Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Capital

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.

–Thomas Jefferson

Viveka of My Guilty Pleasures is acting as this week’s challenge host. She is an avid traveler, and has posted some lovely and varied shots of world capitals she has visited. She invites us to interpret this challenge however we choose, though, and since I haven’t got any digital photos of the world capitals I have visited (Washington, London, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome, Mexico City, Nassau, Budapest, Vienna), I am going in a totally different direction, following Mr. Thomas Jefferson’s lead in the quote above.

Nine years ago, I moved into a bookstore. I have been sharing a roof with Scholar & Poet books ever since.

In economics, capital consists of assets that can enhance one’s power to perform economically useful work. For example, in a fundamental sense a stone or an arrow is capital for a hunter-gatherer who can use it as a hunting instrument, while roads are capital for inhabitants of a city. — Wikipedia

Books are assets that have enhanced my entire life. They have definitely enhanced my power to perform economically useful work, like cooking. How many cookbooks do you have? When did you first make a meal using a recipe in a book? Did you learn anything about parenting from a book? Or about the skills that you are paid to perform?

I sometimes wonder whether books will become obsolete as technology advances. Perhaps in my country, that is a possibility. But globally, I think books will endure as long as human civilization does. 

I look forward to the day that I can read a book to my grandchild and pass on the pleasure, the investment, and the treasure of reading a book.

Yes, indeed. That would be capital! 😉 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos

Sometimes I think WordPress has a surveillance camera on my life! How else would they know that my world is entirely chaos at the moment while I, in my natural state, am an extremely organized person? It so happens that I’ve just moved home and home business 35 miles away into a new rental. A normal move is somewhat chaotic. Add to that the fact that our home business is an online used book (and music and whatnot) store called Scholar and Poet Books. (Find us on Facebook or Ebay!) In our inventory and in our rental home, we have AT LEAST 25,000 books. Being quite the ambitious, self-sufficient types, we thought we could move those ourselves over a two-month period. We’re also over 50, both of us. And most of those books were in the attic, 3 flights of stairs up from the curb. Long story short, we had to hire professionals to help us pack up and move the last 285 boxes of books, each weighing roughly 50 lbs. Now all of that is in our new home, and we’re unpacking and organizing. Another yuuuuge task. *sigh* But our new place is gorgeous, a ranch-style house with only one flight of stairs (down to the basement), on land owned by the Conservation Foundation for which I work. I am not complaining! I’m just sharing what a bit of chaos is like — interesting, challenging, exhausting, stimulating.  Here’s a gallery of our old place:


Chaos
Chaos

Books That Change Lives

I have 4 broad cubbyholes for experience titled “Distraction”, “Entertainment”, “Useful” and “Inspirational”. This is not a system of judgment, simply an organizational game that my homo sapiens brain finds oddly relaxing. I can truly laud events in any of those categories, but sorting them is something that satisfies in a strange way, like the way I play Solitaire on the computer before bed. When I thought of all of the books in my life (and since our home is an online book-selling business, I literally have tens of thousands of books in my daily life!), I wondered how to pick which to write about. These categories are going to help me navigate this topic. Books that change lives can fall under any of these headings.

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I have to start with Children’s Books because I was a child when books began to influence me. Certain Children’s Books can fit under each of those labels. Did you ever try to distract a child in tears by offering to read a story? Sure. Did you ever pick up your jacketless copy of Ferdinand and flip to the illustration of the contented bull under the tree smelling flowers because you were seeking escape? Yes! So maybe “Distraction” is a place where some of my favorites can be filed.

“Entertainment” is a fine role for a Children’s Book. Pure imagination (Roald Dahl), puzzle-solving (Graeme Base, I Spy…), and song and dance (Priscilla Superstar, Eloise) come to mind. Rhyming books by Dr. Seuss and Bill Peet were always fun to read aloud to my kids. Of course, I do voices. (After all, I was a Voice Performance major in college and a theater teacher!) Books can serve up silliness in all shapes and sizes.

