Spring Songs

Spring View

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.


I planted two trees before going to work. I planted two more when I got home. Two dogwoods and two redbuds. Then I did some more yardwork. It was 80 degrees—which, sadly, fried some of the over-mature daffodils. There are more to come. The final wave hasn’t even begun yet. There are 3 trees remaining to dig holes for.

When it was getting dark, I went in the house. It was colder inside than out! I could open windows!


Winter wares are put away
Warm weather goods come out

The crate of gloves and scarves
made their way downstairs
They found a corner in the cedar closet
The potted plants are popping out to the porches
The iron wood rings lumber into the barn
The hose snakes out from the garage
It stretches 75 feet across the front porch
I won’t have to haul water to some new trees
Two redbuds. Two dogwoods.
The day darkens and I go inside
Warmer out than in
The window opens!
Balmy cool air pours in
The breeze envelops me
I am given an air bath
At night the soundlessness
of a house closed for winter
gives way to the forest voices
I lay in the dark and listen
There is a constant “Hushhhhhh”
being spoken by the soft breeze
passing through the still barren trees
The air enters the north window
It passes over my bare supine self
and leaves via the eastern casement
Later a dream is broken
A spring birdsong breaks it
Loud through the open windows
My eyes open
It is the dark dull light of predawn
I put a pillow over my head
It muffles the sounds the windows did before
When I arise in the morning light
The colors of spring enter the house
Golden daffodils and purpling redbud
pour in through the windows.
Thank You, God!

This is less than a third of the daffodil plantings that are currently in bloom.

Friday, April 15th. Good Friday.

A year ago, I was in San Francisco. The Plague was still raging—at least in Californian’s minds.


My brother Tony was dying. His breathing was rattly. I left his bedside so he could be with his sons and wife. I drove to Muir Woods to be with… nature… God. He died while I was sitting beneath redwoods.

April 15, 2021.

Last weekend, I came across a Scottish New Testament.

The Four Gospels in Braid Scots

Appropriate for Good Friday is John 3:16 in “Braid Scots”:

For God sae loved the warld as to gie his Son, the Only-Begotten Ane, that ilka ane wha lippens till him sudna dee, but hae Life-for-Aye.

Braid Scots John 3:16

In some ways, I am still in Scotland. Some places become a part of you after you visit. I’ll carry some of Scotland will be with me for… ever?

I used to wonder what was behind all those doors I drove by. Book splendors? I’m lucky I chose this trade—or, rather, it chose me. There aren’t many lines of work you can do in your twenties and in your sixties and beyond and still enjoy and be good at. This book thing—it is endlessly different.

Monday, I went down to the Gaithersburg store with Travis. When we returned, the lawns were being mowed at the warehouse for the first time this year. It was good to experience the verdant fragrance of new mown grass.

New Mown Lawn

We lost the family run landscaping company that has helped us since we moved here in 2013. I’m not sure why. I called a couple weeks ago to inquire because they had dropped us for snow removal as well.

“I am sorry. We aren’t able to provide…”

I had some plans for the spaces that had opened up in the northeast corner of the warehouse. When I went back, it had been filled in while I was at the store.

Remainder Shipment

30? 40,000? remaindered books. I’ll have to check the invoice.

Spring is in full bloom on the mountain. There is so much to do, but I really must stop sometimes and look at the wonders up here. I can’t have my nose in the dirt all the time. What is all the hard work for if not to enjoy the fruits of the labor? One should take time to stop and smell the hyacinths. There are daffodils everywhere. But I need to put stakes in where I will add bulbs this fall. A good gardener plans ahead.

I got the notion a few years to stick small groups of bulbs out in the woods. Outliers. These plantings draw the eye away from the gardens. Tiny bits of color in the dun woodland floor.

Daffodil Outliers

When I got home on Monday evening, I planted three redbuds about a quarter mile down the drive. The previous owner put a pile of soil there perhaps as a stop in case a vehicle starts sliding on ice. I can’t figure out any other reason for its positioning. It seemed a natural location for a triptych. I’ll need to add more daffodils here as well. It was an effort to get the trees down there and dig holes on the steep slope. I’ll have to drive water down to them in the ATV until they get established.

Triptych Trees

Those orange stakes will tell me where to plant daffodil bulbs in next autumn.

I had seven more trees to plant this week. I know a couple of spots where they would be aesthetically pleasing. The landscape will tell me where to put things.

Then there are dozens of seedling redbuds I could transplant as well.

