Longleaf Stories

full circle in the hundred acre wood

A not-so-funny thing happened roughly a year ago when we decided to get the “big house” ready to put on the market and I packed up most of our books in neat little not-too-heavy boxes (40 of them). The polished shelves looked properly “staged”  — handsome, noncontroversial and bland. Well, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since only three wandering souls found their way to the woods looking lost and confused in the six months we actually had our home listed. They seemed to be dazed by the (actual, real) thick Longleaf pine and hardwood forest they had to drive through, all canopied and dark, for more than a third of a mile, then breaking out into a Narnia-esque clearing. Unexpected. Anyway. I had put away all the precious books (even most of my piano books) for nothing. Buck had (wisely as usual) suggested to me that attempting to “stage” our home for marketing like the real estate folks preach was fruitless and possibly even counterproductive in our situation. Graying out our strong personalities so (as the conventional wisdom goes) prospective buyers could imagine themselves living here, was wasted motion.

The not-so-funny thing is that the vanilla canvas was uninteresting to me on some deep level, apparently. I stopped writing. I stopped playing the piano. For a time, I almost stopped reading (me, the serial cereal box reader, one who listens to one book in the morning, reads another at night, who inhales genres and adores story whether real or imagined). I spent a lot of time cleaning the kitchen, organizing closets and other mind-numbing deadender stuff. It was a pleasant enough suspended animation, but since we convinced ourselves we needed to “downsize” (who made up that non-word?) — the focus of life moved for a while to this project.

I stopped taking pictures of the abundant life here in the woods, too, from marvelous strange bugs like the big red velvet ants that squeak, to the astonishing array of fungi ranging from the crude and horribly ugly to the delicately pretty with gills so transparent the morning light can shine through, from the edible to the killer who promises visions. After all, we were leaving, right? Time to pack it all up.

You know the end of this chapter. Efficient little Mary Beth decides to unpack a box or two, loses control and winds up in a box-cutting frenzy, not stopping until every single book has been liberated and is back on the shelves. I’ll admit to murmuring, “There you are!” and “So that’s where you had gotten to!” There was some stroking, fondling and rubbing with a soft cloth, even bar-code scanning and picture taking when necessary with a nifty app called Book Crawler.

Buck, noticing all this industry, asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Moving back in.”


Then, low and behold, all the ink hadn’t dried in those abandoned pens after all. The camera still works. Wonder and a happy energy have returned.

When I was out with Lou at six, we visited with the resident woodland rabbit in the long wet grass, I twined racing tendrils of a confederate jasmine plant in and out of the fence by the little pool, and was transfixed by a virtuoso mocking bird belting out an aria from the peak of the roof.

The coffee is going to taste mighty fine this morning.




4 thoughts on “Unpacking the Books

  1. Love your bookshelves, Beth. There’s nothing more disrupting to a creative routine than moving—or thinking of moving. It sounds good to be home again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beth says:

      It sure is, Richard. Thank you! Did you notice I have two copies of Shepherd? 🙂


  2. dclaud says:

    The only thing I’d rather have a peek of than your books is the inside of your fridge. One of the real pleasures of staying in Air BnBs for 21 days is seeing other people’s kitchens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beth says:

      I’m afraid my fridge is rather dull these days, with the exception of some excellent salt-packed capers plus pretty baby okra, speckled butter beans and white acre peas from Bailey’s Farmers Market. Like you, one of my great pleasures in renting vacation homes over the years has been the occasional true gem of a well-equipped (or at least interestingly equipped) kitchen, A bonus is cookbooks (and other books in the rest of the house). Best ever was a place on the Maine coast in Tremont, overlooking Blue Hill Bay. Cookbooks galore, even a handwritten journal of recipes. A real treasure. I did get to cook on an AGA stove for a week once on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. Cooked local (gorgeous) sea scallops, monkfish and all sorts of fun things. The cottage (a former kennels for the castle) was a joy (surrounded by a high hedge row and blooming hydrangeas everywhere). That was September of 2004. I watched the devastation of Hurricane Ivan hitting our town (Pensacola) from my laptop computer and Sky News.


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