Milkshakes & Memories

On the 2nd of June, I drove up to Secaucus, New Jersey, parked in the hot parking lot, and headed on over to the train station. I felt rather proud of my confidence as I purchased my round trip ticket to Penn Station, stood with the rest of the people waiting for the train, and boarded. When my purse got stuck in the closing door, I began to question my confidence and wondered, for the merest second, if the day was going to go downhill. Seemed silly to think so, especially with the day’s plan.

Despite the fact it was stinking hot out, the day did not go downhill. It went gloriously up in a trio of hours spent with cousins—female cousins who have been like sisters to me, and cousin to a cousin whom I hadn’t seen in forty-five years, an in-law-ish cousin (well, married to the brother of the cousin to the cousin…are you following that yet?), and one cousin’s granddaughter and another’s stepdaughter, at a wonderful brunch at a popular little restaurant in Manhattan called The Black Tap. The Black Tap is apparently famous for its milkshakes. Huge confections of ice cream, candy, brownies, cookies, sugary sweet cereal—whatever they can cram on top of the shake to make it unique, a kind of double-decker dessert. I’d like to say delicious, too, but I didn’t actually have one, as I opted for a plain ol’ chocolate shake. I guess I’m the non-adventurous type when it comes to my ice cream. Everyone who got one of the gigantic, coma-inducing shakes exclaimed over them. My chocolate shake was scrumptious enough on its own, even without all the added baked goods and candy.

The food was delicious as well, although no one finished their meals. You see, we had to get the shakes first, because this place is so well known and the shakes in such high demand, if we didn’t order (and receive) them before our meals, we might never have had the chance to get one (or something like that—it sort of made sense when we were told of the gastronomic pecking order). At any rate, it wasn’t the food or the shakes that made the day so special. It was the company.

Some of the female cousins and both my sisters-in-law were, lamentably, absent. But those of us who managed to get together had a lot of catching up to do. The noise in the restaurant sometimes made it difficult to hear, but expressions of amusement, happiness, astonishment, the occasional tear, made every conversational nuance easy to read. It was like lip-reading from the heart.

The conclusion of brunch came all too soon and we headed outside to go our separate ways. Even so, we spent another fifteen minutes airing our laundry in front of the crowd continuing to queue up to get into The Black Tap. Adding all our ages together, we go back to the Revolutionary War and beyond, which gives us a few bragging rights on this earth.

One cuz summed it all up as she and her cousins and granddaughter started their march down the block. “Cousins,” she cried out, with something suspiciously like a fist-pump, “are the best!”

Fenwick, Food and Family

Sunset on Fenwick Island, DE
Sunset at Fenwick Island the evening before I arrived–my brother Ron took this splendid photo

Stepping out onto the screened porch very early this morning, I gasped as my lungs sucked in the cloying atmosphere. Nevertheless, I closed the door to the air-conditioned house behind me and continued toward a chair. The moist carpet stuck to my bare feet when I crossed it and the freshly-applied lotion on my hands transformed to the tackiness of barely dried glue in the humid, sea air. I was a little surprised by the latter and kept pressing my fingers together and pulling them apart to make sure the sensation wasn’t a product of imagination.

 

View Outside the Beach house

For a full half hour, I sat listening to the gulls cackle like gentle lunatics while they swept across the sky above the rooftops in search of breakfast. A constant, soft breeze blew through the screens and into my hair in a way that made the heat seem non-existent, compelling me to linger. I watched white egrets take flight over the steel-gray water and the shifting sunlight turn shadowed marsh grass to gold. A fisherman’s small motor boat left a trail of white froth through the ripples in the water, but I heard no noise of his motor. Even traffic on the main road did nothing to disturb the peace, a kind of underscore to the hush, the muted sound resembling a distant river’s flow.

This was my morning as the sun rose over Fenwick Island in Delaware.

Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Fenwick Island Lighthouse which is only open from 9-noon, so if you want to see it, get up early (hint-hint)

I had already packed in preparation of returning home after a visit with both my brothers and sisters-in-law. In fact, we were all going home this day and the knowledge of that was bittersweet. The visit had been a short one, but family is family and when you’re together it often seems as if no time has passed since last you were in each other’s company. That means no barriers, no little courtesies, but an immediate dive right into the dynamics of the relationships that have always existed, representing at this time twenty-four boisterous, chest-beating, loving, tender, comical, occasionally frustrating but ever joyful hours. Oh, and there was a bit of sleep in there, too.

And food. We mustn’t forget that part of the gathering. Our half-baked plan of dinner out turned out to be an amazing experience. After discovering no place in the entirety of Fenwick Island existed at dinner time that was not packed to the gills, we ventured down the highway to Ocean City, Maryland, to a place that graciously accepted reservations. When we pulled up, the building resembled perhaps a family-style bar. The parking lot held some empty spaces. I thought: I’m starving, they probably serve passable dinners of some sort, and it’s already 8:00 p.m. I think we all had that idea.

Boy, were we wrong.Shark on the Harbor info from menu

The Shark on the Harbor’s menu changes daily, we were told. They print it up each day because their food is procured fresh from local suppliers. The farms from which they get their vegetables and fruit, their fish, their beef and pork, are named in the menu. That’s only the start. They had three chefs on duty and every dish is prepared with an eclectic mix of ingredients and sauces that, in a sane world, one might never think would go well together. But once you enter Shark on the Harbor, you are not in a sane world—you’ve moved beyond the world to epicurean heaven.

Vegan Entree.Shark on the Harbor
Vegan Entrée – Portobello mushrooms, summer squash, arugula, tomatoes, butternut squash puree and blueberry sauce – superb!

We lingered over our meals and our equally delicious desserts with each one of us having a completely different item and all of them fabulous. Glutted and happy we made our way back to the house afterward and to our beds, forgetting in our sweet food-torpor that tomorrow we would rise and go home. But every day you wake is one to be grateful for, every day spent with family is a blessing (sometimes in disguise, but not this time), and a good meal with people you love is without equal.

Saturday’s Adventure or, Apparently, All Roads Lead to Hell

Well, not hell, exactly. Unless hell is lush and green and sparsely populated…

Hell, in this instance, was not a location, but the Twilight Zone experience of my ride this morning to the Lehighton area. My fault, it was pointed out, for trusting the GPS. But the purpose of a GPS is navigation and so I permitted the instrument to dictate my travels. I paid good money for it. I ought to have a little trust in the system.

Yes. My fault.

I freely admit that now, although in the course of my travails—er, I mean my travels—I cursed that GPS with every name imaginable. But I should start at the beginning and proceed in proper order, the ways the roads would in a perfect world.

My writer’s group met at the home of one of its members today. I had a basic idea how to get there. The route was, in fact, rather direct, but I drove in the opposite direction to the grocery store to obtain a fruit platter and opted to use my GPS to find the way from that point. I took the “no toll” option. Made sense. The road I needed to travel didn’t have tolls. I figured this choice would put me on the right path.

Mistake. I recognized straight away that my car and I were not on the right path. However, I also knew generally where I was and with roads bordered by lovely scenery and in excellent shape, I saw no reason not to follow the whim of the female voice coming from the box on my dashboard.

Though meandering, I trusted (there’s that word again) I would get to my destination and enjoyed the ride. The little clock at the corner of the screen showed a thirty-nine minute ride. Right on schedule.

I passed through Alburtis, a perfectly picturesque little town not far from where I live, but which I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. I want to go back. I suppose this means trusting my GPS again. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say I eventually reached Route 309. Hoorah! All I needed to do was take a left and head north until I came to the next turn and then, seven or eight miles later, to my friend and fellow writer’s driveway.

My GPS had other ideas. Okay, I thought. A little exploration could be fun. Right?

Yeah. Loads.

