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Another Day in the Country

Recycled resolution

© Another Day in the Country

This week, I’ve been boxing up the books that folks requested from my column in the Jan. 4 Marion County Record, in which I offered to send you as many copies as you wanted of a book, “Another Day in the Country,” which we self-published back in 2005.

It was fun to get your letters. After I’d opened all your envelopes, I went down to Tony’s house, where the books are stored in a closet, to grab a bunch of books.

First, I brought out books from partial boxes on top of the stack. I was startled by how many unopened boxes still were in the back of the closet. 

What we are sending off in the mail is a dribble in comparison to what is left.

It was quite a risk to self-publish a book I’d dreamed of creating. I’d received an inheritance, and I was choosing to spend more than a third of it on printing this book with no guaranteed return.

It took blind courage to decide how many to order. I remember being overwhelmed by how many boxes it took to contain 1,000 books.

We’d equivocated as to the magic number, knowing that the more you print, the cheaper the investment in each copy, up to a point. How many could we really sell? Obviously, we’d bit off more than we could chew.

I heard a quote from poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen that resonated with me. He spoke of how difficult it is to take chances in life, and said:

“Courage is what others can’t see, what is never affirmed. It is made of what you have thrown away and then come back for.”

Here I was resolving to get these books gone — one way or another. I’d been at this place several times before and just hadn’t been able to throw them away.

It reminded me of a time, years and years ago, when I was working at a college in California, managing the Campus Center, teaching some classes, “ministering” to the student body.

One day, I needed to store some props for a student production. The only spot available was a storage area under a gym. The area was clogged with years and years of old newspapers and annuals.

Student personnel changed every year at the Campus Center. At the end of the school year, they were eager to be out of school and gone. I was the adult, part of the college staff, the continuity from one year to the next, so eventually I got to make the decision about what to keep and what to throw away. This was before recycling hit California.

There was a guy who hung around the Campus Center. A man-child is the best description. Now you’d call him homeless. He was socially inept but brilliant in his own way.

He’d often come by my office to chat. Students weren’t quite sure what to make of him. I had heard he lived in someone’s garage, but in a place where rentals were limited, that wasn’t all that unusual. 

Who should show up when I’m cleaning out the storage room but him?

“Do you need help?” he asked.

Yes, I needed help. I had just embarked on hauling boxes of old books, newspapers, and annuals to a big trash container. Having help would be wonderful. The stacks were endless and heavy.

“This is a lot of stuff you are throwing away,” he ventured as he stacked boxes of books on a dolly. “Would you mind if I took some of these books home with me?”

I waved my arms expansively and told him to take what he wanted.

“I’ll be right back,” he said. 

I thought, well, that’s the end of help; he’s off to do something else. But in a few minutes, he was back — with a friend and a van.

“I’ll take all of those annuals.” he told me.

“What the heck are you going to do with hundreds of annuals?” I asked, incredulous.

He gave me a lopsided grin, shuffled his feet, and said: “I’m insulating the floor of my room.”

He went on to explain that these big books were perfect. They were sturdy, they stacked neatly, and he was going to cover the floor of the garage where he was living with several inches of books and then put cardboard and a big, old rug over the top of them.

“They’ll work great,” he assured me.

I had to admit it probably was better than a dirt floor or cold concrete.

I’m sure he is long gone, but his ingenuity lingered in my memory as I searched for a way to get rid of these books.

Well, folks, after looking in Tony’s closet, I’ve come to the conclusion that someone could lay out these books of mine on a floor the size of a one-car garage — not four inches deep, but maybe one book deep.

There are more books than I remembered. I think I’ve been avoiding looking in that closet.

It’s somewhat like how we avoid looking at a myriad of troubling issues in our lives. We stack them in the back of a closet — literally, or metaphorically — and close the door.

So, if you are into recycling, want to insulate the floor of the chicken house, I’ve got some sturdy material for you on another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 2, 2023

 

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