Well, you can see I have a thing for Judas Trees or Redbuds. But I need to expand my horizons. There are a lot of cultivars I haven’t heard of. You can see them in this interesting Happy DIY Home link. Now I have a new mission.

They sprang up in the gravel on the very edge of the drive and can’t be left there. Then there are the seedling bleeding hearts, hellebores, trillium, lungwort, blackberry lilies, false arum… On afternoons like Monday, the effort is more than worth the results.

It is nice that I have a kind of unlimited palette. The gardens can just keep spreading outward. The forest floor is generally so sterile and weedless the new beds or trees or bulbs don’t require much maintenance.

That night, my shoulders ached. They haven’t recovered entirely from my tripping on a step in Luxor, Egypt. I didn’t trip on any of the thousands of dark, uneven stone and wooden steps descending beneath the desert to glorious ancient tombs. I stumbled on the first step on the Hilton pool deck, and my extended arms crumpled awkwardly beneath me. Go figure…

They’ll get better eventually, I hope. Yet another reminder of mortality. The pain didn’t keep me from picking up thousands of books over the weekend.

It was good to be back in the trenches. Two full weekends were missed by my trip overseas. I spent all day Saturday and Sunday sorting through old books on carts. Well, some books were not so old. And there is always a lot of other “stuff” that others here put aside for my appraisal.

Stuff… ephemera, letters, junk, games, scrapbooks, photo albums, diaries, glassware, framed items…

Stuff can be fun. Stuff can be frustrating. I still don’t know what to do with scrapbooks and photo albums and diaries. They can’t be sent to the stores. They are too fragile and exotic for general clientele. I can’t bring myself to throw any away. These are peoples’ lives. Old family stories from households broken up recently or very long ago.

But everything I put aside must at some point be looked at again. Each time anyone here handles something, it adds to the cost. On the bulk buys we do, a sold item will usually be handled at least 9 times:

  1. Pack and haul.
  2. Unload.
  3. Unbox and sort.
  4. Some go to data entry for the computer to decide if we should put it online.
  5. If the computer wants an item, it must be carted, rolled out into the warehouse and shelved.
  6. If the item gets ordered, someone needs to go out and pull it off a shelf.
  7. It gets taken to shipping where it is packed and labeled.
  8. The wrapped items are sorted into different shipping containers—overseas, priority, standard…
  9. Then they are put onto various trucks or vans for delivery options around the world.

Then there are other avenues things here can take.

Some become problems and need special attention, photos, research, complex descriptions…

The weekend was a tough grind. I looked at and handled thousands of books and “stuff.” I was glad English soccer was streaming on my laptop. It is a diversion I can half listen to and look at if something interesting happens. The Masters golf tournament was also a welcome event. Periodically I’d go out to the fenced dockyard to play with Merry & Pippin—my Jack Russells. They turned 11 in February. They are now “old” dogs. 77 in dog years. They are unchanged but for gray around their muzzles. As happy and active as they ever were. What luck they came into my life.

There were so many cool finds. I could just post picture after picture. You’ll have to check my Instagrams: @wonderbookandvideo, @merryandpippinlotr, @booksbythefoot.

Well, just one—here’s a calligraphic vernacular bookplate:

Calligraphic Bookplate

“This Catechism belongs to Catharina Mosern” (I think.) Above that Sophia Secklar added “her book.” I wonder if I should scrawl my name on the endpaper? “Now Chuck’s Book.” Nah… it is beautiful as is.


Tired. Sore.

I planted two dogwoods before going to work this morning. Fortunately, the spots that picked themselves for aesthetics were not too rocky or difficult. I still have to drive water to them in the ATV. It will get to 80 today. The hottest day of the 2022.

Only 5 more tubbed trees to plant. And then? Hundreds of volunteers, if I so choose. Maybe I should start selling seedlings at the bookstores.

Nah, I’d probably need a special license or permit…

I went to the Orioles’ second home game last night with the family. I used to take the boys when they were little. I loved baseball growing up. The players then were larger than life. The game last night was dreadful. Neither team looked like major leaguers. There wasn’t a name I recognized on either roster. Camden Yards, Baltimore’s iconic stadium, was maybe 25% full for the second home game of the season. It is the 30th anniversary of the stadium’s opening. In the 90s, the stadium was always sold out. Always. There was a special my son took advantage of—ticket prices were at 1992 levels. Supposedly, hot dogs were as well, but I didn’t see that anywhere. Food and beer prices were astronomical. $13 for a can of beer. When you pay—with a tap of your credit card—a screen comes up to tip the person you are paying, even though they did nothing but ring up what you picked up and carried to the point of sale. You have to press 10%, 20%, 30%… or press NO TIP with the person two feet away from you. Outside the stadium, you could see and hear gangs of kids roaring by on the streets, riding illegal dirt bikes and ATVs…


We left in the 7th—9:45. On the hour drive back, we listened to the last 2 innings. The O’s had bases loaded and no outs in the 8th. Down one run… they couldn’t score. Pretty much the same in the 9th.

