Winnie the Pooh Dolls

Tuesday, April 9th

I opened every window and let spring pour in. Old air was chased from dusty corners and fled in winter’s wake. Breathe in the new life blossoming above, below and all around! Let the colors and birdsong fill each room!

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green cornfield did pass,
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
Those pretty country folks would lie,
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crownèd with the prime
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

“…In springtime, the only pretty ring time, when birds do sing…”

All the house windows were washed yesterday. That morning, I unlatched every screen. When I got home, I knew I should hook them back up lest they fall out.

‘Why close them?’ I thought, feeling the fresh air pouring in.

It was in the 70s. The night would drop to the high 50s. But the house would retain some of the day’s warmth.

The next morning, I awoke a bit sore but renewed.

After opening the windows, I’d unloaded the firewood from the truck. Then I forced myself to dig some bleeding heart yearlings from the gravel patio and plant them in the new redbud grove. That spot I created below the bridge that crosses the deck. I will be able to look down upon the garden grove as I pass over.

No easy task that, for the plants are rooted in gravel. I searched and found the big mattock. Does it weigh 25 pounds? I’ve found using that tool is the best way to extract the plants that have decided to grow in stone rather than the soil bed above them. Aiming about 6 inches beyond the plant, I raise the mattock above my head and slam it into the gravel. It usually rattles deep into the earth and under the plant. Then pushing forward on the handle raises the plant—tuber and rootlets and all.

I carried them in a tub of moist composted manure to the grove where I’d already dug holes to receive them.

When it was done, I was tired and sore—my usual evening state since my bout with COVID three and a half months ago.

But I felt good inside. Satisfied with the day’s labors and this finale.

Now, Wednesday morning, my body feels good. I slept well. Deep and hard. Birdsong comes in the windows along with a cool soft breeze.

So much to do.

The phone states the low temps will be in the high 40s to mid 50s for the next 10 days.

Can I take the potted plants out? Reclaim so much of my house?

I think so. I’ll wait a few days and check to make sure the phone doesn’t change its mind or some sneaky cold front isn’t planning to slip in during the next couple of weeks.

I would love to get them out. And I know they prefer that to being inside.

“…In springtime, the only pretty ring time, when birds do sing…”

The dogtooth lilies are beginning to bloom.

Blooming Dogtooth Lilies

Beautiful but bashful, they hang their heads so you must bend and tilt their blossoms up with a finger to see all their glory.

They are a bit difficult to grow, but I’ve had success in some spots, though they won’t propagate yet.

And some trilliums are opening.

They are also difficult, fragile. Though I’ve been able to create some colonies, I can’t get them to flourish.

Still, both these gems are worth the trouble and frustration. A rare success is better than abject failure.

It is another wondrous morning.

Cool air flows in the window and pours over the bed. It is not so cool that the dogs press up against me. Except for Pip. He is such a lover. He only wants to cuddle when inside. Outdoors he is a hunter. He will pursue golf balls thrown down the steep drive in a frenzy to catch and retrieve them. Though 13 years old, he has not slowed a bit.

And sometime around 6, the birds awoke and now fill the forest with their songs and croaks and knocking.

Springtime, the only pretty ring time.

Some friends came over last night. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing pretty much. I did a quick pickup around the house. They brought some shrimp and salmon spread. First, we toured the house and gardens with cocktails. Though many of the daffodils have faded, the late varieties are just opening. So there were new varieties peeking out everywhere.

It was a lovely evening. Mid 70s. We sat on the deck and chatted and stared into the forest and the valley beyond for a good while.

The redbuds are starting to color up on the mountain. It may not be a great year for them. They “masted” last year. The mature specimens produced so many seedpods—most years there are few or none. The ugly empty dead pods still cling to the branches. Maybe the redbuds are tired because of that and will rest—not exerting themselves by producing as many blossoms this year.

Maybe it is just a bit early to tell.

The redbud, or Judas tree, also has a legend to it which I find quite evocative. It was once a large sturdy tree with white blossoms, but when Judas hung himself from one, the tree blushed in shame and now has reddish purple blooms. It never wanted to be used again for hanging and is now a small ornamental.

It is also called the “love tree” for its heart-shaped leaves.

This makes me want to write about another myth that has been weighing on my mind for a long time. And more lately than ever.


Sisyphus was a Greek king usually associated with Corinth. He was famously cunning, but unfortunately also deceitful and impious. In the most common version of the myth, Sisyphus managed to cheat Death and thereby extend his life (the details of how he accomplished this vary across different sources.)

Eventually, however, Sisyphus did die. For acting against the will of the gods, Sisyphus received a terrible punishment in the afterlife: he was sent to Tartarus, roughly the Greek equivalent of hell, where he was forced to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down once he reached the top. Sisyphus was thus forced to endlessly repeat the same grueling task for all eternity.