It started out that way. I turned left and right on tree-lined lanes with charming names like Blue Mountain and Bake Oven. Then there was sudden misdirection which should have been an indication. I was told to bear left on a certain road which turned out to be a left hand turn so sharp it almost went backward. The second indication there could be a problem was the big yellow sign that read: Road Under Construction – Travel at Your Own Risk. Being addled by the lovely scenery, I assumed that to mean the road was being repaired and carried on. I drove slowly over a fifty-foot stretch of rough paving back onto smooth surface. Huh? Was that it? What a silly sign.

Suddenly, the condescending witch in my GPS told me to make another left. There wasn’t another left. There was a right and a straight. I chose the straight, and soon realized when the sign said the road was under construction that was exactly what it meant.

I backed up and promptly dropped the rear tire off the side of the road into a rain-washed gully. With a bit of earnest prayer I managed to get back on the road, turn around and head back out to the main highway. There had to be another road over the mountain, right? Not so fast, toots. Next was a dead end. I turned around and went back to the highway once more, forgoing the road under construction, as well as the next one which I knew (being smarter, I told myself, than a GPS) led to the same road under construction. I drove another mile to the prettily named Ashfield Road. Aha! Success. Clear sailing. Smooth pavement. I’d be over the mountain in no time.

No. It came out on the ravaged road as well. This time, though, the GPS was calling it Ashfield rather than Reservoir Road. Oddly, though, the actual street sign said Frank. I knew I was in the same place, however, because I had come upon an antique car parked catty-cornered to the meeting place of these two roads. The vehicle looked to be from the 1920’s, pristine condition, with a few yellow helium balloons affixed to it bobbing gently in the drops of rain. Did I not mention seeing that before? I certainly should have, because as soon as I saw it again—a beautiful piece of antique machinery a couple of miles from the nearest habitation—I began cursing so profusely and imaginatively at the #$%*&#* GPS that I forget the photo op altogether and decided, in my fury, to travel the Unconstructed Road. How bad could it be?

As I’ve said above, Apparently All Roads Lead to Hell. At least in this section of Lehighton.

It wasn’t, though. Not hell. Not really. Just an unpaved, sparsely graveled, pitted, gullied, collapsing stretch of trail awaiting blacktop at some distant future date. My GPS was telling me I had to stick with this mess for another four miles. Four miles that took me thirty minutes to traverse. Oops. Behind schedule now. Two huge SUV’s passed me coming the other direction. I had to stand my ground or drop off the side. They were better outfitted to ease around my own, smaller, ill-equipped-for-such-stupidity motor vehicle.  Being a sucker and not learning from my mistakes, I took their presence as a good sign as well. That was, until I saw the hiker with his walking stick and backpack. This was followed by a particularly huge rock in the road. I crawled past it with one thought: How did that get there? I looked up, then, and saw two spindly trees holding back a huge fall of boulders—and did I tell you torrential rain was coming? I began to swear again, but quickly took to laughing. (Can you say hysteria?) And all this time, I was driving up, up, up at a ridiculously steep angle.

Finally, the road leveled off. See picture at right—one of the only ones I took, daring to Road to Lehightonremove my hands from the steering wheel long enough to pull out my phone while stopped for a much needed respite from white knuckles and hyperventilation. Beautiful, yes? Green and lush and, well, you get it—anywhere else I would have broken out a picnic lunch.

The road was more evenly graveled here, almost wide enough for two cars. Piece of cake. Until I saw the fog ahead and remembered I now had to descend. I won’t give you all the details of the gullies, the positioning of my wheelbase in such a fashion that I could pass over the ruts, the hint of sunlight through the fog and trees to my right indicating a steep drop off… When I reached the bottom I breathed a sigh of relief. The dog chasing my car from a junkyard I could view as comical, the post office a sign of civilization—except for the lack of a town’s name across its brick front. Still, the road had become potholed blacktop. I had made it!

In short order, I reached another main road and took the left hand turn directed by my female non-companion and found myself a quarter mile from my destination. The GPS hadn’t misdirected me after all. She’d only displayed a really nasty sense of humor.

Visiting old friends

I grew up in Dover, Delaware, a town that has expanded to the point of confusion for someone like me, who no longer lives there and upon her return is easily confused by the spread of a once small community. Thank goodness I had Kim directing me.

