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Another Day in the County

Taking inventory of life’s bookshelf

© Another Day in the Country

These cold days are good days for taking an inventory. It is still the first part of the new year, after all: inventory time.

I started with the bookshelves above my desk. One shelf was filled with old, old books from my childhood: “My Dog Chips,” beside a flurry of other old volumes about dogs.

I sent one of them to my grandson several months ago — a volume of “Beautiful Joe,” which I doubt he’s ever read, but I gave him a chance, struck the match.

I was crazy about dogs when I was a kid and then moved on to be crazy about horses well into my adult life.

On a lower shelf are the books I’ve actually written. “Emmy Takes a Census,” is the first in the lineup. It’s a short lineup. I smile at their titles. I still love them all even though their distribution was limited.

On another shelf, out in the living room, is “Another Day in the Country,” which is one of the books I ostensibly came to Ramona to write.

Only one volume was actually published and sold. After that, year by year, another volume appeared on the bookshelf — one copy printed, just for me.

While I take this inventory, I have to laugh at the diversity. One shelf runs the gamut from “Tiny Houses” to “The Complete Guide to Massage.”

In between I found a diary that I’d written in the months before we came back to Ramona. It began on my birthday in 1999, went thru a friends’ death in 2000, and on to our arrival in Kansas.

“Now what?” I’d written on the last page of the journal. The rest of the journal is empty.

There was also a little book on that shelf, “Simple Stuffed Toys.” Memory takes me back to a big arts and crafts show in San Francisco when my 8-year-old fell in love with a beautiful, expensive, cloth doll at the exhibition.

“I can make one,” I assured her.

I found this book with a pattern for making rag dolls and I designed a doll that we dubbed “Gingie.”

Jana designed the sumptuous clothes that Gingie wore.

I made lots and lots of Gingie dolls. Most we kept; some we sold. One was returned to my daughter recently by a lady (now grown old) who was downsizing.

“I just couldn’t take them to Goodwill,” she said, “So I’m bringing them back to you.”

Perhaps I kept the book because I thought I’d make those dolls again — maybe in my retirement. But after that initial doll fever, which lasted several years, neither Jana nor I have ever made more dolls. The book reminds me of how sweet that era was!

I’ve read all the books on these open shelves at one time or another. Rarely have I read them more than once from cover to cover. Often I’ve searched for some passage I remembered and needed to read again. Their presence comforts me.

On a higher shelf are my books about raising chickens. Last week my grandson in California lost one of his hens to some predator. This week he’s letting them outside only when he is standing guard. I know the feeling!

The chicken volumes are bookended by art projects, prototypes for the kids at Centre in art class, which means they are perhaps similar to artifacts some of you might have on your shelves.

There’s the year that the children drew themselves in whatever outfit they’d worn to school and painted the drawing.

I then took their photograph, sized their heads in proportion and put them on their drawings.

I wanted these 10-inch replicas to sit on a shelf like a paper doll, with the feet dangling over the edge, and hunted for some sturdy backing that was bendable and able to be cut.

I settled on the metal sheeting used for heating ducts. What a job! After cutting out 30-some of these, we never tried that project again, but mine still sits on the shelf, daring me to try it one more time.

If the notion of taking an inventory is that you then get rid of things that are outdated, this exercise isn’t working! Not a single thing has been removed from the shelves. This endeavor has only reminded me of how sweetly the memories come alive when I lift something off the shelf to dust or decide whether rearrangement is necessary.

To someone else, it’s probably clutter. For sure the books have little monetary value. But to me, each piece speaks volumes about the content and the shaping of a life and all the subtle influences that brought me back to spend another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 15, 2018

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