Monday, June 7, 2010

From Basements to Bookmobiles

I have been an addict for over 50 years now. My earliest fixes were The Bobbsey Twins. I would ride my bicycle to my Aunt Merle and Uncle Claude's dairy farm . It was a four mile round trip in the hot humid sweetcorn summers of Illinois. I would be greeted with a hug by my great aunt given sugary iced tea and maybe a homemade snickerdoodle and then I would retreat into the cool dark basement filled with books over a quarter century old.

There were my summer adventures with Freddie and Flossie and Nan and Bert; I traveled with them to Holland Michigan, to a Dude Ranch in the West, to the Empire State Building in New York city... places that were so unlike my life of bean fields, tractors and Angus cows. I read the Five little Peppers and how they grew; sobbed over classics like Little Women, Black Beauty and Jack London's tales of wolf dogs.

The following summers I solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys but didn't really like the hospital settings of Cherry Ames-student nurse, but couldn't get enough of Trixie Belden .I eventually gobbled all the old tomes in the basement library and begged my parents for a membership to a public library.

We were 30 minutes by car to the closest library. At age 10 I was not allowed to ride my bike that far and so I waited for the weekly outing to the Hoopeston Public Library that became more sacred than a junkie's habit. This Andrew Carnegie architectural wonder was my portal to other worlds until I went a way to college and had a forced reading list of numerous texts.

My addiction to books have not faded over the years. There have been times when my half hearted pursuit of academics changed my reading habits. Semesters when the grading load as a professor strained my eyesight so that reading student essays had to become the priority. Then there was a time when I felt I should be writing not reading rhetoric.

When I rented my ocean balcony, complete with tiny kitchen and a bed, I was determined that the porch overlooking the ocean and town's gazebo was to be for writing books,  not reading them . Unfortunately I soon discovered the Oak Bluff library which was only a five minute walk from my house.

 The only words I wrote during those summers were postcards to my friends. I did spend allot of time on the porch mornings were spent drinking coffee and perusing the  newspapers and evening ended with a mudslide and D.H. Lawrence as the sun slid under the Atlantic's horizon. This procrastination of reading instead of writing remains even today despite my best intentions.

I never really had the habit of buying books....although recently a young neighbor came to our house and said he had never seen a home with so many books. I was surprised. We don't buy that many books, although my husband is a fervent reader too.

The books I have collected in my home are my non-fiction resources: writings about the historic West where we now live. There are shelves devoted to Native American literature, art, crafts, history, Anasazi sites and archeo-astronomy. With the abundance of varied species of hummingbirds visiting our homes we have been forced to identify  birding books, as well as pictured texts of venomous creatures of the Southwest, tracking books, and books about holes in the desert books have been recent acquisitions. Of course I must have my reference books- caring for my dogs, cats, donkey, alpaca and llama as well as Horses for Dummies and self help books by Dr. Oz , Dr. Phil, and cookbooks for cuisines from Japanese to Middle East to just carrots or chile pepper feasts.

We keep our fiction books by our favorite authors for our guests who are here. Tony Hillerman and JA Jance and Betty Webb who all write of the desert. My husband has some well worn manuals on electricity and home building and I have my secret stash of autographed books by authors I have met...not just their signatures, but authors I have dined with and had conversations and cocktails ...Maya Angelou, Rudolf Anaya, Chris Bojhiilian, and of Sand and Fog Fame. There are the books where I keep the pictures of myself with Annie Liebowitz (one of my pal's childhood friends) and a pix of Tony Hillerman and my mother who were Marines together in WW2.

Otherwise we purchase our books at thrift stores or yard  sales. When we have digested them, Cousin Bernadette also an avid reader is first on our recycle list after we score a new Baldacci, Patterson or Grisham . In return she shares her Costco new releases with us. After reading we pass these to Linda a prison guard with an addition for alpacas as well as books  or to neighbors  Tim and Theresea  who also share in our  habit.

Now isolated in the southwest desert; I must wait once a month for my big fix. It is one hundred miles to Tucson, and I really cant justify ordering the newest Swedish release of Sieg Larssen from  Especially when the book mobile journies to Dos Cabezas near my home  the first tuesday of every month.

The air conditioned internet  friendly library on wheels  always arrives on time and parks next to the abandoned adobe home in the  ghost town just off 186 on its way to the Chiricahuas. My dog Dharma and I never missDharma.

I hungrily grab the latest Susan Miller Cummings, a geologist who writes mysteries occasionally set in our neck of the woods, and am surpsied find the trio  of Chelsea Handler's comedic exploits on the shelf. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is checked out, but Ted orders it for me along with the sequel. It will arrive in a few days or a week or two in my mail box. In the meantime I have filled my book tote with my mind meth-all free thanks to my tax dollars and work.
I marvel at this unexpected luxury in my life and anxiously take the monthly calendar from Ted to post at home on my frig .  I am retired now. There are household and animal chores as well as my special projects.  I have gourds to paint, alpaca fiber to card, the great American novel to write. I plan to do all those things this summer. But first,I just have to finish this book I started..