The Hound of Heaven

Here’s a keyword search on the Collector’s Corner:


About 300 results. Many, many more in our common stock. Prices shown are “Delivered”—in the Contiguous U.S.

Trilliums are blooming on the mountain.


I have a special attachment to this flower. It is rare—at least around here. I’ve only found a few patches in any woodland wanderings in my time. It is fragile, ephemeral and beautiful in its simplicity.

I was thrilled upon my return from California to find dozens of the three-leaf plants (actually leaf-like bracts) in my beds rising on thin stems from the dun mountain floor—many where I transplanted them last year!

It was a COVID project.

I really thought I’d failed. Although I was so gentle and careful, many of the transplants didn’t look very happy last spring and summer. During the frequent dry periods, I would carry water to them. The hose doesn’t reach many places up there.

For the past few years, I also spread soft rich soil around and near the existing mature specimens that just appeared (I have no idea how they got there) in a bed a few years ago. I did it in hopes their seeds would land there and take hold.

Many did.


There are no wild colonies anywhere nearby. (I did come across one years ago far up the mountain, nestled in a rocky nook at the base of the cliff. I wonder if I could find that again?)

It poured rain around 4:30 AM on April 29th. I was awake—another COVID sleep intermission.

I thought this morning would be perfect to dig and divide a big seedling cluster I’d seen in a bed and replant them in moist soft soil. They would never survive growing so tightly packed together.

So, when I awoke for the day, I wrote just an abbreviated journal entry and went outside in the grubby sweats and hoodie I used for gardening.

They spring from small, somewhat deep, nut-like tubers (actually rhizomes, I learn.) I set to the group with a shovel, being sure to go deep and far enough away from their underground stems. I dug a circle around the clump. I lifted it—rocking gently—and…success!

Dug Trillium

I placed about twenty in the new 2020 COVID gardens. I chose spaces where it was unlikely they would be squeezed out by neighbors.

Their stems are so fragile. I can’t think of a metaphor for them. But if they bend, they will likely snap.

It was a good morning for it. And the day continued to be damp and overcast.

My Maryland colony echoed the trillium I saw two weeks ago in Muir Woods, where there are thousands of them on the forest floor.

Muir Trillium

Their tiny ground clinging fragility contrasted with the soaring giants towering above them.

The Muir flowers were very small. I wonder how many tourists even noticed them?

A similar plant is the Jack-in-the-Pulpit—three simple leaves (bracts also?) on a thin green tender stalk. Though their flowers are in no way similar.


Last year, I transplanted a few I found in unsafe areas—like in the middle of a path. There are not many on my 30 acres nor in the forest surrounding it.

It wouldn’t do to leave them in harm’s way.

I care about these small successes as much as the thousands of daffodils that dazzle the eye.

Daffodils—there are still some blossoming. And the outlier patches I put in—the “grace notes”—some still catch the corner of the eye and draw me to them.

“Come to us.”

And I do!

Outlier Daffodils


Last week, it took a lot to recover from the San Francisco trip. Emotionally and physically. Having Old Mortality smack you in the face is daunting. You can’t win against him.

I passed the days in a daze.

This weekend helped.

It was books all day—both days.

I came across a dusty hard-to-do cart that held 40 or 50 Mary O’Hara books. These were put aside a couple years ago. This lot contained books that were signed to her or by her.

It was a little confusing because she had 4 last names:

  • O’Hara
  • Alsop
  • Parrot
  • Sture-Vasa

A few were just signed Mary.

There are many more in the building. (I hope.) She kept “author’s copies” of many of her books in many languages. I just have to find them.

I’m making an effort to whittle down the backlog of old dusty difficult carts of books and stuff. Often when I come across things I’m unsure what to do with, I will set them on a cart for future assignment.

When a cart gets loaded to overflowing with things I don’t want to deal with or don’t know how to deal with or is so dreary, I practice “avoidance.” That’s easy in a big warehouse. The overladen carts just get rolled out of sight to gather dust.

There are 22 dusty old overloaded carts corralled together in these 2 images:

You may see them as shabby piles
but you’d be wrong
They are faerie mines
There are jewels within
waiting to be plucked,
dusted and polished
The labor of hearts and minds long gone
They glow and glitter
if only you know how to look
if you only learn where they would be treasured.

