Thinking about a time before

Imagine a world before the horror and reality of World War II lodged in every person’s consciousness, where a horse’s snorting wicker was part of everyday noise, and a real treat was a fresh-picked apple.

I’m reading Dorothy Sayers’ Have His Carcase, a Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane mystery. The book was published in the 1930’s, and it’s set in a British resort town, Wilvercombe. At the beginning of the book, Harriet discovers a corpse on the beach, and she searches for a way to let the authorities know before the tide comes in and floats the body away.

She climbs to the road and runs from farm to farm, but no one, yet, has a telephone hooked up. The vehicles that pass her as she makes her frantic search are as often horse-driven as motor-powered.

It’s a time when the technology has been tested and approved but not adopted. What a leap from that decade to the one we inhabit, when any event is captured in a video on a cell phone. The tragedy Harriet discovered in fictional 1930 England would have been resolved entirely differently in 2014 United States. Authorities would have been summoned immediately. DNA testing would have established and ruled out a number of suspicious folks who just happened to be around the scene. The body would never have floated out to sea, and experts would have quickly determined if the wound was self-inflicted or if the victim had died at someone else’s hand.

Of course, the right answer floats to the top in the book, thanks to the wits and skill of Lord Peter and Harriet, but the solution requires a long and thoughtful process, and a lot of fatiguing footwork.

Dance clubs play a big part in this story, and I’m reading about a dance club here in town, The Hawthorne, where Eva Prout Geiger was hostess during the 1930’s. Geiger planned entertainments and welcomed guests; her husband acted as master of ceremonies. With their strong fresh ties to vaudeville, they no doubt arranged for stunning acts.

My friend Susan’s mother remembers going to the Hawthorne as a young teen. It was very exclusive, she told Susan, and it was a big deal to be invited.

I try to think of a modern day equivalent. What invitation would give us the same kind of thrill as being invited to a dance at that very select club?

PBS airs a preview of a series about the Roosevelts, and the 1930’s are pivotal. The Depression is crippling the United States. FDR is surmounting his physical challenges and rising to a point where the presidency is within his reach. My mother is a pre-teen in a Fresh Air camp, and one of their distinguished visitors is Eleanor Roosevelt.

FDR initiates programs that try to bring electricity to the farflung rural districts, to get people on remote farms access to a telephone.

It seems to me a time of struggle, in the shadow of Hitler’s rise and a conflict and a thirst for power that will change everything, the whole world over. When I think about the 1930’s, I realize it was one of those decades that draw a thick black line between one kind of life and the possibility of ever living that way again.

Less than 100 years have passed, but what changes we’ve seen. Now the outlying areas in my corner of Appalachian Ohio are struggling to get access to high speed Internet, and our education is shaped or hampered by this access. We are connected, connected, connected–there is seldom a time when an electronic device is not handy and streaming our information onto that electronic highway.

Now, it happens that we might see a horse and rider on a country road, but it’s a fun oddity.

And yet…the farmers’ market is a bustling place, where we stop at stalls to talk with growers, caught by the beauty of a jumble of red, yellow, and green peppers, the regal purple shine of eggplant, the waxy, ‘touch-me’ skins of yellow squash. We shop, seduced and entranced by the freshness and beauty of the produce, grown in ways very similar to those of the 1930’s. We stop and talk with people we know, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends. We line up for a freshly fried doughnut and a cup of just brewed coffee, and we amble.

And–although our smart phones may buzz in our pockets, and one of the young people we talk with may have an interesting facial piercing and magenta hair–the scene cannot be that different from what our parents and grandparents experienced and enjoyed in the 1930’s. There’s something we need here, something we search for,–something that keeps the deeper connection, to the land, and the food, and the people who produce it, alive.

Technologically, we’ve come a long way since my Lord Peter book was published in the United States in 1932. I think of my parents, children in a time before World War II, and I try to imagine what it would be like to grow up without the knowledge of that cataclysmic war in our consciousness from birth. Good changes have come–advances in medicine and adaptive technology and education, surges forward in understanding and acceptance of differences, whatever they may be–but it seems to me that something fundamental, something more openly acknowledged in 1930, is still alive within us.

On early Saturday mornings, when I don’t have to work, I head to the farmers’ market at the fairgrounds. I finger the dollar bills in the pocket of my jeans, and I carefully circuit the stalls before committing–green beans, tiny waxy white onions, little red-skinned potatoes with the morning’s dirt still clinging. I cannot resist a clutch of sunflowers. I see a fellow club member; we stop and examine each other’s purchase, and we talk about recipes and relative merits of boiling, broasting, and grilling.

Then I get in the car and check my phone, roll up the windows, and crank up the AC. My sunflowers rest on the seat beside me as I peel away, back to my 2014 reality. But the respite, the window, the time spent contemplating the fruits of the earth, connect me to those earlier days and to something fundamental. I suspect those who lived through the 1930’s would not particularly call that time a decade of innocence, but it was the last time, maybe, that those fundamentals were an ordinary part of life.

Today, we search them out.

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Of Artists and Thunderstorms and Dogs That Whine in the Night

There is a price you pay for being the best-loved. The little dog’s hot breath sears my ear; her panting turns into ululation. There is no sleeping now. We’ve got ourselves a thunderstorm and a dog in full panic mode.

I flail out of bed, wondering how Mark can think I’m even a tiny bit fooled by his pretense at sleeping, and stomp downstairs. No longer have I the slightest doubt where the expression “dogged my heels” comes from. The little dog’s head stays one scant inch from my ankle as we wander into the kitchen. I put the tea kettle on; she’s with me. I get my tea mug–the one with the Carolina pine and the crescent moon– out, unwrap the tea bag, pince out a spoon, and grab a saucer. The dog moves when I do, panting.

There are worse things than being up in a quiet house, panting dog quaking at my feet. At the dining room table, I set up my IPad in its clever little keyboard stand. I check my email, clean out an inbox, read some linked articles. I sit facing the bay window; the other window is to my right. Lightening flares and both windows brighten. The dog moans, and thunder follows.

It’s quiet, and in the quiet, I begin to pick out sounds, kind of like picking out threads when embroidery goes wrong. The refrigerator soughs. I realize a train’s horn is wailing mournfully in the distance. The air conditioning considers, then shudders, and shuts down.

The rain begins abruptly, pelting and pummeling.

It’s a pretty noisy brand of quiet, now I think of it.

I’m reading Nancy Horan’s new book, Under the Wide and Starry Sky, about the romance between Robert Louis Stevenson, a Scot, and the American Fanny Osbourne. She flees a whoring husband; he strides away from a sickly childhood. They collide in France and fall in love after a fitful start. She has children; she has a husband back in the States; he’s impoverished. She is ten years older. Life-tides separate them.

And then Stevenson plunges after her.

They’re artists, and I think about that, how artists just go after the thing that they need, without doubting or contemplating. They just–thank you, Nike, — do it.

Sigh. My soul, although it salutes the ethereal, is rooted in the practical. I think of the adjunct faculty member who sat in front of my desk and called me a bureaucrat, adding thoughtfully, after a pause that took entirely too long, “No offense.”

I hustled him out of my office–although he was more than willing to stay and argue his point–and spent the next two days arguing with him in my head. “Sure I have to insist that you do your paperwork, Bucko,” I silently told him, “because without the paperwork, there’s no money. And without the money, you don’t get paid, and if you don’t get paid, you don’t teach. And without the faculty, the students don’t grow. And it’s all about the students and what doors we can open, isn’t it? And if that makes me a bureaucrat, well, then, Buddy, so be it.”

I finish, silently and singly, with a majestic flourish, making a point so devastating none can argue with it. And the words circle the brain drain and flush, never to be uttered. Not that they’d have made an impact or changed a mind anyway.

Bureaucrat? Bourgeoisie? Middle manager? Ah well. For years I wanted to want to be an artist, but the truth is, I love the whole process of getting a thing done, of planning and collaborating and implementing and seeing a project through to its fruition. And then making the participants do an evaluation survey, and collating the data and sharing it.

I would not, as Stevenson does, throw everything into the one last chance–all my money, all my emotion, all my relationships and opportunities. I would keep a little something aside, have a bit just in case the endeavor flopped, belly up and dripping, despite the grand passion.

That’s not such a bad thing, I’ve come to see, and it’s good that I feel that way, because it is who I am, cautious and restrained, but admiring of grand gestures. And it’s fun to read about the poets and the painters, the wordsmiths and the musicians whose whole lives are wrapped up in the pure pursuit of artistic ideal. I can appreciate their work, and I can stand astounded at the prices they paid for their amazing achievements. But I will always have an extra loaf of bread in the freezer and enough toilet paper stockpiled to last out a Buffalo-style blizzard.

My mind has wandered far from the book, from Stevenson climbing onto a steamer to go to California and rescue Fanny. It’s wandered far from the annoying dog and the noisy storm. I realize that the rain has stopped, the thunder ceased. The dog, snoring by my left foot, has relaxed into a gassy torpor. The room’s a little blue; my tea is gone, and it’s time to sleep, for real.

The dog will follow me upstairs where she’ll circle her bed and sigh and fling herself back to sleep. I’ll crawl under the covers and answer Mark’s “Hmmm? Whuh? Everything Okay?” with a mighty and persecuted ‘Hmmph!” The house will settle into that after-storm hush, and I’ll drift out to sleep, regretting the late night tea, but too lazy to get up and do anything about it. The thunderstorm, like a grand passion, is mighty and awe-inspiring to witness. But the best part is the cool and calm of the aftermath, the sense of refuge and safety, as sleep comes to claim me.

Meditation and Remembering

I have arrived at the ‘practice’ part of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Coming to Our Senses. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long to move through this book; Kabat-Zinn’s thoughtful essays on touch and smell, air and skin, have made me think, made me listen, made me appreciate.

But it’s still slow-going, and I still reward myself for every reading by treating myself to a good dose of story.

But now: it’s get cracking time.

The first exercise in the ‘practice’ section is lying-down meditation. Kabat-Zinn proposes several different ways of going about this; he calls it falling awake, and recommends doing it last thing at night, first thing in the morning. He cautions against the possibility of drifting into sleep, warning that this may be an overwhelming temptation. This, like any art worth pursuing, will take work, he warns.

So. Last night: I stretch out in bed, arms at my sides, toes pointing to opposite walls, and I listen. Mark’s C-Pap machine whooshes gently and rhythmically. The dog is snoring. The air conditioning thrums. There is a creak as my son gets up to use the bathroom.

There is a creak as Mark gets up to shower; it’s suddenly 5:30 AM.

Ah, well. I will start my morning by falling awake. I stretch out again, arms at my sides, feet pointing toward opposite walls, and I listen. A bird is calling ‘Shoodie shoodie shoodie.’ The dog sighs and rustles.

I wake up when I hear Mark’s shower stop at 6 AM.

Ah well. Only one night’s attempt; more to come. I am sure that I will learn to break through to ‘falling awake’ sometime soon.

In the meantime, though, I have to confess to feeling nicely, nicely rested.

*************

I have almost finished Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season, a basketball memoir. The tricky relationship between memory and perception compel my reading. Throughout the book, Conroy tells us what a hack he was on the court, a mediocre, workhorse kind of a player. I think he is convinced of the truth of that. I think he’s a really humble guy.

But the facts he relates as he takes us to his ballgames–and I can see the games, hear the crowds, feel the tension; this is good writing–don’t add up for me. I think Conroy was a great player; the game results agree. The journalists he quotes agree.

Why, I wonder, doesn’t Conroy remember it that way?

I think about little triumphs I’ve experienced, and I understand. I don’t remember the plain, unpeeled event; I remember what it felt like from the flannel-y interior of my own head. I didn’t just embrace the good news. I brought to it a whole heap of baggage; my hands, and arms, were full. So I remember the fact that my mother was shocked to hear of my promotion, that the plumbing chose that particular day to break, that the little triumph occurred in the shadow of the tragic death of a dear friend. There is a swirl of detail swathing the core event; it becomes not a single, pure happening, but part of a bouquet.

And not everything in that bouquet smells sweet.

So, as I read Conroy’s memoir, I am sad that his glorious court days were tainted with the scorn and insecurity of cruel men who couldn’t bite off a word of hard-earned praise. I feel his need to be responsible, this boy-man who had been his mother’s and his siblings’ protector from the random violence of their erratic Marine. His basketball accomplishments are wrapped in woolly worry, but every once in a while, the absolute joy of being on that court when everything clicks breaks through. Conroy sees and he shows us, in sweet, simple prose, what it looks like when a team IS a team.