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A child’s book becomes “Useful” when it has a gentle way of teaching a very important lesson. I loved Babar immediately, and slept with a plush version each night, thumbing the yellow felt of his crown until its softness lulled me to sleep. I learned to respect animals and humans, that responsibility can bring anxiety, and that belonging to a community helps you to feel secure and peaceful.

When I think of books that are “Inspirational”, I think of them as initiating changes that transcend mood and feeling and circumstance. Perhaps you can call them “paradigm-shifters”. Every so often, a Children’s Book has that kind of impact, too. They defy the age-ism of the Children’s or Young Adult section. The Lorax, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Prince, A Wrinkle In Time. These books introduced me to the realms of mysticism and philosophy that I began to explore in greater depth as an adult. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. Poems by Hafiz.

There are iconic books that have shaped my life that I think I would put in a separate cubbyhole, perhaps shaped and decorated more like a shrine. These are sacred texts: The Bible. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn. They became almost monolithic in my life journey at certain points.

Most of the goods manufactured by human beings are problematic to me. Luxury items strike me as senseless and leave me completely cold. Clothing is necessary but has a seamy underbelly in Fashion. You don’t even want to get me started on Plastic! But Books – well, they could be the veritable justification of civilization itself, as far as I’m concerned. I cannot imagine my life without them.

This essay is featured in this month’s issue of  The Be Zine. To see the entire blogazine, click HERE.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse

 We are heading into the biggest retail season of the year, so I want to take this opportunity to invite you to consider mindfully and gracefully your relationship to….stuff.  How do your buying habits impact the planet?  Where do you shop? Where do the businesses you support get their resources? What do you do with stuff you don’t want anymore? How do you share what you have?

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The resources that are expended on the manufacture, trade and transportation of goods on a global scale are staggering and crippling for our planet.  It’s hard to imagine the impact that one shopper has in the whole of that web, but to make ethical and moral choices is the responsibility and joy of citizenry on Earth. You get to live out your values each day.  That is the difference you make.  

Now, I recognize that the urge to buy things can be deeply entrenched in complex psychological motivators, and I’m not about to claim any authoritative understanding of that.  I just know that I don’t have a “shopper’s personality”.  I don’t get excited about buying things or receiving material gifts.  (This was an enigma to my husband, may he rest in peace, who really enjoyed giving me presents.)  I do enjoy using something up completely and never replacing it if possible, finding new ways to use stuff that’s already around, and finding other people who can enjoy stuff that I no longer need. 

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With all the stuff that’s already been made and is overflowing junk yards and landfills, I think we can all do a better job at using what’s already here.  My partner Steve feels the same way.  He’s been running an online used book store out of our apartment for the last 10 years or so.  He goes to estate sales, book sales and thrift stores and buys good books, unusual books, quality books and lists them on retail websites as a third-party seller so that people who are looking for a specific used book can find it easily at a fair price.  He loves books.  He’s got a B.A. in English, and his very first job was at the public library.  There’s nothing like the feel of a book in your hands or the smell of an old book from your grandmother’s attic! 

Scholar & Poet

Scholar & Poet

Steve’s small business is called Scholar and Poet Books.  If you value or collect books, music, vintage printed material or puzzles, check out our inventory.  You can see our listings on eBay Here, or browse our book list on ABE Books Here.   If you shop on Amazon, you may see our name on the list of sellers for a particular item, but we can’t direct you to our inventory exclusively.  (Many of Amazon’s third-party sellers are actually large warehouses.) If you have friends who are bibliophiles, you can share our Facebook page with them.  Thank you for reading this post and considering my invitation.  May your decisions about Stuff bring you joy and peace!

