will look like this!
What am I thinking? Scary business.
Well, it will keep me busy.
On Monday, Annika and I priced the leather collection that came from friends in New Mexico. They don’t want money—just trade when they visit in October. I took the books over and had them installed in the Frederick store’s glass cases. We have added some beautiful books to all the stores in recent months. Part of my effort to “let go.”
I came across some unusual Sherlock Holmes pastiches on a cart.
“Hmmmm… I bet there are more.”
I poked around and found a vein of them in a stack of yellow plastic tubs.
These need special attention.
Or should I trust the computer?
It is a great team. Human and machine. Books, young people, people older than me.
When I went home Monday, the sun was beginning to set behind the mountain. I decided a martini would be a good idea. I made a perfect one. I set it on the stone throne with the magic beech in the background.
Cue the heavenly choir music.
The subsequent ones were likely not such a good idea.
But I did a lot of pruning while the steaks were cooking and the tortillas with cheese and Italian herbs atop them toasting on the grill.
A gardener’s work is never done.
But, oh, the gardens are lovely and lush this year. They came out of COVID renewed.
I went to Gaithersburg with Travis. It is such a pleasure to visit all the stores now. If they are happy, I am happy. We knew the Interstate would be packed. We took the “355 shortcut.” It is no secret anymore. We crawled on back roads for an hour.
More carts are backed up here now. My own 4th of July traffic jam.
Last week, I wrote of the bluebirds of happiness. This week, the tiny blueberries are coming in on the mountain.
The plants never get knee-high. There are hundreds, but I could pick for an hour and not get a cupful.
Little blueberries of happiness.
Or are they huckleberries?
* She walks in beautyLord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!