It can’t, of course, be sustained constantly or indefinitely, that synchronization; time forges ahead, the rhythm breaks, spirits breaks under the coach’s abuse, the team members grow. Eventually, Conroy himself leaves the college court for the last time, leaving behind a new team, a different team. And he goes on to create a tremendously successful life.

But in an imaginary meeting he writes about, when he greets and talks to a fictional character, Conroy tells the boy his life has not turned out well. It makes me sad. A writer of renown, a man who spills his ideals onto the page, who writes of honor and respect, of family and friendship, does not (at least in this writing) feel accomplished. He does not feel joy or pride.

How do we take the memories out and unwrap them, removing the aged cotton batting and letting them shine in the light? How do we take the goodness from our past and remove from it the lingering shreds that taint it?

Conroy has done his readers the great honor of allowing them to follow as he worked out the unwarranted brutality of his childhood in his writing. I hope that he has reached a place of satisfaction; I hope that he can say to himself:

“I was a damn fine player.”

“I wrote a damned fine book.”

“I made the world a little bit better because I worked hard to contribute.”

Wallace Stegner: Angle of Repose (1971, Penguin Books)

How much can be forgiven?

This is my second Wallace Stegner book; in Crossing to Safety (1987) he explores friendship and the balance of power in that relationship. In Angle of Repose, it’s the marriage relationship that he explores.

The narrator takes us on an exploration of his grandmother’s life–she, Susan Burling, was a gifted east coast artist and illustrator who unexpectedly throws in her lot with a mining engineer, Oliver Ward. His work on frontier mines in the late 1800’s takes them to desolate places in all parts of the West. He shows his devotion by preparing homes for her; she shows hers by staying, bearing children, creating a space that welcomes visitors, creating a place for talk and ideas to flow.

But they are never perfectly suited, and the inevitable comes crashing into their lives, and with it a tragedy, a loss that no one speaks of after it happens.

The couple stays together until old age–but at what cost? Are there things that just can’t be forgiven?

The narrator confronts this question in his own life; we think he is not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Written and set in 1970-ish California, the setting and tone evoke that age so well. The adults are confused and bruised by the changes they’re living through; young people are flailing through uncharted shoals. It’s hard going for one character here, especially; I cringe as she makes choices I’d like her to rethink. Even so, I bow to her courage in trying to create a path where none exists.

****************

Just as I was beginning Angle of Repose, I found Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow Cookbook at an Earth Day event. I discovered Taber’s books long ago on a forage through a library’s shelves; she writes about everyday life in a way that celebrates and elevates it. I love her quiet memoirs, and so I was happy to buy her cookbook.

In it, oddly, I learned that Taber’s father, like Oliver Ward in Angle, was a mining engineer, and that she, like the characters in Stegner’s book lived in various parts of the US West and Mexico. Both women–the fictional Susan, the real-life Gladys,–seem to have weathered huge changes in their lives, definitive endings–and worked their ways through to acceptance. Taber’s writing is joyful, I think; I’m not sure the character of Susan Burling ever reached joy. But both women, the real and the created, fiercely demonstrate the importance of family–an interesting, interesting juxtaposition of reads.

Scapes in Kabat-Zinn

Middle of the night awakening, and tired, I cannot seem to still my thoughts and sleep. Then I remember Jon Kabat-Zinn’s discussion of the ‘soundscape’ in which we are immersed and I turn off my thoughts for a minute just to listen. I sink into sound; the deeper I go, the more aware I become of levels and layers of sounds and rhythms in the mid-night world.

And then the alarm is thrumming and it’s time to rise.

I walk the dog in the early morning and the air is cool and light against my skin. I think of Kabat-Zinn’s discussion of airscape–of swimming in air. “Myself,” he writes, “I am currently having an on-again, off-again love affair with the air. When I remember, the affair is on. When I forget, it is off again until the air itself re-minds me and re-bodies me.”

I try, this week, to stay in the ‘remember’ zone.

Coming to Our Senses: Simultaneous sensing—and a slave owner turns infamous abolitionist

Perplexity came to her from the beast. “What is this dark? What is this light? We do not understand. Your father and the boy, Calvin, have asked this, too. They say that it is night now on our planet, and that they cannot see. They have told us that our atmosphere is what they call opaque, so that the stars are not visible, and then they were surprised that we know stars, that we know their music and the movements of their dance far better than beings like you who spend hours studying them through what you call telescopes. We do not understand what this means, to see.”
–Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

There is poor Meg, stuck on a fortunately friendly planet, a result of her father’ s clumsy tesseract. They have escaped, temporarily, the dark planet, but they have left her little brother Charles behind. They will have to return.