Today, Kim and I had lunch at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover. Many years ago my first job beyond babysitting was at the Grotto’s in Rehoboth. The pizza is still the best and brings back its own memories. Once we had eaten, a drive around Dover was in order, visiting the site of our old high school, since torn down for the construction of the new (which we also stopped to see). Next was a pause at Dairy Queen for cones, followed by a trip to the middle school we both attended, and thence a ride along State Street to the Green, where people in period costumes had just finished some presentation we had missed. We watched from the car, though, as a group of dancers performed to an amazing drumbeat, whirling and chanting, and applauded them from the open windows when they had finished. The next stop was Old Christ Church.

Old Christ Church Dover DE
Old Christ Church, Dover DE

 

Old Christ Church in Dover is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The church was originally built in 1734 and remodeled in the mid and late 1800’s. The center of Dover retains the constant of its 18th century heart. It’s like Williamsburg (another place I love) Church yardin miniature, but the buildings stand where they were originally erected, and have not been placed in historic illustration of the past, as a place of learning for tourists and students. But, like the design of Williamsburg, there is much to be discovered in and around Dover of our country’s beginnings. On the Green, I can sense history going back through the centuries and my connection is as strong as it ever was, first appreciated as long ago as the day Kim and I met, when I was in the second grade and she in the third.

Today it seemed I was not just visiting with my oldest friend, but that we were spending time with another. I have been experiencing a certain absence of roots in my life, but when I am in Dover I realize they still exist, quietly, stretching back through the years of my existence and beyond.

 

 

Strange, wonderful Spring

Weather-wise, this has been a strange and wonderful spring. Warm when it should have been cold, cold when it should have been warm. A threat of frost on May 15th. Some of my plants appear to love the topsy-turvy weather. closed peonies2My peonies have been delayed in opening, which is just as well. I would have hated seeing all their lovely blooms battered to the earth by the rain. Instead, they are still tightly embedded in green spheres in preparation of a bountiful unfurling (or am I just being hopeful?).

Right now, though, my garden seems to be full of blues and purples and greens.Img_9585

Full, I suppose, is an ambitious term. Let Img_9591me say only that the few flowers blooming right now fall into that category of color in some form or another. I have inserted a handful of photos in this blog which would certainly give the impression of the lovely blossoming of a well-kept Img_9581garden.

Img_9583What I’m keeping to myself is the abundance of weeds I still need to yank from the soil, the stones piled by the shop for extending the garden wall, the terrible state of the ongoing waterfall project. Img_9594

 

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by everything needing to be accomplished and by the idea that next year it will likely need to be accomplished again.

Yet when I walked outside in the moment prior to another onslaught of wind, rain and plummeting temperatures, I found delight in my delusion that all is progressing as it should be.

Sometimes my gardening follows very closely the course of my life…

Friday Morning Visitors

Lizzie in her favorite spot for sleeping.
Lizzie in her favorite spot for sleeping.

The only pets I have at this point in time are cats. Five of them. And true to cat behavior, they occasionally wreak havoc in some fashion. Well, more than occasionally…and always in the wee hours of the morning, when I have important things I need to attend to…like sleep. Subsequent to this nocturnal kitty behavior, I spend my mornings bleary-eyed and catering to their needs before my own (well-trained human that I am), after which most—if not all—of my five cats promptly curl up somewhere and go to sleep.

A disconcerted Ziggy.
A disconcerted Ziggy.

Not so much this morning. The sated-with-food-time-to-ignore-you phase of their morning was interrupted by the sound of what I misinterpreted as little feet running across the roof. Up they jumped from their various degrees of slumber and began racing from window sill to window sill in search of the culprits.

Squirrels, I thought. I even went so far as to open the front door and yell, figuring any animal with half a brain would take flight at the sound of my voice. Sure, like my cats do (not). Apparently, I angered the squirrels and they began to stomp across what I had been assured seven years ago at installation were the very durable shingles of my new roof. I began to worry their aging durability was being put to the test, and went outside to shout again, until it occurred to me I was voicing my displeasure at a possibly bigger animal.

