This bookstore tour – and we are only one week in – could be its own book. How to capture the highlights/lowlights, the people, the impressions and the reflections?

The traveling bookstore has a new look. The Sprinter van is sitting home, waiting for my return and a discussion with the mechanics about what can be done. So currently the bookstore does its traveling in a Subaru Crosstrek, then pops out of the car in all its glory. It took Yvetta (co-traveler on this tour) and me a few days to figure it out. Actually it took a rather large and very gracious committee to figure it out. Matthew of Beyond Graphics emailed a file of the bookstore’s logo to Marla in Bozeman. By the time we reached Bozeman (our first stop on the tour), Marla had two large signs made for us!

Bookstore at Constellation Studios

That first gig (Bozeman) happened on a blustery day with wind blowing, temps low, and occasional snow. The books had been packed and thus displayed in cardboard boxes which weren’t looking as though they would survive a month on the road. That’s when Oskar came by, immediately saw the problem, went back home and returned in twenty minutes with plastic milk crates which help immeasurably. By the time we pulled into Casper, WY for the second gig, we felt we were doing better except it was still a challenge to balance all the books, crates and boxes on one table, and not a very large table as it needs to fit in the Subaru. So we expanded our children’s book section to the ground with drop cloths and a pillow.

Third gig was at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and we felt we were rocking it. The kind folks there lent us a second table so we had fiction, nonfiction and children’s books all neatly divided and enough room for students to enjoy perusing our selections. It was an incredible event sponsored by the UPC. So many young people got books during that day, we nearly ran out! Their enthusiasm for reading was truly inspiring. We closed early to restock – checking out thrift stores and putting out the word to everyone possible who might have books to donate.

As often happens with this traveling bookstore venture, I am at a loss for words how to capture it. There we are sourcing books in any way possible, and selling them. And not only getting books donated, but getting help in all sorts of ways. Besides the university, MAP Brewery in Bozeman, Backwards Distillery in Casper, and Constellation Studios in Lincoln, NE provided space for us to set up. We arrived in Arkansas yesterday, and already folks here are pitching in. Debby found a popup tent we can borrow if needed. The public library in Lincoln offered to let us set up inside the library to avoid possible rain. The people managing the Eureka Springs Community Center also offered to have us set up inside (looks like three solid days of rain in the region).

Quote from Barry Lopez exhibit at Sheldon Museum, NE

Folks we are staying with in Canehill, Arkansas introduced Yvetta to gumbo and cornbread for dinner. In Lincoln, NE, we had a delicious Ethiopian meal (another first for Yvetta). In Bozeman, our hosts fixed us lasagna after that very challenging first day on the road in the snow without the van. A fortifying meal that helped carry us forward. And the conversations! Art, the environment, politics, literature and, of course, place. We stayed with an individual whose family has lived in Montana for seven generations. And Lincoln, NE is a sanctuary city so there are wonderful individuals from all over the world. We spoke with people who are actively engaged in trying to make their community safe and welcoming. A young student at the university selected a book on Japanese culture. I thought perhaps he was an international studies major – but no, he is studying engineering. He told me learning about other cultures is interesting for him, and also gives him insight on himself.

The tour gives me hope people are caring, thoughtful and willing to reach out to others. Even as I hear the dismal news about the Montana legislature barring Zooey Zephyr, read about various groups trying to ban books, or how some people want to overturn environmental protection, there are individuals we are meeting on this trip who give me hope. Now I need to learn how to use these experiences to do more in my life, with my words.


Quilting words

It is a slow season for a traveling bookstore in northwest Montana. The snow is starting to settle in and the pandemic has settled heavily in these parts as well. So the bookstore is parked. Occasionally locals stop by and I put a bag of books together for them. It is a very good season to be reading.

Besides my own reading, there is also quilting. Some years back, I began going to a group that meets every Friday to hand quilt in an old schoolhouse. Their efforts bring in funds to support the local museum. Not a person who sews by nature, I mostly wanted to be with these women who knew the history of the valley and who lead by example. They told me I needed to quilt if I was going to hang with them on Fridays so gradually I learned how to make small(ish) stitches, how to attach quilt layers to a frame.

stretching back of quilt on frame

This year in an attempt to make the physical and mental adjustments to Covid, I began creating three quilts. For me, quilting is collaboration. There really isn’t any way to imagine doing it alone. I asked people for fabric, I asked for gloves – as the one quilt features gloves and how our sense of touching others changed during these times. For another quilt, I wanted faces so a friend, Shirley Jacobs, began helping me produce wood block portraits of twenty individuals who passed away over the last six months. Another friend who is a remarkable quilter helped us piece the portrait quilt together. And this week, the women began the process of putting it on the frame to quilt.


Thinking about this and the wonderful children’s books available about quilts, I decided to put together a list just in case you need ideas for holiday shopping. Of course, you can order any of these from independent bookstores.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco

Quiltmaker’s Gift by J. Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson

Quilt Story by Tony Johnson and Tomie de Paola

Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin