Letter from the Vineyard 21 August 2020 Out there, there be dragons…

Letter from the Vineyard

21 August 2020

Out there, there be dragons…

It has been a month since I have put fingers to keyboard to write a missive; I have been avoiding doing so, easier to sink into the pleasant rhythms of my island life than to think too much about the world. 

It is a softer summer than last; air conditioning barely used, mostly sunny days, soft winds, blowing right this minute, meals with sweet summer corn, grilled things, steak, chicken, frosty cocktails, Zoom visits with far off friends. Jazz or classical music my constant companion.  

On waking, I look at the field in front of my door, feel a flush of gratitude, thinking I am lucky to be here, this moment, having something creative to do, a sense of purpose, a morning reason for an afternoon.

It’s not been a summer to avail myself of beach pleasures; too busy seeking beach reads for the bookstore; Sunday mornings curled up with the book section of the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, burrowing in to find what should slip onto our shelves. Weekday mornings, some time with books, a splash of news, all I can bear.

Yesterday, in a conversation with a friend, safely ensconced in a lovely Georgian home near my old house, he recounted similar feelings, staying in the quiet comfortable moment, lovely dinners, flickering candlelight, a good glass of wine, enchanted in soft semi-solitude, good conversations with his companion, the world at bay.

Outside my island life or my friend’s stately redoubt, the world is burning, the empire falling, barbarians at the gate.

The world is giving us multitude reasons to feel this way.

A pandemic still rages, numbers down to only 50,000 new infections a week in this country. Only 50,000…

We have bookstore customers, wearing masks, gloves if wanting to touch books, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass shields at the counter, a retail world I could not have imagined last summer.

A little over a year ago, I spent two amazing weeks in Lebanon, made some friends, want to sit again in Chez Pepe in Byblos, the most ancient place in the world; wander again through the ruins of Tyre, visit again the towering Blessed Virgin of Lebanon, sit over a cocktail with my friend Joey. When might that be possible now the country teeters on collapse after an enormous blast ripped apart Beirut?

In the last few months, it has been a task to source books people want relating to Black Lives Matter. “White Fragility,” impossible for a time; demand for “Caste” overwhelmed Penguin Random House, who apologized profusely for our missing order; couldn’t print them fast enough, arriving, finally, yesterday.

Front and center at the bookstore we have a display of BLM books.  A customer came to do a special order of Sean Hannity’s new book, “Live Free or Die.”  He said to a young associate: my, you have a lot of Marxist books here!  

I was not on the floor; when told, I echoed Lord Byron, “If I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis I may not weep.”

The Post Office is a source of ire for Trump, not wanting it to work as he thinks it will help Democrats; his minion, Postmaster Louis DeJoy, is throttling it to death, blue boxes disappearing, sorting machines hauled out in the name of cost cutting.  

DeJoy will stop doing more though not undo what’s been done; has darker plans after the election.  [You’re messing with us, making media mail more difficult!]  

The virtual Democratic convention has finished, a mélange of strange bedfellows, all determined to dump Trump, progressives, moderates, Republicans who can take no more, Colin Powell, Kasich among them, Bloomberg, too; the sitting president eviscerated by the last one; a ninety year old vet, lifelong Republican, 2016 Trump voter, declared he’ll vote for Biden, wanting someone to do their duty, as he did; moved to tears by a young stutterer, Brayden, friended by Biden on the stump, Biden who manages his own stuttering well, as he has managed grief, more times than life should give. 

The pandemic and the protests over the death of George Floyd have exposed economic as well as racial divides.  

We are living in a new “Gilded Age,” where “coronavirus is for the poor.” Read about it here:   

[https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/08/luxe-quarantine-lives-of-silicon-valley-elite]

Is it any wonder I snuggle into this island, focus on the bookstore?  

Out there, there be dragons.

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