Where to begin? The traveling bookstore rolled into Missoula for the Montana Book Festival. An exciting weekend with fascinating panel discussions, a wide range of readings, even some music. Fellow vendors at the Florence building were a delight to talk with and to explore their wares – books, zines, literary postcards and pins. I don’t think the beverage provided by Whiskey Tit influenced me too much on Saturday. I certainly recommend their selection of books which are well designed and offer an intense read. Hope to travel with these folks some day providing a traveling bookstore for their author readings. Far Country Press was also at the Montana Book Festival which had Lincoln County’s very own Bernice Ende‘s book, ‘Lady Long Rider.’
Yes, the weather was chilly and quite windy. The bookstore’s sandwich board blew over so many times, I finally put it away. As it is difficult to be a bookseller wearing gloves, I came home with chapped hands. But this is a very small grumble compared to the individuals I met and the ideas that flowed standing on N. Higgins Ave in the autumnal gusts.
As the Book Festival began Thursday, by Friday when we were well under way, it was also when the Kavanaugh hearings gripped many people’s attention. For myself, I wondered what more I could be doing then being an itinerant bookseller set up on the street. Our country seems to be seriously slipping into a dark realm I don’t recognize. As a nation, do we no longer champion respect for others, active listening, and women’s rights? Even as the hearings held everyone’s attention, there are still thousands of unrepresented children in detention centers, a national debt that is skyrocketing and a president who doesn’t believe in globalization in the 21st century.
I began asking customers (if they seemed likely to pause a bit in their shopping), what they were doing in these challenging times. A man who thoroughly enjoys books and works for a firm that helped sponsor the Book Festival, told me about the volunteer work he did with young people in his community. A woman carrying Kathleen Williams signs empathized with me and pointed out the need to stay strong. She is involved in local voter registration.
Then there was a boy who is currently homeless searching for a book on homesteading. I didn’t have one available that day so he got a book on growing vegetables. His hand was bandaged from fighting. I wondered what besides books was an answer. A woman in very light pants, sweatshirt and no socks stopped by. She asked for cash to buy winter clothes. A customer who happened to be taking a picture of the bookstore at that moment, gave her a contribution. An Australian photographer stopped at the bookstore. He is doing a project on faces in Montana. I asked how he could even begin to capture the essence of this state unless he took a million photos. I feel even three days in Missoula presented too many individuals for me to grasp.
There were state queens from the SUPER Mrs Pageant, a poet from southern California, a man elegantly attired who spoke of places he had lived all over the world and how he came to be in Missoula on that particular afternoon. Students from the university stopped by, some of the wonderful people connected with Humanities Montana, friends from Eureka in town for their son’s track meet, and an individual with a great smile who told me I was ‘living the dream.’ When he said that, I wasn’t sure how to respond.