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A Sig Blessing


Karen and I have just had a quick two day visit, our first “face to face” since Sig and Karen’s Big Oxford Adventure of August 2009.  Our two days were spent traveling through various parts of Central Vancouver Island with our husbands and one of her sons concluding this evening in Vancouver. While the guys did things like gliding, Karen and I ate in a restaurant where goats looked down from above. (Karen has a special kinship with goats), spied out touristy-shops (we concluded that there is nothing new under the sun) found the same ginger beer that we’d enjoyed at The Eagle and Child (the pub frequented CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien et al in Oxford) and, best of all, discovered two used book stores.

Our families have good reason to be concerned when Karen and I discover a used book store. We may not always buy, but we have to look.  What we don’t spend in money we do spend in time, crouching in the aisle, spying out interesting titles or specific out of print editions.  We try to look at our watches occasionally, especially since the time several years ago when I missed a flight home because Karen and I had one more bookstore to explore on the way to the airport.

Why are we drawn into used bookstores?

  1. Used bookstores have owners who love books and are usually knowledgeable about the author, title or genre we’re after.  In the very least, they know the lay of the land and will guide us down and around shelving to exactly the right spot without having to refer to a computer.
  2. There’s a certain casual approach to housekeeping that appeals to us.  Perhaps books could be dusted and organized but why would one bother when there’s a perfectly good book that needs to be read behind the counter in the company of a sleepy cat?
  3. Used books have two stories – the one written on the pages and the one on how it came to be in that bookstore.  We have have twice the opportunity to use our imaginations!
  4. Used books tend to be a fraction of the cost and so we can buy more if we find the right titles.

On this particular trip I found three books to add to my bookshelf.  “Early Will I Seek You” is a 40 day journey in the company of Augustine by David Hazard.  I don’t know much about Augustine, but I probably will know more in about 45 days.   Stay tuned.

“A Girl in Winter” by Philip Larkin will be part of my beach reading later this summer.  My third book was something Karen found and convinced me it was necessary.  “Away Went Wolfgang” is a 1954 children’s book about a dog with the same name as the one our children grew up with and still miss. Karen thought this little book might be something I put in a Grandma’s Hope Chest should I ever join her in the ranks of grandparenthood.  Apparently every good grandmother needs good books.

I know Karen purchased a couple of books on this trip but I can’t recall what they were. I do know that she is hot pursuit of CS Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” and FB Meyer’s “The Present Tenses of the Blessed Life”; neither of which were found on this excursion.  I’m sure I could find them both in an on-line used book bin, but then we’d have to think of new challenges for our used bookstore safaris.  And what would be the fun in that?

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– A Karen Blessing

So. . . in addition to seeing things, I’m now hearing things too.  But don’t lock me up just yet.  You might like this.

While doing business errands in the city, I had to stop at a drug store, where a two CD set of J. S. Bach begged me to buy it.  Back in the truck, I popped it into the CD player and listened to Anne Sophie Mutter, Sir David Willcocks, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. . . 40 selections, performed by talented artists, and for TWELVE BUCKS.

Blessed?  You bet!  I’m not a student of  music by any means, I can’t even read music.  But I know that I love Bach.  Think about it:  the man died in 1750, and in January 2010, we still hear what he wrote.  How does this happen, that something composed  almost 300 years ago, remain for us to enjoy today?  We can choose to hear it all day long if we want to, not just for one moment at a concert.

How many people who lived in Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s ever got to hear Bach?  At numerous concerts?  And 40 selections of his work?  He may have been the only person in Europe that ever heard what I did on those two pieces of plastic!  (though probably his wife did as well).  But really, how does one create something valuable enough to outlast one’s life, and that by 260 years?  And to have it listened to in a place not yet discovered at the time of  composition,  to have it enjoyed by someone driving a pickup truck, on paved roads (not cobblestone, Mr. J. S.), by putting a piece of plastic (“what’s plastic?”) into a machine on the dashboard (“dashboard?”) of my truck, to fill the speakers (“speakers?”  never mind, Mr. Bach) with his concerts, oratorios, the toccata and fugue, parts of the St. Matthew Passion, in a pickup truck in Canada. And all this for twelve bucks,  available to anyone who wandered into the store with cash.  This is astonishing, and Mr. Bach would have been most astonished as well.

Unfortunately, we’re used to it.  The wonder went away with the avalanche of music that is available to us. The bigger question in my mind is this:  is it even possible that any of us could do something that will still be influential in 300 years?  Mr. Bach didn’t have to invent electronics and plastic.   All he had to do was to provide something worth preserving. So, in 2310, will there be a
trace of anything that bears our fingerprints still around?  (For the moms reading this, J. S.’s mom can answer that in the affirmative!)

Johann Sebastian Bach

Will there?  Don’t answer that quickly.

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