Dale, undisturbed.
Dale, undisturbed.
Bella ("Uh-oh, what the heck is THAT?")
Bella (“Uh-oh, what the heck is THAT?”)

I ducked back inside. The hunter instinct of my kitties (except the deaf one, who slept on undisturbed by the ruckus) shot to the fore, and they began an anxious chase from one side of the house to the other. By this time, I could hear the distinct noise of claws and what seemed to be the dancing of bears to and fro. The bears even went so far as to tumble against the metal chimney pipe, which reverberated through the house like a bell.

Stevie - the usual troublemaker.
Stevie – the usual troublemaker.

What the hey?

The beginning of the venue.
The beginning of the venue.

At this point, a dark shadow glided past the window. A very large, very dark shadow. When another swept past, I hurried in the direction it seemed to have gone and through the window spotted a vulture landing in the dead pine tree beside the driveway. He was not unaccompanied. A couple of his buddies had preceded him. They seemed quite content hanging out among the barren branches and, in the meantime, the bear party continued unabated on the rooftop.

Wait a minute. Wait a stinking minute.

I decided the time had come for a full-blown investigation. For one thing, I needed the cats to return to their somnolent state, since they’d worked themselves into such a frenzy I feared extreme havoc was in the offing. For another, I had a sneaking suspicion my visitors weren’t bears, after all.

The Committee of Vultures (you can't see most of them)
The Committee of Vultures (you can’t see most of them)

Marching outside, I found to my astonishment no less than fifteen—fifteen!—vultures cavorting across the roof of the house and the garage. Not sunning themselves as vultures sometimes do, but roughhousing like a bunch of—well, a bunch of cats. Needing proof, I started taking photos with my phone. Needing my head examined, I talked to them as well, addressing the venue as if they were, indeed, just a feathery brood of kittens. Apparently they liked it. One of the vultures on the garage roof came to the edge and cocked his head from side to side in great interest as I regaled him with a rambling monologue about his cuteness (yes, I did call him cute—did I mention I was bleary-eyed and addled thanks to the nighttime antics of my cats?)

He seemed to like what I was saying...but who knows?
He seemed to like what I was saying…but who knows?

Dismissing what one might consider the creepiness of more than a dozen carrion eaters arrayed across my domicile, I reveled instead in the never-ceasing wonder that is Nature. Even so, as I climbed into my car and pulled away from the committee hanging out on the roof, I did a quick check of my pulse. Just in case.

~Robin

 

The Chicken Teapot and the Fantastically Lovely Day

Today was one of those days that ended up being exceptional, and for no particular reason. The purpose of my excursion was to find a local “fruit stand” (a misnomer, if you ask me) in order for my daughter-in-law to buy some thyme plants for her little garden in the backyard. I wasn’t exactly sure where this place was located, so we headed out on this fantastically lovely day for a little adventure.

Well, being Memorial Day weekend, and a fantastically lovely day (oh, did I say that already? I can’t help the repetition—the attributes of the day were just part of the many factors making up the exceptional excursion), so naturally yard sales abounded. I tried to ignore them, turning my eyes away from all the items of someone else’s clutter, determined not to add to mine. Fat chance.

The blue sky, fresh air and front yards full of treasure beckoned. I must say, I did manage to resist all manner of furnishings crying out for an application of paint to make them into what I like to call “practical art”—my usual weakness at yard sales. Instead, I fell in love with a uniquely-shaped chicken teapot. Not that the teapot possessed a chicken shape. That would have been too much even for me. No, it is a square-ish ceramic pot with a painted scene of chickens. I couldn’t walk fully from it. I kept returning again and again to the place where it sat until I felt compelled to ask the price. For a yard sale, the price was a little steep, but I bought it without haggling. Lauren (the above d-i-l) announced how proud she was that I had managed to ignore all the furniture we’d seen and that despite the price of my adorable little chicken tea pot, I deserved the occasional splurge. (God bless her.)