We have some new options for problematic material now. The Collector’s Corner gives me some confidence that extremely exotic books or pamphlets will be findable by Keyword(s.) Many non-book things that defy online descriptions are going to auction on eBay. From bookends to book marks, things that won’t work in the stores are sold by having their pictures put on the auction site.

That said, I am sending a lot of non-book material to the stores as well. With the current staff, I’m more confident things will be handled safely and displayed well.

Part of the reason for that is the steady decline of DVD and CD sales. They still do well. And we get tons of them. TONS. Truckloads sometimes.

To fill the void that reducing the space devoted to those gives us, we are adding—”stuff.” Bookends to bric-a-brac. Prints to Pokemon.

I still struggle NOT to surrender something back onto a cart to figure out what to with in the future.


It takes up space and takes a cart out of active use.

Each extra time an object gets handled, it takes time and means another object doesn’t get looked at.

Sometimes—lots of times lately—I just guess at a value and let it go.

All the little ephemera. We get so much. We have thousands of things “Bagged and Hung” at each store. Each store has LOTS of boxes of paper backlogged to be hung. (Hanged? Hung, I think.)

Maybe we should sell Ephemera—By the Box!


Michael Collins died this week. He was 90. He was the “third man”—the forgotten astronaut of the Apollo 11 First Man on the Moon mission. Armstrong and Aldrin got the headlines when they trod the lunar surface. Collins stayed aboard the mother-ship orbiting the moon, coordinating with scientists on earth and keeping the escape route back to the planet safe.

Many say he was unknown to the general populace.

I knew his name.

This Byrds song has never left my mind.

One of first stories here was about an Apollo 11 book. I wrote another about a treasure from the William Safire library that had escaped me and then became available early in COVID last year.

I have a signed copy of Collins’ book Carrying the Fire.

Carrying the Fire

Was that the pinnacle of mankind’s unifying achievements?

As a kid, I always wondered why we didn’t keep going all those years ago.

That is clearly our future.

Out there.

Now we have oligarchs picking up the torch.

Sunset Horizon

The Hound of Heaven

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him down the arches of the years;
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears

Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven”

I knew the horizon was there.

It came closer every year.

But I could not see it.

Til now. It is near.

I have always been spiritual.

The Prayer is my mantra in sickness and health;

in success and failure;

in happiness or depression.

I recite it most every night.

If there is a lapse, I apologize for my failure.

I often dedicate my labors to the higher power.

I beg to do good work in that name.

The distance to the horizon?

The number is a dozen I now, believe.

I can see that far and no further.

Twelve. A good number for so many reasons.

Twelve ago was 2009.

I have accomplished so much since then.

On all fronts but one. That front?

Fits and starts and sputtering out. My faults, certainly.

But everything else…not bad.

“Finish strong” has been my goal.

The business of rescuing books has grown immensely in that time.

As others dropped away and no one picked up their standards, I forced Wonder Book’s growth to give shelter to so many that no one else wanted.

It has been a good run.

Last week after my return from California, I sat around an executive table with great builders, engineers, architects and advisors. The two new warehouses are becoming more and more a reality.


The permitting process is so complex and the busy city so far behind, it will be 2022 before ground is broken.

If all the hurdles are cleared.

And if…I am still…

I think we passed the archaeology test. No ancient culture’s ruins on our vacant lot.

(But it would be so cool if we turned up dinosaur bones or such. Cool…and expensive.)

We passed the forestry test, I think. No rare specimen trees on the industrial park parcel that was once pasture land. We may have to plant offsetting trees for the scrub that is cut down—or pay the price of doing it elsewhere. I offered space on the existing property. There are grassy plots.

“We can plant all you want here and here,” I offered, pointing at the vast page of plans.

I am, after all, a Tree Farmer. I have a sign to prove it!

Tree Farm Signs

There are many other hurdles. Approvals. Studies. Permits.

The city has so much going on we can’t be seen again til August.

We must be sure everything is in order then.

If it is passed. And if we build quickly. Maybe by the end of 2022, we can move in and expand to hold more books.

Will that leave eleven or ten?