Photography 101: Swarm

I witnessed a perfect example of this theme last month.  The sight of this swarm was so moving that it brought tears to my eyes.  I did not bring my camera to record the event because it was prohibited.  We were invited to watch the emergence of 300,000 bats at dusk from Carlsbad Caverns and instructed to sit in absolute silence and be still.  We did not want our presence at the door of their habitat to be disturbing to their natural activity.  To disrupt their nightly venture to find water and forage for insects would be disastrous to their livelihood.  There were school groups in attendance, and the children were remarkably respectful.  The park ranger began the program by taking some questions and giving some information about the bats.  He was, in effect, stalling for time.  When the bats began to emerge in a climbing spiral behind him, he left.  All were silent.  The rubbery slap and flap of wings became audible and the bats poured like pepper into the evening sky.  Lines of dots headed for the horizon in waves, like bait balls in the ocean, like starlings over the fields, like natural creatures who live and move and have their being in great numbers, synchronous and individual at once.  They came from deep within a cavern so huge it had taken me an hour to descend to its first level on foot.  They rose in an unbroken ribbon for 45 minutes.  Steve & I were the last to leave the arena.  It was like tearing ourselves away from a cathedral after a sacred service.  I am glad that I don’t have this image in my camera, only in my gut.  Here is a shot of the arena before the sun set:

swarm siteI do not have any photos of what Dave Foreman calls “Man Swarm”.  I shun crowds when possible.  I do live with inanimate objects in number — namely books and CDs. 

Visually, I think the most effective compositions of swarms of things are the ones that are aligned with the vanishing point.  In other words, as James Taylor sings, “Line ‘Em Up” like Nixon’s staff when he left office, like wedding couples under Sun Myung Moon.  It gives the feeling of infinite expansion and maximizes the impact of sheer numbers. 

And now that I’ve figured this out, I’ll try to keep it in mind the next time I find myself pointing my camera at a swarm. 

Around the World in 24 Hours

Milwaukee can be a rather uninspiring place in the dead of winter. Not that the light, feathery, cotton candy snow that piled up overnight wasn’t beautiful. As we walked to the breakfast cafe to meet Steve’s mother, we came up with an alphabetical list of adjectives for this particular day’s precipitation. I don’t want to complain about the temperature hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit, although it is a favorite local custom. There are much better ways to engage the imagination, and I live in a house which reminds me of this every day.

 Scholar & Poet Books is the name of our other roommate. The drafty, old duplex we share rises over 4 levels: basement, first floor, second floor, and attic. She occupies every level and every staircase. She completely fills “my” closet while some of my clothes have languished in suitcases under the bed for 3 years. I am learning to appreciate her presence instead of begrudging her seeming dominance. In fact, I think I am coming around to choosing her company.

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 After Sunday breakfast with Mom, we returned to her, eager to taste her bounty. Samplings for the day included Irish, French, Argentine, Tibetan and Yiddish. She expands our consciousness, delights our senses and supports our livelihood and our dreams. Her body is an amalgam of tens of thousands of books and CDs with a few hundred other artifacts thrown in. She is library, concert hall and museum. She is introvert heaven.

 We started by reading aloud a poem by W. B. Yeats, “A Prayer for My Daughter”, the howling North Atlantic wind of the Irish verses being matched by the Wisconsin bluster that rattled our windows. After delving a bit into Yeats’ biography, Steve then began his daily business of listing our friend’s appendages for sale while I went downstairs to do the dishes and make bread. After lunch, while the loaves baked, we began to discuss our plans to travel to Tibet. Internet research prompted a search through our stacks to find more information on that side of the planet. Steve came down with 6 books of varying relevance. When the bread was safely out of the oven, we went upstairs to watch a DVD, Manon of the Spring, having watched Jean de Florette just weeks before. This emotional tale of French village life transported us visually and linguistically to another world in a simpler century. I tried, unsuccessfully, to pick out the movie’s musical theme on my harmonica before returning to the kitchen to make dinner.

