"It's going to be a total bummer," Saenz said. "It made me wish I had shopped there more."
- A Quarter-million People Without One Bookstore
The Associated Press, December 19, 2009
"It's the life you live, not what you say/"
- Bishop Grace C. OsborneMy friend, Fisher, his buddy Dave and I moved me into a little gray house on Bend's West Side on June 1. I ate my first meal in Bend at Jackson's, came home, set up my computer on the old roll-top desk I'd faithfully lugged from Rochester, N.Y. to Flagstaff, Ariz. to Twentynine Palms, Calif. to Luna Mesa in the ravaged and glorious Mojave Desert to here. I looked out my west window to the top of a little fir and sky the exact blue of lapis.
Later that day I wandered the neighborhood. There was a river fifteen minutes away and a little downtown and on the way home, an independent bookstore three blocks from my house. It was after closing, so I looked in the windows at a bright and roomy space clearly designed for readers. I picked up a free William Stafford poem from a box outside and headed home... or toward what might someday feel like home.
The light outside my window this morning is delicate gray. It was warm enough to sit outside to say my meditation: For the furthering of all sentient beings; and the protection of earth, air and water. It has been six months, two weeks and six days since I first peered in the windows of Between the Covers bookstore and wondered if and when Bend would feel like home. That summer evening, "home" seemed centuries gone, the once little town of Flagstaff eaten alive by too much money; Aradia bookstore, a place in which all readers were welcomed (and in which free poems were handed out), gutted by a voracious landlord.
This morning I feel at home. Yesterday I walked to Between the Covers to pick up a couple Oregon Natural Desert Association Calendars and talk with BTC owner Hayley Wright (her husband Tom and daughter Piper are her partners). We spoke about setting up a book signing in the Spring for my two new books, agreed that I'd do a signing for her and at Dudley's. Her easy acceptance of that proposal seemed the heart of the best of local businesses in my new home - no edge of competition, no gotta be exclusive. And so it was perfectly congruent when I asked her what had been the biggest surprise in opening her own bookstore and she answered, "The politics of the writing world are shocking to me. What I'm about is putting a truly good book into a reader's hands."
I checked out the bookshelves. I'm always looking for books - don't own a t.v. and can't sleep unless I've got a couple hours of good reading before I can nod off. I eavesdropped. Strangers asked other strangers what books they liked. A bright-eyed young woman writer told stories of Central Oregon scandals to a tall guy looking for local books. Hayley raved about a new novel and offered to order a lesser-known collection of short stories for a customer.
I found a list of book clubs that meet at BTC. Hayley offers 15% discount on book club books when four or more are ordered. Her website (http://www.btcbooks.com/) also lists existing book clubs, thoughts on reading and writing and staff picks.
I bought my calendars and left. A few days earlier I had learned of Barnes and Ignoble's decision to close one of their Dalton's stores in Laredo, Texas and a customer's words: "It made me wish I had shopped there more." I thought of the Kafka quote on BTC's book club page: A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul. And I hoped that a column might do the same thing so that readers would remember that it is how they live, not what they say that counts - especially in the survival of a local bookstore.
I have three spots left in my January 2010 writing circle. Bstarr67@gmail.com or 350-1322 for more information.