While I’m no evil king and I don’t see my labors as futile, I simply cannot get ahead. For months, I’ve devoted most of my work time to process the never-ending cartloads of books sent my way. I can move a mountain of books on a good day. But then another mountain always appears in its place.





It is all these things.

But I can identify and sympathize. The Sisyphean never-ending task. I’m forever pushing the carts of books and knowing others will fill in behind me.


Today is already shot.

Travis and I are heading to the heart of DC to pick up books at the Folger. This will be the third trip there. I agreed to pickup the books sight unseen. I thought there would only be one load. We haven’t touched the first two loads. Looking into the boxes, I didn’t see anything we could do anything with.

Another instance of Wonder Book taking in what no other booksellers want and… getting creative.

The many pallets have been trailered while I ruminate on how best to process them.

An idea will germinate sometime. They always do.

So far, it is a labor of respect. A commitment that has gotten bigger and bigger.

There was an accident or two on the normal route. The phone diverted us to the Beltway going east. Then it wanted us to take the Baltimore Washington Parkway into DC. The Parkway does not allow commercial vehicles. Double-checking that on the phone, I had Travis get off on the first exit. Now we are making our way into the city via the bowels of Prince George’s County.

It ain’t pretty.


On our way back, leaving the Beltway on to I 270.

A torturous trip except at the Folger. This time, Caroline had an army of helpers fill our van with boxes. The first two trips had me and Clif (on the first trip) toting boxes of books down ancient wrought-iron steps to an uneven sidewalk and about 40 yards to the van.

Having all that help was a blessing.

BUT… there were more books than we anticipated. (Surprise!) We couldn’t squeeze one more box in.

Folger Full Van

So we left some boxes.

Now I gotta go back.

The short time we spent at the library was energizing. An oasis. An island. A magical island like Prospero’s in The Tempest.

Folger Library

I got out and stopped traffic so Travis could back out.

Then we were back on the road.

We ran the gauntlet through construction, government blockaded streets (for security purposes), one ways, parkways where commercial vehicles are not permitted… and pouring rain.

We will get back about 1:30—inshallah.

Then my day will begin!

I wonder what I will do?

Carts if I’m lucky.

I know I complained just a few lines above, but carts I can do without thinking. And there’s been a large cool African American and Jazz collection leaking in. Yesterday, I sent about 60 books to Annika. She was happy. It will help build her stock for the upcoming show.

Carts… I can go through with my eyes shut—metaphorically speaking. Time passes quickly, and my day would soon be over.

Thursday, continued

If you build it, they will come.

The first pair of swallows arrived this week. I watched them whirling above the dockyard. Then they would zoom out of sight toward the building—exactly where was obscured by all the trailers backed up to the building’s dock doors. A mud nest stuck to the building’s wall almost certainly. Soon, there will be a few dozen all around the building. They return to their mud nests every year.

It is Thursday night. Rainy. The house is a bit chilly with all the windows open, but I’ll just suffer through it unless the winds pick up.

The wet roads had hundreds of frogs on them as I drove home about 10 p.m. I was careful to avoid them. I did see some flattened causalities in my headlights.

There was a movie at the Weinberg theater tonight. It was sponsored by Wonder Book.


I’ve missed a lot of them in the last couple of years. It is an effort to get motivated to go downtown alone, park, walk…

My loss.

But tonight it was Field of Dreams.

I haven’t seen it for decades. And then it was on the TV.

But something in me recalled how much it moved me.

It is based on the book Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella. During the hypermodern years, a first edition commanded a lot of money. Now one can be had, in a dust jacket, for $50 and up. There are a LOT of copies to scroll through. I’d guess one in a nice jacket is a hundred dollar book.

The day was long. The drive to and from DC draining.

I worked at the warehouse until 5.

I met my younger son and his wife for dinner.

When we were done, the world was a different place.

Then I headed downtown.

I got into the theater just as the opening credits were beginning. Down a side aisle, close to the wall, trying to be invisible, to the third or fourth row.

As the movie began, I remembered. This film had changed my life so long ago.

Monday will be the third anniversary of my last brother’s death.

July 5th will be the 49th anniversary of my father’s sudden death.

I never got to say goodbye. I never had the chance to take back some of the hotheaded things I said to him when teen passions were aflame. My mother, sick most of my lifetime, suffered another year and a half and died Christmas morning—alone on an operating table at Walter Reed hospital.

The movie had me tearing up every few minutes. I had to choke back sobs several times. Crying in public simply would not do. I’m sure there were people I know in the darkened theater.

Fathers and sons. Baseball. Unrealized dreams. Unspoken sentiments.

