The Opposite of Hibernating

Elizabeth Bluemle - April 27, 2021

Hello, long-lost friends of ShelfTalker! It’s hard to believe that, after 10 years of blogging for PW, it’s now been over a year since my last post. Catching up with the last 14 months of what it’s been like to be a bookseller during the pandemic seems almost impossible, like running into a friend you haven’t seen in 20 years and trying to figure out how to compress your life since you last saw them into a succinct and palatable blurb. Instead of doing that, let me lure you in with this lamb:

This is Thumbelina, the sweet lamb our wonderful customers
Julie and Maeve bring to the Flying Pig for visits.

We all have so many stories to share from every sphere of our lives during this time, from the early overwhelm of overturning our personal and work lives to meet the demands of Covid, to the loneliness and sometime terrors of those early months last winter and spring, to the roller coaster of hopes and despairs over the virus and the political scene and the stresses to our children’s education and social systems, to the blossoming of expanded efforts to work toward social justice, from the lengthy unsettling circus of the election to the hopes of restored calm, from the promise of the vaccine to the absolute chaos of January 6, and on and on and on, into the particular circumstances of our today and tomorrow and the next day.

It’s wild to process the fact that, amid all of that, people were also handling all of the myriad burdens and blessings that life brings as it rolls along. Life didn’t seem to pay any attention to the fact that we were all trying to DEAL WITH THE PANDEMIC, so life shouldn’t heap all that other stuff on top of that. But it did. Which is why, dear readers, so many people adopted puppies and kittens and read mountains and mountains of books.

I think books saved a lot of us this past year. Some of our customers mentioned having trouble concentrating on reading, but an impressive number ramped up their reading and have devoured books, especially books with a social justice bent or fiction that reflects and celebrates a broad spectrum of contemporary life.

And if books have saved our customers, our customers have saved us with their good cheer and support through the long months of curbside and window service and local delivery. We have one customer, Mary, who never visits without a gourmet bar of her daughter’s glorious artisanal chocolate in her pocket for us, and who just today brought us a beautiful potted plant full of tiny pansies and daffodils. We also adore Harriet, who always makes me laugh, and who bestows upon us clipped-out book-related comic strips or arty greeting cards with flying pigs on them or brings a box of those irresistible Trader Joe’s mini mousse cakes that change designs with the seasons. And there’s Gail, who has raised two generations of the most interesting, thoughtful, and kind children and grandchildren, and brings us stories of their latest adventures in reading and life. These are just three of the treasured customer-friends who have brought so much brightness to us this past year.

And then there was Anita (not her real name), a customer who, early in the pandemic, sent us a check for $2,000 to use however we most needed it. Can you imagine that kind of generosity?! We turned it into a gift card she can draw against for however long it takes her to buy that many books. It was an amazing gesture of support and faith in what we do, and it buoyed us at a time of the greatest intensity and uncertainty.

This is getting long, so let me give you another dose of Thumbelina:

There is nothing quite like holding a baby lamb, or seeing your puppy gently meeting that lamb, or receiving a photo of that lamb from her home, cuddled up between a couple of soft toys you brought her. That is a moment of peace in a fraught world.

It feels as though this long year-plus has been a time of hectic hard work and social hibernation—a strange combination. This spring, I’m looking forward to blogging again, to ranting about the quotidian booksellery things I rant about, to sharing new books I have fallen in love with and new authors I’ve discovered, and to hear about those things from you. I can’t wait for that kind of blogging to feel normal again! And I am so looking forward to hearing from all of you readers, writers, librarians, editors, and other bookish compatriots, whose shared wisdom has been sorely missed by us ShelfTalker folks. It’s good to be back.

1 thought on “The Opposite of Hibernating

  1. Penny

    So nice to see you back! And very interested to hear how your daily lives are progressing over there. I live in New Zealand, so we are very fortunate and thankful to be living tucked away at the bottom of the world where we are living normal lives these days, but always mindful, of course, that another Covid outbreak might be just around the corner.


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