Ten and then?

2009 was a dozen years ago. It seems so long.

But like a child’s distant Christmas morning, will it suddenly come?

And suddenly done?

Plans and plans and legal forms.

Will anyone want my mountain?

Or will a stranger take it?

Plow and pave and “lawn” the gardens and terraces.

Will the trilliums be obstacles that he erases?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger tyger burning bright,
In the forest of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy dreadful symmetry?

William Blake, “The Tyger”

Ah, it has been a great dozen years. And terrible. And disappointing. And glorious, creative and fruitful.

And barren, sad and lonely.

I guess it goes with the territory.

I must redouble my efforts.

Abandon the hopeless, and focus on multiplying the twelve to seem like a century. Eight and half times twelve.

My books—no eternal library—dispersed to others. Their source unknown.

I, their renter for a while, forgotten.

The horizon nears.

Others young here to take my place when I’ve run my race.


I leave for New Orleans in two weeks. I rescheduled the 2020 trip—COVID canceled.


Because I’ve never been.

And then where?

I am studying the map.

The world is currently small. But countries may open.

Until then, I’ll explore the USA but not in a Chevrolet. And there will always be books involved.

The potted plants are marching out every day. I make no trip to a door empty handed.

All but one survived the winter. One day, I found it deflated.

Some are a little sad, but I think fresh air and brighter light and rain will perk them up.

Are there 50 now? Some are so heavy.

I planted and transplanted a lot last summer and fall. COVID pots.

A couple friends who read these stories sent packages, and I carefully nurtured those warm weather specimens, then potted and brought them indoors before they froze.

Why do I shoulder this burden?

I dunno.

But some are many years old now.

It is a responsibility.

…One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes… It’s the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important… You become responsible for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose…

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

…and tomatoes.

Every comment on last week’s story complimented my brother Tony’s story Tomatoes.

This week, I bought a few dozen tomato and pepper plants. I have prepped the 5 new gardens—created last spring in dead spaces between the yew shrubs at the warehouse. COVID gardens.

I’ll plant them—maybe today.

They are problematic on the mountain—light and wildlife problems.

At the warehouse, they have a south-facing wall behind them, and the sun beats down double on them. They seem to love that.

More gardens. More burdens. More responsibilities.

My favorite Frederick restaurant closes Saturday, May 1. COVID mostly, I understand. I’ve been a half dozen times in the last few weeks.

I went Thursday with an old friend with whom I used to dine weekly. We hadn’t been out for…a long time.

I splurged on champagne.


For that was what we sipped all those times in all those places.

I’ll go one last time Saturday. Maybe a buddy or two will join me.

I don’t like endings.

But every gardener knows that a failure is an opportunity. A space opens up for something new.


Larry brought 167 boxes of LPs.

“All are vintage Country Western. All in great condition. Many still shrink-wrapped.”


“I want a lot of money for them.”


Country Western. It doesn’t sell that well at the stores.

Putting them online is painstakingly slow—meticulous labor.

That would take forever.

Lemons. Golden lemons. Some are worth a lot!

To get to the gems, we need to sort through thousands of rocks—gravel.

‘Think outside the box,’ I think.


Blog Day. What an ugly word—Blog.

It sounds like a bad stew. Gruel.

Maybe it is apt.

We will go to all three stores. We will prepare the stores and the warehouse for weekend work.

The Governor has said masks are no longer needed…outdoors…most of the time…

There will be fallout, I’m sure. Those still frightened vs. those who are tired of it all.

I hope they will all somehow respect each other’s feelings.

What will I do this weekend?

Maybe I’ll get into someone’s collection of Rex Beach first editions?

Rex Beach First Editions

Anyone? …LOL

I had the bright idea to clean up and organize the Books by the Foot Vintage Rooms.

“Put all the religious ex-libs on carts for me to look at.”

Religious Ex-Library Books

(These will never sell to decorators. 2 strikes against them. Library markings and politically incorrect subject matter.)

“What was I thinking?! Hmmmm…think outside the box…”

And I have all the pallets of rare books from St Elizabeth’s to get into…


May 1.


The first day of the first month of my countdown.

Then tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will creep at a petty pace…

This past week—the last week of the old life—has been carts.