Meantime, they are being cared for by gentle, wise sightless creatures. Although they cannot see, these creatures have such finely tuned OTHER senses that being sightless is certainly no deficit. They can, as Aunt Beast tells Meg in the passage above, sense the stars and their dancing better than those who can see them.

It’s one of the points Jon Kabat-Zinn makes in Part 3: The Sensory World, of Coming to Our Senses. We have lost, through mindlessness, through lack of urgency, the keen abilities our ancestors enjoyed through using their sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. We see those who, deprived of one sense—the sightless, for example,–develop other senses to an amazing degree.

And we forget that our senses are a team of abilities that work together— so that the art of seeing a summer day is not as completely appreciated without the feel of the breeze against my skin or the fresh smell of newly cut grass.

I used to have an hour’s drive to work, through beautiful rolling country. As I drove, I would listen to audio books. Weeks and months later, rounding a curve, passing an Amish homestead, words from a book would come back to me in an audible memory. I would hear the reader’s voice saying the words I’d listened to in just this spot on a day past. I’m guessing some quality of light or temperature or scent was identical at that time, in that place, and that triggered a complete sensory memory.

I used to ask my composition classes to listen to the passage about Meg and Aunt Beast, and then I would say to them, “Pretend you’ve met someone who cannot see. Pick a color and make your blind friend KNOW what that color is.”

They would write about red in terms of fire and passion, warmth and danger. Blues came alive in coolness, depth, water, sky. Brown was muddy, earthy, fecund. The students used smell, touch, scent, and even taste to deliver the essence of what their chosen colors were. Their work was clear and true.

My challenge this week, as I read Part 3 of Kabat-Zinn’s book, is to be aware, and to consciously use as many senses as I can in that awareness. It’s a perfect season to be doing that—the flowering trees are bursting into Springtime life, the air is scented with those flowers, and warm sun alternates with soft gray days. The birds are raucous and joyful. I steal time from other things and work outside, digging in the dirt, unearthing tiny, tender shoots, displacing worms, and clearing out the matted leaves hidden since last fall.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************

My story reading counterpoint this week was Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings. This book has slavery and subjugation at its core, from the harsh physical and mental slavery Handful and her mother endure to the more silken, sly subjugation of Sarah and her sister Angelina.

Set in South Carolina between 1805 and 1838, Kidd’s telling doesn’t spare us. The slaves are horribly abused, with terrible punishments that only a sadist could have spent time devising. Sarah is abused, too, with harsh condescension and scorn. A brilliant, plain girl, she is told, forcibly, to forget about being a lawyer and to settle for her lot, looking for a husband, looking forward to running a household.

The miracle of the story is that spirits survive intact. Sarah and her sister escape to the North, where they become notorious abolitionists. Handful and her sister, too, make it north, where they become free Blacks, working and living with pride and dignity.

What bravery that took. I have to wonder, faced with such an oppressive society, could I have struck out as boldly as these characters did? They made tough choices and let themselves be shaped by life’s forces without sacrificing their true beliefs.

Unsetting, The Invention of Wings, but the quiet triumph of the resolution (based on historical figures) suggests there’s hope.

Connection, Emptiness, and a Magic Ring

I’m being challenged, in reading Coming to Our Senses, to think about connectivity and identity.

Contemplating connectivity is ironic, I guess, in this age of instant connection. I’m checking time on my cell phone these days; I don’t even own a watch anymore. I type on my IPad; when we travel, I bring that and/or my laptop. Having embraced, like the other slow-flowering technology users of my generation, Facebook, I am now slowly dipping my toes into the world of Twitter.

I do turn off my cell phone or put it on vibrate sometimes; I do create boundaries for checking email and Facebook. I do try to write at least one pen and paper letter every Monday. But the reality is, there is never a time when I’m completely disconnected from the electronic information expressway–not even when I sleep. What does this mean for us today?

Kabat-Zinn says it fosters a syndrome called ‘Continual partial attention,’ and he asks, “Can we pay attention to just one thing, the matter at hand, whatever it may be? Are we ever going to be off duty, so we can be rather than just do? And when might that be?”