 When we’d finished our meal and our wine, we retired to the bedroom to peruse the wall of jewel cases. We settled on a CD of Argentinian folk songs and dances by Suni Paz. In contrast to the Irish ballads we lit upon at first, these undulating rhythms drew us deeper into the sultry passions beneath our awakened senses…

 Fueled by a solid Monday morning breakfast, we dove into the business of packaging our sales, accompanied by Moishe Oysher singing Yiddish, bluesy, vaudeville, Hollywood-like tunes. I have no idea what they were about, but his passages of improvised “scatting” made me think of Tevye stomping and shaking around in his barn, pouring out his desires to be a rich man. One of the books we packaged was sent to a Jewish community center in New York; it was a children’s book called Klutzy Boy. It made me laugh.

 The anthem of my Alma Mater, Scripps College, starts: “Strong in the strength of all, venturing together, searching, exploring the life of the mind…” In the midst of a Milwaukee winter, this is the antidote to cabin fever. I’m grateful to be shacking up with Scholar & Poet Books.

(author’s note: to browse our inventory listed on A.B.E. Books, click HERE. To visit our eBay Store, click HERE.)

© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

This photo challenge is actually quite a useful meditation on perspective.  I had thought about my options in taking up this challenge, ranging from skipping it altogether because it’s not an obligation, to spreading it out over a whole week to give me time to find something I love dearly enough to photograph it on purpose.  I had thought about visiting the place where Steve & I had our first date, Glacial Park, while on my way to visit my kids back in Illinois.  That is a place dear to my heart, and closer to being worthy of Jeff Sinon’s incredible nature photos of New Hampshire (I’m a big fan and follower.  Do check him out!).  But it would mean not posting until at least a few days from now.  I browsed around the Internet for a while and lit upon a few threads that interested me.  What is it that catches my attention?  Perspective.  I read a bit about Marfan syndrome.  Ever meditate on how perspective changes quality of life and the level of fear you feel about something potentially life-threatening?  I read about an American couple jailed in Qatar under suspicion of murdering their adopted daughter.  The perspective on adoption is quite different in Muslim countries.  How you think and feel about something is altered dramatically based on where you stand.  I began to take that idea closer to home.

My partner, Steve, owns and operates an online book business.  I might consider Scholar & Poet Books to be the “other woman” in our relationship.  I don’t feel about her the same way that Steve does.  To him, she represents his autonomy; she is a huge financial asset, and endlessly fascinating.  To me, she is a dominating presence that crowds me out of closet space and Steve’s attention.  She is also somewhat boring to me, as she doesn’t touch or speak.  But I would like to make friends with her.  I would like a different perspective on her.  So I chose her for my subject. 

I don’t know if you feel you only get one shot at life, one shot at any given problem.  I do know that there are always at least two ways to take it on.  Perspective.  You can get a different one by moving just a little.  It’s well within your range of powers. 

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Scholar and Poet Books – Announcing Our E-Bay Store!

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Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally!  Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing.  Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days.  Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!  Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles.  Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me.  He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII.  He was in his original box and in excellent condition.  We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many!  Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany.  It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home!  We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.

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This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years.  In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well.  He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online.  I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits.  That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured.  I tell you, I’m learning a LOT!  Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes.  There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating. 

So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity.  There’s much more to come!  Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…

Cyber Monday

Scholar & Poet Books is the online book business that Steve & I run from our home.  We shelter books that we have rescued from Good Will, library sales, church sales and rummage sales.  We clean them up and put them up for adoption on Amazon, Alibris, ABE Books and eBay.  We find new homes for old standards, eclectic oddities, and arcane tutorials.  Pulp fiction with vintage cover art, lots of spiritual topics, Christmas and cookbooks and CDs and children’s books…you name it, we probably have it or something related to it.  So, if you’re in the mood for some cyber shopping today that supports the U.S. Post Office, a small business, and the non-electronic world of all natural BOOKS, you can browse our collection through this link.  We have a 5-star rating, but neither of us has a Facebook account.  If you like what you see and want to share the link with your friends, though, we would be very pleased!  Happy hunting, bookworms!