Almost exclusively. Carts. Carts. Carts.

Carts of books and things.

Is that the best use of my time?

I wrote this story this week? Worth doing?

Beginning the day this blog gets publicly posted:

144 months. A gross of months.

4300-something days.

Will I do good work? Will I look back and say I have done worthwhile things?

That is my goal.

One book. One collection. One trip. One garden. One day…at a time.

I will go to Le Parc Bistro to close it up Saturday night.

Eat. Drink. And be merry…for tomorrow…

And tomorrow…

One last time.

I spent many happy hours there. Good times with friends of all kinds.

And often alone.

I spent too many Happy Hours there pre-COVID.

No more happy hours.


14 Comments on Article

  1. Norv commented on

    Oh to hear George Carlin get ahold of BLOG!

    If you see this soon enough, a silent toast (verbal at your option) to Manyuk (spelling?) and Jennifer on Saturday if you please. I miss that place. Sad to see in recent pictures that the flags were removed, notably the Oklahoma flag above the former booths at the front windows.

    Sincerest condolences. Tony waited for you. Sibling love endures.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      I think it was Manayunk (?).
      I think Jennifer took the flags down in favor of Irish material?
      But it was a long time ago.
      I did toast last night. A delicious last meal. I ordered an extra to take home!
      Thanks for reading and writing!

  2. Joshua commented on

    The Hound and The Tyger in one post, amen! Maybe some find library marking to be a downside but I find that they are just a part of the history of a book, I may even attempt to take some of those religious books of your hands as I have with so many others!

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you Joshua!
      Email me if you find a lot and I can try to give you a deal.
      Most came from an Ohio monastery.
      A bunch are already added.
      Search Catholic as a keyword in the Collectors Corner on the site.
      Email w questions of if you need help!
      Thank you for writing and reading.
      It has been a few weeks of deep reflection.

  3. Gary Fowler commented on

    Thanks again, Chuck, for your blog and your openness. This time some of your reflections were personal for me, too. I’m 70 and so also may have about a dozen years remaining. Have I done enough? What more can I do? And what becomes of my finished and unfinished projects, my “life work” both in and beyond employment? I believe I’ve been a good steward of my opportunities, and so have left a legacy with or without my name attached. I am sure the same is true of your years, activities, and efforts. Well done, good and faithful servant.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Those are great thoughts Gary.
      I appreciate your sharing them.
      My brother Tony told me long ago when I was stressing-melting down over a health concern.
      “You do what you gotta do”
      Thank you for reading and writing!

  4. Richard commented on


    Have not commented in awhile. Don’t really have anything to say. But I still read each week, now on Sat rather than Fri. Favorite line: ‘They are faerie mines’. Beginning to travel again – next week cross off the only state I’ve never been to.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you Richard.
      Great to hear from you!
      I hope you post a pic of your trip on IG.
      There are a lot of states I have never been to.
      Next week I can cross off La.

  5. Susan Kavanagh commented on

    Your blog is definitely worth doing. Being a bookseller is so interesting and you give your followers a good peek inside your world.

    I have a question about the four books pictured above. I know you just put them together and took a photo. What section of your stores would hold books that are similar? My daughter, an instagrammer, collects children’s illustrated books.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you Susan!
      Your comments are heartening!
      No images came through. I’ll email you so you have my address.
      Can you resend them there?

  6. Lauren Baker commented on

    Just want to add my condolences on your loss. I found a poem you might appreciate called “Mourning for Hokuju Rosen” by Buson. I want to thank you for Parnassus and The Haunted Bookshop. Both were wonderful but I liked Parnassus the best.

    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      Thank you Lauren.
      I really appreciate your words.
      I agree! Parnassus is fast and clean. Haunted gets a little preachy.

  7. Ted Trambley commented on

    I enjoyed the recap of your California trip. It reminded me that Laurelle had moved into new space for Swan’s Fine Books. She had closed prior to COVID. I made a visit and purchased a book. Thanks for the tip and I enjoy the blog. Keep up the good work


    1. Charles Roberts replied on

      That is great Ted!
      Laurelle has such beautiful stock and most of it is not online!
      Thank you for reading the story and taking time to write!

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