It’s a question with big implications in my life; I’m always partially listening for the ping that means a new email, the buzz of the muted cell phone, the post on the Facebook page. So here’s a goal, to be implemented right now: I will make zones in my life where electronic communications cannot intrude. The early morning hours, before work and before necessity mandates one hand on the keyboard, can be a thoughtful time; the hour between 8 and 9 PM, when the family tends to gather, will no longer be an ‘Uh huh, uh huh’ time of distracted focus.

And if I can wrestle these two hours–two small but sacred hours–into ‘total focus’ times, maybe, just maybe, that can be expanded. And maybe I’ll connect more with myself…

****

I’m wrestling with Kabat-Zinn’s discussion of identity. He uses the image of a business, a big corporation–proposing that the identity depends on the functioning of each component–from the clerks in the mail room to the head honchos in the big corner offices with lots of windows. The identity, the being of the entity, shifts as people come and others leave, as mood and illness and bursts of productivity or inspiration change daily patterns.

That’s true with each of us, too, he points out–each cell that contributes to our total being does so without awareness of the whole. Our body functions like a corporation, with separate jobs being handled by separate components. If one’s productivity changes, the body as a whole is affected.

Perhaps a more through awareness of our bodies could change our total perception of the world and our place in it…

Emptiness is where this discussion is headed, and this is a concept that will take some struggle, for me–that idea of letting go my concepts of myself. Self-concept is such a concern in this land; don’t we believe that a good one is a personal necessity? Exploration needed; I approach page 200 of Coming to Our Senses feeling like it’s a muscularly thoughtful endeavor!

*****

I needed some good story-telling to balance out all the challenges Kabat-Zinn poses, so I grabbed up a paperback by Edith Nesbit. I bought the two-book volume after reading a novel based on Nesbit’s life–in that book, the author proposed that the fictional writer’s craft supported not only her family but her husband’s infidelities. The non-fiction bios I’ve read support that–the Nesbits had an unconventional and controversial life, to be sure.

Her work, however, remains vital and readable, and great fantasy writers–CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Philip Pullman, are a few Sanford Schwartz invokes in his introduction–have been inspired by reading Nesbit.

Back when I first bought the book I read the first offering, Five Children and It, and I saved The Enchanted Castle for later. Later finally arrived, and I rescued the book from a dusty shelf, delighting myself by finding a BookWoman bookmark my friend Marsha gave me for a birthday many many years ago, and set to reading.

I can see Lewis’s later premise in this book–two brothers and a sister, Jerry, Jimmy, and Kathleen, are forced to spend the summer holidays away from parents and family. In Lewis, it’s the war that forces the children to stay with strangers in the English countryside; in Nesbit, a cousin’s measles makes home off limits. Jerry (who narrates life with himself as the hero–“The young explorers,” he intones at the very beginning of the adventure, “dazzled at first by the darkness of the cave, could see nothing.” He continues, “…their dauntless leader” –Jerry himself, of course– “whose eyes had grown used to the dark while the clumsy forms of the others were bunging up the entrance, had made a discovery”) takes charge and organizes their explorations.

The children are staying at Kathleen’s school; Mademoiselle, the schoolmistress, has allowed herself to be thoroughly charmed by Jerry. And so the children have unprecedented freedom to wander and explore and, of course, to meet an unusual friend, find a place of enchantment, and to get into trouble. There’s a magic ring and unsettling consequences; there is an invisibility spell, statues that come to life, and wishes that come true at unforeseen cost. There is a wonderfully happy resolution to an old, old sadness we couldn’t predict when the story begins.

Unique and interesting, Nesbit’s books are, and the reading leaves me adding a biography of the ground-breaking writer to the list of things I want to read once my shelves have been read.

Will that be soon? Even this year? I’m dubious. I confess to picking up two more books during a weekend foray to Half Price Books–Pat Conroy’s My Losing Season, and Marcia Willett’s Second Time Around. Just when progress has been made, I listen to nature abhorring the vacuum of space on a shelf, and I fill that space back up.

And next week, we’ll be working the Library’s buck-a-bag book sale. As Jerry might say, “Will our hero resist temptation? Or will she trundle home bearing unread volumes in capacious paper bags?”

I will report back with the bitter truth.