there are so many

There are places. There are books – those read and those to be read. There are people. And as you can imagine on a bookstore tour of this length, there are many people. Ideally I would have a free day after every bookstore event to note down at least a bit about each person I speak with. But it doesn’t work that way and so there are scribbled notes in my pocket, individuals I think about while driving, a business card someone gave me. Here is a small sampling because although I am completely enamored with books and reading, people are a vital part of why I do the bookstore. I wish I could write about everyone I meet along the way. I wish I could write about you.

Crete Creative Gallery

Tony. The bookstore set up in front of Luminous Brewhouse in Sheridan. A woman with three children and the woman’s mother crowd inside pulling children’s books off the shelves, the mother setting book-buying limits, the grandmother asking how I ever started this unusual business. And Tony walked up, noticed the chaos inside the bookstore. We started talking about Mihaly Csikszentmihaly‘s flow, about veterans hospitals, about real books and e-books. He mentioned having hundreds of books on his phone. I winced. But can you lend a friend a book if it is on your phone? We talked about balance. I took a deep breath.

Al. A tall thin man in an old green station wagon drove slowly pass the bookstore when it was set up in the parking lot of Jambonz Grill in Sturgis. He turned his car around, came back, parked next to the bookstore, unfolded himself from the car and asked, “What is this?” Turned out Al was a book dealer. He took books to shows all over the region, told me that gun shows were the best if you had the right books. After we talked for a while about books, bookselling and politics, he looked through my paltry inventory (compared to his) and found a couple volumes. Then he left promising to come back. A half hour later he did, with two boxes of books to donate, books he felt suited my bookstore but weren’t selling in his business. We talked some more.

Iowa City, Iowa. A dark rainy morning. Street construction. A tiny parking lot. I settle the van and go inside Hamburg Inn No. 2 for a great breakfast of pumpkin pancakes. Seth introduces himself. We had corresponded when I planned the stops on this trip. We talk about the restaurant which is famous in these parts. We talk about the traveling bookstore business. Later when I am outside and the rain has let up, Seth comes out to check how things are going, as though he is my guardian angel on this dreary morning. Customers eventually stop by the bookstore. The lunch crowd shows up at the restaurant. It was a very good day all around.

I never got her name. Stopping in Kadoka, South Dakota to mail letters, I asked the postal worker where I might get a cup of coffee. He pointed to Pocketful of Posies, the florist shop across the street so I went over there. The woman apologized when I walked in for the buckets of flowers everywhere. There were two funerals coming up. She made me coffee. She let me use her restroom. She told me about the young girl who had been hit by a car. About the older man who had died. She never stopped moving, arranging flowers, answering the phone, talking with two men who came in to drop some metal pieces off for the display that would honor their friend.

Deb retired after years working at a university in Rock Island, Illinois. She then embraced volunteering in a wondrous way. She is learning so much about art as a docent at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. She mesmerized me with stories about the current Mia Feuer exhibit, about how a particular piece of art was constructed, about another artist’s life. She also volunteers with a local hospice. She learned to knit so as she sits with people, she creates a calm rhythm. Often I encourage people to volunteer as a way of helping their community. Deb discovered another reason to volunteer – to continue to grow.

Tides of books

They come and they go.  Last week when I got home after a long day, someone (no note to indicate who) had left eight boxes of books piled in my living room. My first reaction was dismay at having to schlep the boxes into the garage but I quickly smiled at such a bountiful gift.  And the boxes contained such treasures: Ivan Doig’s Dancing at the Rascal Fair and anIMG_4462 amazing children’s book, The Three Questions by Jon Murth. And yes, this is part of the business model of this particular traveling bookstore.  Books come to me seemingly out of nowhere.  And then I try to get them to the right people.

Sometimes there are transactions that supersede books. The man who traded  homegrown organic garlic for a book.  The woman who in exchange for a children’s book gave me a complete set of Mozart CDs . Regardless if it is books left on my doorstep or trades with non-book items, the books come and go.  The bookstore stays stocked as it travels to the farmers market or a summer festival or just to open its doors in someone’s driveway for a small gathering.  The amazement is that the cyclic nature continues and seemingly without too much effort.  A box of books appear, I sort through them, put a few on the shelves and the next day someone picks up one of those very books and says, “This is exactly what I was looking for!” The garlic gets used in an Italian recipe for dinner guests. The CDs are taken along as an item to sell at the Yaak Music Festival.

There is a sense within all of this that reminds me of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s flow.  Its effortless but full.  Dare I say it requires right intention? Or really no intention but gratitude for the books (and garlic) that appear and the readers who discover the books they need.