My adult life has been an attempt to live up to my father’s… well, what I think my father would have wanted me to do. His expectations.

The movie tore me to pieces over and over.

Alone in the dark.

I have tried so hard.

My life’s work has not been just for me. Or my kids.

I wanted to be a good provider. A good father.

I played ball with my kids. A lot. I enjoyed that. But it was also a mission.

It was hard work—being an involved parent and building Wonder Book.

I could have done better.

I’ve done an acceptable job.

Field of Dreams reviewed my entire life in a couple hours. The Little League ballplayer. The son of a very busy father. The teenager and college student who I feel let his father down so much. The incompetent 20-year-old who was helpless as he was dying in my arms.

Torn apart and put back together by a masterpiece.

I built something and people come to it.

A modest success.

New York City

With all the excitement this week I’d almost forgot…

On the train home.

We left the now beautiful Penn Station at 8:30.

Under the river and over the meadowlands. Fens where I always feel there are countless bodies under the high grass—in the mud.

I used to drive past NYC very often. From Maryland to college in Connecticut. And then from Connecticut to Philadelphia to visit my fiancee in law school.

The stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike through the Meadowlands used to stink horribly. I think it was paper mills or some other industry that got canceled or cleaned up decades ago.

Two nights in Manhattan.

After well over 4 years, it felt good to be back.

It will be good to get home.

Spring in Manhattan is anticlimactic. There are occasional planters of spring flowers. Small trees shoehorned into sidewalks or marble or granite boxes will bloom. They can’t grow too large. No room for roots. They will blossom little splashes of color as you drive or walk by.

I didn’t get into Central Park, though I was close when we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m sure there’s some real spring in there.

Which is the real “Met”? The museum or the opera? When I get in a cab, I make the distinction clear.

I guess I could say Lincoln Center. I didn’t go there. I haven’t been to the opera for too many years. No one to go with.

That’s not correct. I went to the opera in Berlin in late 2022. By myself. Tristan and Isolde. It was bizarre. The leads were lovers, but they were both very, very large people. When they tried to embrace, their arms barely got to each other’s sides—certainly impossible to get all the way around.

Will I go to the opera again? Not so much fun to go alone. Maybe in Europe where I can make the excuse that I need to go because I’ve never been to that opera house before.

The train is gliding along. The tracks are pretty smooth below Trenton. I’m seated facing backward—toward Manhattan. The view is mostly dreary.

Dead industries.

Truck graveyards.

Scrub patches of land not worth developing.

Occasional residential blocks unlucky enough to be near the tracks. Almost always post-war row houses on their heels.

Graffiti on almost any surface that can take it.

Philly. A dusty beat up platform…

On the way from Wilmington to Baltimore.

I’m anxious to get back to the warehouse and the books. The dogs and the gardens.


I admit I was wrong.

There are many things you can get in the City you can’t find in Maryland.

Uighar cuisine?

A Lederach Swiss chocolate store on 5th Avenue a few blocks above the New York Public Library. ($80 a pound?)

The ancient hole-in-the-wall pasta store in Little Italy—Piemonte Ravioli. (Very inexpensive.)

Piemonte Ravioli

Ferrara’s right across the street. (Cookies $30 a pound, and you can’t pick your varieties. Pignolis are to die for.)

Ernest and I are heading west on I 70 to visit the Hagerstown Wonder Book. I haven’t been there for a while. I feel I should show my face at the stores occasionally so I don’t seem like some “oppressive dark overlord governing from afar.” (That’s an approximate quote from a long ago disgruntled employee who gave the office management a parting shot on the way out.)

Some staffs seem very happy to see us. Sometimes, especially when we have morale or other problems, I get to a store, and the staff disappears into the woodwork. (Most of our bookcases are wood.)

It is a beautiful day. Eclipse day. I vividly recall the one in 2017. We drove a couple hundred miles down to rural Virginia to gain a more complete eclipse view. We hiked into an obscure state park and found a lonely patch. The paper glasses are still pinned to the corkboard above my desk all these years later. It’s supposed to be 87% coverage in Fredrick this afternoon. That’s good enough.

The trip to New York City was fun. I didn’t notice any dystopia, but then I didn’t do the crazy amounts of walking I have done in the past either.

Most heartening was my son’s interest in the book show and the bookish sites I took him to in the city.

We went to the Morgan. At the New York Public Library, they had a fabulous exhibition in the beautifully renovated main hall. They moved the original Winnie the Pooh dolls upstairs!

Winnie the Pooh Dolls

For all my memory, they were tucked downstairs in the kids’ library room in a glass case. (Maybe that’s where they belong.) The Metropolitan Museum is so vast we only made forays into some of the galleries.

It was cold outside, so I wanted to get a scarf. The Met gift shop had lots of scarves, but they were in the women’s section. (Is there a difference I wondered?) I looked at the men’s section and…


Durer's Apocalypse Scarf

Durer’s Apocalypse! 6 feet of it! Or more!

I couldn’t resist even though I’d have to wear it in the book show. Would it look like an affectation? I had my brother, Jimmie’s, 30-year-old Orris blue blazer on. With a big creamy scarf, would I look like… one of those guys?

“Well, I don’t care!”

We wandered through Bemelmans Bar on the way but didn’t stop for a martini. It was pretty full even in the early afternoon.

Little Italy. Chinatown. 5th Avenue.

Dinners at old school places like Sel et Poivre and Donohue’s. Decor right out of the 1950s. Both with bookseller friends.

Did I buy any books?

Well, yeah. Blake, Isaac Newton, Baudelaire, Beardsley, Dr. Jekyll, Eloise.


Maybe I’ll show you more when they start arriving next week.

I got back to the warehouse early Saturday afternoon. Of course, there was a huge backlog of books with my name on them.

I did my best.

The dogs were returned from their babysitters.

I went home exhausted. (Maybe partly COVID exhaustion.) The house was cold and dark. I turned on the well pump and hot water heater. I got some kindling and started a fire in the woodstove.

Such a contrast from the metropolis.

I’m glad I live in the wilderness.

I’m glad I could visit Manhattan just a few hours away.

Speaking of mountains, Ernest and I are stuck on one. I 70 is stopped eastbound by a vehicle fire.

Since we are a bit west and at a higher elevation, there are still early spring trees and daffodils blooming on the roadside.

In addition to the regular new arrival backlog, I was left with 10 carts of old collectibles. Old in that they had been online for a very long time. It was like time travel with some. 2009?

I’ve sure learned a lot since then. These must have gotten misfiled during the move in 2013-14. So, they were kind of lost in space—shelf space.

There were some treasures. A lot of them were hopeless causes, as I’ve learned over the years, and would only be viable as Books by the Foot.

Old Collectible Removed

There’s so much to do. So many…

I wonder how many books I processed over the truncated weekend?

I wonder how many more books I can do?

We have been stuck on this mountain for over an hour.

We crept uphill for a while.

We are creeping downhill now.

The map on the phone shows a stretch of highway ahead that is black. Red means slow traffic. Black might mean that section is closed and we will somehow have to get around it.

Trees are just starting to leaf out on the mountain. No green. When they first bud, they are more often red or yellow at the tips.

Down in the valleys, the trees are greening.


A hard day yesterday despite the eclipse distraction and being stuck in traffic on the mountain for well over an hour.

I’d made some interesting “re-finds” from old condemned stock over the weekend.


The Mysteries of Udolpho

Thomas Paine.

Common Sense

The Secret Garden. Countee Cullen. Wayne Gretzky…

Annika had these and had evaluated them. There’s a backlog of researched books for me in Annika’s office. Madeline has a big pile too.

And the signed Oscar Wildes are back from restoration!

Now what’s next?

When I got home, I decided to cut wood to clear my head. There were still some big logs down by the entrance to the lane. I considered just rolling them into the woods to decompose, but I decided they’d be easy, if heavy, to harvest. I took my Husqvarna saw with the long bar—is it 20 inches?—and drove the truck down. It went pretty well.


When I was done, I was tired and sore. I’d hit my post COVID wall. Will it ever end? I limped inside, aching all over. It was too much to heat the leftover pizza, so I took one foil package into the great room and had beer and cold pizza. It’s been a long time since I ate cold pizza, but when I was younger, it was certainly a frequent treat.

Average last freeze date? April 9. Today!

When will I feel comfortable taking the 70 or so potted plants out? I’m looking forward to that. My home will seem much bigger then.

When will the last fire be? The nights are in the 40s but the days in the 70s keep my home warm overnight. But I have lots of scraps on the driveway I want to use up. Anything I don’t burn will have to be moved.

The redbud will bloom on the mountain this week. They are already coloring up. Down in the valley, they are already out. Down there you see them mostly on the roadsides.

Maybe I’ve finally recovered.

My voice is a little raspy, but I’m not coughing or sneezing.

The body doesn’t ache. At least not as much.

I feel like digging up and transplanting some trees. There are over a hundred redbud seedlings along the driveway.

Though I’ve planted about a hundred in the last few years, there are still spots that are calling for them.

When the volunteers along the driveway get too big and interfere with driving, I’ll need to cut them down.

Lots of other things to transplant as well. Hellebores, bleeding hearts, Italian arum… I’ll need to go looking to see what else has self propagated.

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