Chicken Tea Pot close up

“Someday, my kids will be cursing me, because they’re going to have to get rid of everything I’ve collected,” I commented to the gentleman seated nearby, whose yard we were perusing for items of irresistible interest. He laughed. So did I. I wasn’t about to let the thought of my demise at some future date and my children being burdened by my possessions ruin this fantastically lovely day.

This is a heartleaf alkanet, which has the prettiest, tiny blue flowers, which you should be able to make out to the left (I hope).

Our next stop was the “fruit stand” itself (eventually located), awash in lovely color, as tables and wagons and graveled paths laden with annuals, perennials, and the very thyme we’d been hunting met our delighted eyes. We spent quite a bit of time hunting thyme and everything else, leaving Stauffer’s with the thyme in question, as well as chives, a heartleaf alkanet (a what? I’d never heard of the shade-loving plant, but it’s beautiful), and a pot of coral bells, whose burgundy leaves are a treat.

Coral Bells - nice color, right?
Coral Bells – nice color, right?

However, we were not finished. The open road, the blue sky, the fresh air continued to call to us. So off we went, to Somerset Nursery, where we ogled more plants. Naturally, I couldn’t walk away empty-handed. I cringe as I write those words, because I really am not a spendthrift. In fact, I am usually most obsessively frugal. Oh well. Blame it on the fantastically lovely day. (Right now, the writers of my acquaintance are also cringing. I don’t think they will approve of my disproportionate use of adverbs and adjectives in this blog—again, blame it on the fantastically lovely day.)

Lauren's garden, which will have all the makings of a delicious salad soon.
Lauren’s garden, which will have all the makings of a delicious salad soon.

Afterward, made light-hearted by our unexpected fun, we headed home to grace the waiting soil with our finds—with the exception of the chicken teapot, of course. That little beauty is planted on the windowsill in my kitchen, where it will neither bloom nor bear fruit, but will remind me of this wonderful day whenever I see it…

Now who could resist this?
Now who could resist this?

(Yes, that is my hope, and not that I will be reminded instead of the fact my children will one day be forced to stick a price tag on all my treasures and set them out on a table in the sun for some other bargain hunter to find—but hey, such is the cycle of life.)

B.B. King – Passing of a True Legend – not my words, but my brother’s heartfelt message

On May 15, 2015, at 11:45 AM, my older brother, Bob Probst, wrote and forwarded to my younger brother and me the following in regard to the passing of B.B. King:

An iconic musical giant, and a powerfully personal hero of mine, has passed into immortality. Riley B. King, better known as B.B. King, has died in Las Vegas at age 89.

 I was fortunate enough to see this man perform on five separate occasions during my lifetime. The most memorable was the first,  when I attended one of his shows at the legendary Club Paradise in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee in the spring of 1973. I was accompanied by my longtime friend Rick Hurd, and a small group of our Memphis pals.

This concert was unforgettable for so many reasons. The venue was in a section of the city that still exhibited the widespread devastation resulting from the riots that occurred five years earlier, following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The price of admission was three dollars and fifty cents (!).

 As we went inside, I immediately noticed a large sign above the entranceway that stated “Please Leave Your Weapons At The Door”.  To the right of the ticket booth, there was a literal stockpile of guns, knives, brass knuckles, blackjacks, etc. I was terrified, more so as I realized quickly that we were part of a very small minority of white patrons.

Miraculously to me at the time, we were welcomed with friendly, open arms, and in fact, were given a front row table, center-stage. That warm reception in and of itself was a revelation that I took with me for always.

When B.B took the stage, I was seated less than ten feet in front of the man. He immediately launched into his classic ‘The Thrill is Gone’ (a big radio hit around that time) followed by a seemingly endless performance that was nothing less than breathtaking. He sang and played his beloved Gibson ES-355 guitar with raw emotion and startling power; every note he exuded soared with truth and beauty. It was something ethereal that crept into my bones and remains to this day.

