Saturday, February 06, 2010

Books and birds

Books are on the move here again, hopefully into some degree of order. Not that I mind disorder --- until the need to find a book arises and after an hour of wasted time searching it turns up in the row I’d forgotten about concealed behind a modest display of pottery and the DVD player at the back of low twin tables that support the television. Then there are the double rows of books, one behind the other, in the big bookcases upstairs. Under everything here there is something else, usually a book. There’s got to be a better way.

There are thousands of books in this small house, but whether it’s a couple of thousand or a few thousand I can’t say, never having counted. Many more were given away when I merged houses, mostly contemporary autobiography. It’s astonishing how many dull people of modest accomplishment at best find a publisher (or are found by one); more astonishing that I’ve thought some interesting enough at times to buy.

Acquiring all these books is based upon two tenets of faith: (1.) The answer to everything is somewhere --- in a book; and (2) one day the plug will be pulled on the power grid, disabling all things electronic. But with daylight and firelight, I’ll still be able to read. And yes, I do re-read books; that’s why I have them.

There are those who argue there’s no need to acquire books because libraries have them. Think again. There are so many books and public libraries are under so much pressure to be trendy that massive deaccession drives, usually at least annual, are par for the library course nowadays. I’ve watched my life in literature sold for nickels and dimes, for example, as the Chariton library’s annual sales.

Some of this is necessary, of course, and many will be retained somewhere, available through interlibrary loan. But when the lights go out, interlibrary loan isn’t going to work very effectively either.


The best show in the neighborhood this week has involved a squirrel determined to sample the contents of the seed bird feeder hanging across the sidewalk from my kitchen window --- a plastic device suspended from the tree by a short loop of cable and selected in part because squirrels can’t get a foothold on it.

Most of the squirrels have been happy among the sunflower seeds and corn on the ground near the feeder, but one was determined and after a lot of thought and a few experiments discovered it could skitter down the flimsy branch from which the feeder hangs, hang by its back feet from the branch, brace against the feeder and just barely get its nose into the seed tray. By the time it got tired of hanging enough seed has been knocked loose to make it worth while to drop to the ground and clean it up.

That’s one smart squirrel. Maybe he should run for political office.

The window over the kitchen sink offers the best view of the feeders and since I'm fascinated by the antics of the birds and squirrels this means I'm actually getting the dishes done in a timely manner these days. I don't mind cooking; hate cleaning up after myself.

Today's count included the usual suspects --- goldfinches, dark-eyed juncos, house finches, cardinals, bluejays, a flock of starlings (dispersed rapidly by an angry squirrel protecting its turf) plus downy woodpeckers. Bluejays rule the roost, of course, sending even the larger squirrels skittering up the tree.


The trains are running again on the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe tracks and have been since Sunday, but work continues on rebuilding the stretch of line from the Court Avenue overpass north to the crossing where the derailment ended early last Saturday. I don’t envy the workers, dealing with the cold and the snow and dodging trains on these busy tracks.

We’ve had so many storms that in any other year would be memorable that this year, they aren’t. It all runs together. I believe it was Monday that the surprise, unpredicted blizzard arrived, more or less paralyzing traffic flow across the state. Another system moved in Friday, but temperatures remained moderate so there were few problems. Another storm is anticipated overnight Sunday.

It's nice to sit by the television and watch footage of blizzards somewhere else --- this weekend in the Mid-Atlantic states.

I ran out to the church at 5 p.m. yesterday to light the “big six” candles that march across the top of the altar in preparation for a 6 p.m. wedding, another nail-biter of an event because of weather conditions. Why do people with the time to plan weddings months in advance plan them for winter in this part of the country? At least it worked out this time.

The big six, although grand and beautiful, are so tall and so high off the ground that wedding acolytes, any acolyte for that matter, can’t deal with them. I’d planned to do the lighting without an audience, but failed to anticipate the fact wedding photos were running about 45 minutes behind schedule. So perhaps 30 were present as I elegantly pulled out the parish cigarette lighter, hauled the sticks down off the altar, lighted the candles and put them back. Quite a performance, but I was glad to do my bit to entertain the wedding party.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Like you, I hoard books for the same two reasons you listed in your post. I've taken to labeling certain bookcases in certain rooms so that I can "organize" my books somewhat. I have biographies on one shelf, outdoor adventure books on another, fiction in another room, etc. That way I can usually find a book within a few hours instead of a few days.

I have grown to mostly hate libraries. It seems that they have turned into places of welfare these days catering to those who can't afford to rent movies, buy computers, subscribe to periodicals, or pay for daycare for their children. Our local library used to fill up three floors of a Carnegie funded brick building. Now there are less than a dozen shelves of books while the rest has been razed to make way for the same amount of space for movies, computers, kiddie play areas, etc. If I want a particular book, I can only find it when I'm at the Des Moines library.