Monday, November 24, 2008


Last week, we hosted a reading by poet Todd Boss.  His new book, Yellowrocket, just came out from W.W. Norton & Company.  And it is wonderful!  The collection is divided into six sections dealing with themes such as family & farming, marriage, children and loneliness.

The title comes from the Yellow Rocket plant that grew on Todd's childhood farm.  The story of how his family acquired the farm is remarkable.  And Todd's poem, Yellowrocket, captures the essence of that experience.

Boss writes, "Never buy a farm in winter."   In winter, their brand new 80 acres were covered in beautiful, white snow.  But in spring, snow melted to reveal 80 acres of trash.  

Unwitting heirs, we'd
come into a garden
overgrown with plastic
diapers and broken
furniture tangled in

burdock and brambles
and thistle.

And Yellow Rocket.  Todd's reading brought me there.  I could feel the cold and despair of looking out over 80 acres of garbage.  My hands felt chapped and bleeding just listening to him speak of picking up all that trash and hauling it to the dump.  He writes:

Had holes been coins,
our gloves and boots
would've jangled.

That evening at Micawber's, Todd also read a poem about the house he used to live in only two blocks from the bookstore.  Todd lived in the neighborhood and, in fact, managed Micawber's for a short time.  Most of the local houses are nearly 100 years old.  I understood this poem completely, thinking about my own old house.

My house is Small and Almost

a hundred years old.  Inside,
 the oaken posts and beams
make the living room seem
 like a glade.  When friends
pronounce it comfortable,
 it's 1910 that comforts them,
and nothing I have done.

There must be a room
 in the human heart
that's older than the body.
 And it's good to be there
in that foursquare cathedral
 where nothing has changed
since before we were made.

I highly recommend Todd Boss' new collection of poems.  Yellowrocket is thoughtful, honest, and very poignant.  And if you have a chance to hear him read his work, do it.  You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Let it Snow!

Yes, there is snow on the ground here in Minnesota.  When I woke up this morning, the world had turned white with an inch of heavy, wet snow covering the grass, branches and my neighbor's garage roof.  I wasn't sure how to feel about it actually.  In one way, I hate snow because it means Winter is truly here (for the next 6 months).  It means shoveling, wetness, and mucky roads.  But newly fallen snow also means pure, clean beauty.  It means watching my daughter and my dog frolicking in the fluffy stuff.  It means ice skating and sledding soon to come.  I am all for snow - eventually.  Just not too early.

What does snow and winter mean for me at Micawber's?  Our little neighborhood does winter well.  The area around the bookstore is beautiful in all seasons, but in winter the lights come on and it twinkles at night.  With dark coming so early, a little twinkle is nice.  And inside the store, it is getting cozy.  The colder and wetter it is outside, the warmer and more welcoming it feels inside.  I have already heard customers sigh when they enter the store.  They shake off the chill, or the rain drops, and breathe deep.  For a time, they are in a warm, safe place filled with books and light and soft music.  There are comfy chairs next to floor lamps to sit in.  The store invites you to get comfortable and stay for awhile.

This is my first winter working at Micawber's, but I think I'm going to like it.  Being inside with all those books while it snows and blows outside, will be comforting indeed.  And luckily for me, there's a coffee shop right across the street that makes great hot chocolate.  Let it snow!

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Time Change?

I consider myself to be a fairly with-it person.  I'm generally very organized, can multi-task and stay "on top of the ball."  Then something happens - like tonight - that reminds me that I am not infallible.  In fact, sometimes I do something that's just plain dumb.

We all know that as of Sunday, Daylight Savings Time ended and we all turned our clocks back 1 hour.  Like the "with-it" person I am, I reset all the clocks in our house, including the microwave and answering machine.  But, apparently there was one clock I forgot to change - my wristwatch.

Tonight, I closed the bookstore an hour early by mistake.  I shut the door and locked it at exactly 8 pm (according to my wristwatch.)  I shut off the lights, ran the reports and took out the trash.  I was very efficient and orderly.  On my way home, I called my husband.  He said, "Why are you coming home?  It's only 7:30."  I was astounded.  I hate messing up.  But, I do.  And I did.

Being an honest (and embarrassed) person, I called Tom, one of the owners, and confessed.  He laughed and told me to forget about going back.  There wasn't much I could do at that point.  I felt like a fool.  I was a fool.  But, luckily I work for and with great people.  Even the most "with-it" person messes up from time to time.

Well, you can probably guess that my wristwatch now displays the accurate time.  I am, once again, a totally organized, multi-tasking wiz!  (That is, until I make another silly mistake.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Friends - Old and New

Yesterday at the bookstore, I reconnected with an old friend that I haven't seen since I was 9 years old.  Working at Micawber's has provided me with surprising chances to reconnect with old friends.  And it certainly has brought in many new friends as well.

Our local paper, The Bugle, started a new series called "The People in Your Neighborhood." Each month, they will highlight a local business and someone who works there.  So, that person who routinely serves me a Mocho IceCrema at Dunn Brothers might actually be an up and coming singer and I just didn't know it.  (This, in fact, is true.  And I will die young if I keep ordering IceCremas.) Or, it will be fun to learn how Jeff at The Little Wine Shop got so knowledgeable about wine and beer.

The new series began in November and featured our bookstore, Micawber's.  I was the one working when Dave showed up to do the article.  Thus, I am featured, along with Micawber's. It's been fun having people I've known for years comment on the article.  "Fun story."  "When's your book coming out?"  "I didn't know you grew up here." But it's also been interesting to have people I don't know come into the shop and say, "You're Dara.  I saw you in The Bugle."  New friends to be sure.  One person even said I was a "local celebrity." That's a bit much.  But if it brings new people into the store to say, "Hi," and check out our books, then great.

But the best part is that the article brought in a very unexpected friend.  My childhood pal, Tanya, was in town visiting her father when she saw the Bugle article.  Tanya and I haven't seen each other since we were in 4th grade, but when she walked into Micawber's yesterday afternoon I completely recognized her face.  It's funny how we change and we don't.  We hugged each other.  I met her husband and little boy.  We reminisced about singing together in choir and playing at each other's houses.  It was great to reconnect with a friend from so long ago. And it was because of the store and the story.

Having worked at the bookstore for almost three months now, I have met many new friends. People who come in regularly and those who stop in just now and again.  I've enjoyed learning their names and a little bit about them.  One man spent a good half hour telling me about his trip to Alaska on a cruise ship.  It was a quiet afternoon and he talked and talked.  Finally, when another customer arrived, he said goodbye and left.  I am sad to say that I never learned his name.  So, the next time he comes in to look at the big Titanic book in the front window, I'll start things out right and say, "Hi.  I'm Dara.  Welcome back to Micawber's."