I used to go to games with my buddy Adams—who died suddenly in August 2020. Cap and I would meet him on Federal Hill at a secret parking place he knew about. We’d each get a dozen oysters and beers at Cross Street Market. After the game, we would stop at Ryleigh’s for more oysters. I got a t-shirt there years ago with the Jonathan Swift quote:

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

Or more accurately:

He was a bold Man, that first eat an Oyster.

Swift had a thing for oysters.

Charming oysters I cry:
My masters, come buy,
So plump and so fresh,
So sweet is their flesh,
No Colchester oyster
Is sweeter and moister:
Your stomach they settle,
And rouse up your mettle:
They’ll make you a dad
Of a lass or a lad;
And madam your wife
They’ll please to the life;
Be she barren, be she old,
Be she slut, or be she scold,
Eat my oysters, and lie near her,
She’ll be fruitful, never fear her.

And a thing for women, obviously. His complex love life included “Stella” and “Vanessa”—pseudonyms for women he wrote poems about. He is buried next to “Stella” in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Women, oysters and books. So many women have this devoted passion for old books. If only it would carry over to old booksellers… lol.

I was at St Patrick’s Dublin in 2019.


This week, I was looking at flying to Ireland in May or June. I could visit friends in Galway and drive to the Burren and Connemara… should I?

Back to baseball in 2022.

The nostalgia was good. Boog Powell’s Pit Roast Beef was good, although there were no toppings available for a $15 sandwich. COVID.

And the guys on the field are making millions. Inferior product…

Now I’m the cranky guy complaining about the good old days…

Ernest and I drove up to Hagerstown this morning to inspect last Friday’s improvements and to pull Biography, Travel and Wilderness for Books by the Foot.

Sigh… I thought things were going so well. It will need closer attention. I will have to find the time… somewhere.

When I got back, there was a package waiting for me. A friend from Oregon had cut me a deal on this.

A box of GOLD!

Tonight, I’ll go home and plant a few trees and haul water to the other new plantings. Why does one create extra work and then complain about how far behind they are?

Am I becoming a crank? Or is it crankier?

Oh! I should have shown you this find from the weekend.

It is a BIG folio. 1880s?

The “Wow!” factor inside and out.

And the week is gone. Good Friday.

I have been taking potted plants outside whenever I step out a door. There are 75 at last count. There are no more freezes according to my iPhone’s weather prognostications. I will have a lot more living space when they are all outdoors.

But I will keep this potted plant indoors until it is done blooming:


Then I have boxes of books from my old collection in Pennsylvania to go through. And shelve. There’s room. I just have to sit on the floor and unpack them. That way I’ll visit who I was in the 80s and 90s.

When I go home after work, I will plant the last 3 trees. I will plan a simple bachelor meal. I will mix an Old Fashioned to Tony’s special recipe. I will toast him.

I’ll be in the warehouse Saturday and Sunday going through other people’s books.

What will I find?

If it is something wonderful, I will tell you next week.

4 Comments on Article

  1. Mary Hill commented on


    You are such an inspiration as a bookseller and a gardener! My redbud this year was (is) spectacular and I’m thinking to plant some more.

    Book that Ireland trip now!


    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I’m glad your climate can take them.
      There was a link in the story about other varieties I need to look into.
      I did plant two call “Pansy” with reddish leaves.
      Thank you for the kind words!

  2. Norv commented on

    Took a deep, deep dive into all three instragram accounts, finishing with BBTF. Got to thinking, especially while perusing BBTF…. Where in the world would you be without SHELVES? Got to thinking about photos from your global travels: so many monuments…of all sorts…everywhere! If anyone could and should create a monument to shelves, it should be you! Get permission to put a plaque on the building at the end of the Golden Mile: “First shelves constructed this location by Charles Roberts for WonderBook…. Shelves have been around since…. If not for shelving, WonderBook would not exist today.” 2 cents. Hoppy Easter!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That’s a great idea!
      Maybe a statue too! LOL…

      There are still a lot bookcases I built in the early 80s – . Hammer and nails – before I discovered – could afford a screw gun.

      Thanks Norv!

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