Thankful for books found

Doing a long-distance trip by train, stopping in various places to see friends along the way. And stopping in various places also means bookstores and other wonders. Shirley and I started out on Amtrak from the Whitefish, MT station and in that lobby was a display with books priced at a dollar a piece, the honor system. And a surprisingly good selection of titles. Pleased to see a train rider pick up a book, leave a dollar and then put a book on the rack that he must have finished reading. Sort of like a Little Free Library with a small fee added on. I suppose an Almost Free Library. Then on a dark, cold, wintry Montana night we got on the train heading west. Let the adventures begin!

The next day, we had three hours between trains in Portland, OR so walked over to Powells. Always a bit overwhelming for this rural Montana woman, but despite the store’s size and the crowds, both Shirley and I came away with a couple new volumes each. The next stop for us on the trip was Oakland, CA. The weather was delightfully warm with a blue sky above, and daffodils and magnolias blooming. We wandered down College Ave in bliss, not worrying about slipping on ice or losing hats-mittens-scarves. Got to spend time at Pegasus Books whose size was easier for us to relax in. We told ourselves that our luggage was already a good weight and we really didn’t need any more books but, of course, there were a few books that we each felt compelled to buy. What a wonderful children’s books selection! And on our way walking back to Melissa’s house, came across those boxes people put out by the curb here with free items. And yes, there was “Canada” by Richard Ford which I hadn’t read yet and do like Ford’s writing.

The next day we took the ferry over to San Francisco. Steve met us when we landed. I believe this is the best possible way to enter the city. Our first stop was Caffe Trieste for coffee and catching up (and sampling their pastries). From there, we began ambling down to City Lights. We were just about to cross Columbus Avenue when we saw books flying in the air above us. What a feeling of total amazement – and fortunately we didn’t pause in the middle of the street! Language of the Birds* I do so hope you get to experience this someday.

And yes, we did make it to City Lights (and bought a few books because the titles spoke to us). And then a drive with Steve out to the Presidio to visit Arion Press and the Grabhorn Institute. Oh my. Walking through large rooms filled with incredibly beautiful books, handprinted and lovingly bound. Another moment that I had to just stand there, breathe in the air and count my blessings. We were the only ones there so it felt as though it was a private showing. Shirley and I lusted after the old cabinets for storing papers, and the cases of type. If you happen to be in the area, they give a tour of their working space once a month.

Then to lunch and more stops. Today visiting the Berkeley Art Museum, having conversations with friends here and some pie at Lois’s. Tomorrow back on the train, taking the California Zephyr to Chicago and then on to Detroit. No doubt there will be more surprises – and books – along the way.

*The Language of the Birds reminded me of the short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.


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