In these times, for me, its an attempt to find a balance between feeling productive and taking a breath, between sending love to those who struggle, to all those heroes who are helping as well as to acknowledge the dark, raging turmoil I feel towards those who make this situation worse. Is it possible to read too much when I could be sewing more face masks to give to people? Should I take a device-free day to avoid the news but then what about staying in much needed contact with family and friends? We are urged to make a daily schedule and we are urged to relax, to use this time to be creative and to cut ourselves slack.

Yes, the bookstore storage/garage and the van itself are organized and just waiting for the pall to lift. Jana who was quarantined at my house for two weeks was a big part of that organization. Left on my own now I wander like an easily distracted school kid from an art project to reading to sewing masks to the computer to reading to the computer to fiddle practice to attempting to exercise to…If there was an app tracking my activities, the results would be a Jackson Pollock painting.

My current book pile is similar. A Georgia O’Keefe biography, Charles Portis’ The Dog of the South, essays by Wendell Berry, Flights by Olga Tokarczuk, short stories by Brian Doyle, and Rebecca Salter’s Japanese Woodblock Printing. And yes, there are times when I go through that pile and realize none are quite right for the moment and start yet another one. Actually I am not quite sure what would be right for this moment.

Despite uncertainly, fear and anger, there is also amazement at how my community comes together, at individuals creating wonderful art in so many different ways, at people reaching out to others even if that reaching needs to sometimes be done virtually. It makes my heart sing to see colleagues like Raven Books in Kansas and Page 158 Books in North Carolina doing remarkable things to keep books in people’s hands. And I am so appreciative of women in my town who sew face masks better and faster than I will ever manage.


Checking in from the road

The twenty-first day of the tour; 3,741 miles so far.  Thirteen events in six states.  Many new people and some remarkable conversations.  Stayed with good friends along the way and so appreciate their hospitality: Addie’s room with her amazing art, Tama’s dog Scout, Sarah’s delicious breakfast, Bill and Mary sharing their new home which they had barely moved into, Tom (West Virginia) appreciative when we brought out the Buffalo Trace bourbon we had chanced upon in Illinois, Dawn letting us do laundry while we sat over dinner. A friend from college days drove to Morgantown from Annapolis to see the bookstore 4DF90BE4-8EC2-4BB4-8D6B-76A896AAB5B4in motion.  Thirty-four years to catch up on while standing in the rain there and finally moved to a diner to share past, present, future. People throw out questions I don’t know how to answer: what’s the goal of the traveling bookstore? Is it successful? How long do I plan to do this?

The bookstore does well navigating steep hills, mountain passes, tight urban spaces. When it seems the inventory is dangerously low, people drop off bags of books that turn out to be exactly what is needed.  When business is slow so disappointment starts to creep in, someone shows up and in delight buys numerous books they had been looking for.  Or I lament we aren’t getting enough young customers and suddenly there are so many kids wanting to look at books, try out the typewriter that a line forms.

And those wonderful bookstore owners met along the way and we instantly bond. Page 158 Books and the Battery Park Book Exchange come to mind.  And other places we hadn’t expected but found when hungry or just in need of coffee.  Or the Rhiannon Giddens concert we were fortunate enough to attend in Raleigh.  Now in Dayton ready to cross the miles to Sheridan where the bookstore sets up on April 20.  But first a moment to reflect on the richness of this adventure and enjoy a snow-free morning.