 B.B. himself had said in interviews that he played his guitar ‘Lucille’ the ‘economy way’. Rather than the extended leads and lightning-fast, shredding style so prevalent in today’s rock and blues music, B.B played sparse solos and short fills where he could speak volumes with one single note. He utilized the guitar in a way that both complimented and accentuated his stirring and soul-drenched vocal phrasings, but never distracted from them. This was never more evident than that night in 1973. I can say with all honesty, that I was nearly moved to tears.

There were no intermissions, no breaks that night. B.B. was on fire, and I don’t think he would have stopped playing if the roof of the place had fallen in. By the time we left, it was close to 3:00 AM, and he was still going strong. In fact, some members of his band were so exhausted that they had to stop, and B.B. wound up recruiting musicians from the audience to fill in so he could continue. As we left the club, the sounds of his explosive voice and exquisite guitar soloing followed us out into the early Memphis morning.

 It should be noted too that with B.B’s departure, a critical chapter of American musical history has come to a close. He was the very last of the legendary bluesmen from the Mississippi Delta.

This great performer gave me moments in my life that will never go away, and I couldn’t be more thankful.  R.I.P, Riley. You truly were the King of the Blues.

 –Bob

Thank you, Bob, for this moving tribute. I read it with a combination of tears and goose bumps. ~ Robin

The Library Rules

Yes, I know, there are rules to using a physical library, a brick and mortar building of hushed voices, high ceilings, row upon row of worn and handled books, lofty ideals and hope, earnest absorption and the concentrated knowledge of so many others at your fingertips.  But I don’t mean those rules.  I mean the library rules!

I am ashamed to say, I haven’t been inside a library for years, performing all my research on-line or through the use of books I have purchased for that purpose.  However, last week I had a few hours of time during which I couldn’t leave the Doylestown area, and decided to spend it in the library I used to frequent when I lived in Bucks County.

Oh.  Freaking. My.

It was like coming home.

Yes, indeed, I found myself enveloped by warm and fuzzy welcome.  And unlike the internet, where you pretty much need to know exactly what you seek before you search, in the library you are free to wander down the aisles, drawing books from the shelves at random for your researching pleasure.  And draw out books I did, taking them one at a time to a comfy chair at the end of the aisle where I perused each with an eye to anything that caught my fancy.  As the first fascinating tidbit of information jumped out at me, I wrote it down, which then led me to search for more and more, until I had wandered down each and every aisle and filled multiple pages of a purple (I have a particular affinity for purple) spiral-bound notebook with facts and quotes and references, enough for me to have formulated a rough idea of an entire storyline.

Goodness, I had forgotten how wonderful that felt.

Unfortunately, I also found signs that the library had succumbed to the digital age, as the amount of shelving, and therefore books upon them, had shrunken considerably.  Alas, such is progress.  Who am I to deny the benefits?  Still, I hold a special place in my heart for the sanctity of the library, with gentle and loving remembrance of a certain few.

The Somers Library in Upstate New York, lodged in a tiny one-hundred-year-old house with the children’s section fitted into the space beneath the attic eaves.  Perfect.  Adults couldn’t even stand up there.

Or the erstwhile Cherry Hill Library in New Jersey (I believe it has since grown into something new and therefore remarkable—but I may be mistaken), where I found copies of personal correspondence written by the men and women who lived through the brutal sepoy rebellion in India.  The brutality existed on both sides, as did the noble acts of selflessness and bravery, something of which I hadn’t been entirely aware until I read the descriptive words contained in those journal entries and missives.

And, of course, I cannot ever forget the grade-school library where I discovered my favorite book of childhood, Apples Every Day.   So enamored was I of the story penned by Grace Richardson that I renewed it over and over again and even wrote a letter to the author, who wrote back to me.  I still have the letter, written with lovely penmanship and containing a promise from Ms. Richardson that if she wrote a sequel, she would give Gabby a horse, just for me.

In conclusion, I shall reiterate: the library rules.  It rules the places in my heart where inspiration curls in want of awakening, it rules the places in my mind where the roots of inspiration have grown to blossom upon their lurch from slumber.   It rules my reader’s longing for worlds that would otherwise be hidden from me, and it rules my writer’s passion.

Quite clearly, the Library Rules.