Monthly Archives: November 2012

Shrines in the Hood

I don’t know why I log onto news some mornings. A woman in Arizona ran over her husband with a car because he had not voted in the presidential election. An elderly man in New Zealand is under court orders to keep 550 yards from the visiting Prince Charles and Camilla. Apparently in 1994 he sprayed Prince Charles with air fresheners “to remove the stink of royalty.” This time what he had in mind was more like horse manure. And back in this country, the CIA/FBI/Pentagon sex & email scandal implodes like a house of cards in high school.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going for a walk.

Just a few steps from home, I found it: a little civility. It looked, at first glance, like a birdhouse. Little Free Libraries, standing on posts alongside sidewalks in residential neighborhoods. Each hutch hosts a remarkably full, ever-changing variety of books, protected from the weather.

Little Free Libraries is the brainchild of a couple of men from Wisconsin, Rick Brooks and Todd Bol. When Bol’s mother, a school teacher, died, he built a memorial for her in his front yard. Shaped like a little red schoolhouse, it offered free books to passersby. People loved the idea and hired him to make more. When he met up with Brooks, an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a social enterprise was launched.

Today Little Free Libraries have popped up in over forty states and are going international–more than 40 in Ghana alone. And I’m lucky enough to have one on my walk to town. I regard it as a shrine. Today I lent a book of poetry and borrowed Willa Cather’s O Pioneer!

Using no start-up capital, Todd Bol and Rick Brooks founded a chain of micro lending libraries that help build community, much like bookgroups. Donations and volunteerism keep it all going. “(Neighbors) would tell me they had met more people than in the last 10 years, 20 years, 30 years,” noted Bol. Brooks concurs, “This is obviously about more than just books. Something is going on.”

Something is going on. Some people are thinking of ways to make the world a better place. And the more we all read, the better behaved we all are, and the more we stay out of trouble. It’s a start anyway.

Visit their site,


Filed under free books

Falling Leaves and First Ladies

Tuesday was the longest day. I don’t think many of us knew what to do with ourselves. Of course, some people were simply standing in lines to vote. Unbelievable images when you take into consideration that we are not a new democracy, and when you appreciate all our advanced technology. Still, people stood patiently in lines long past polling hours.

When I was at home in the day, I made calls. When I was out, I went for long walks amongst the trees. The sun was out and I took that as a sign. And I needed the air. Finally, I settled into raking leaves around my house. Bright yellows, golds, red and orange leaves that were lovely and falling at the same rate I could gather them. Nevertheless, it seemed important that I try to make things tidy. It was an impossibly long day, waiting for the results to roll in. And when I was done raking, I did it again.

Keep America Beautiful came to mind, the nonprofit organization Lady Bird Johnson embraced. I have heard that before her campaign, it was quite common for Americans to throw trash out their car windows. Our highways were littered, and in the course of inspiring people to clean up the trash she went a step further and proposed roadside wildflowers, a program that would sustain itself. (And the idea being that people would be less inclined to litter when the landscape was lovely). Lady Bird worked tirelessly to restore natural beauty to America’s public spaces. This was before we even had the word for environmentalism, but she understood it. She knew the impact it would have on the quality of our lives and communities.

While twice filling the yard waste bin it occurred to me that Lady Bird may be one of our most underappreciated First Ladies. I was also thinking it may be safe to come in now. It was dark and in the street lights the leaves in trees looked like blossoms. Another sign?

I’d enough air, I could breathe. I can make it.

And indeed, it’s over. The center is holding and we were not derailed. We can all go forward with what we do in this beautiful country of ours.

Now, where was I?


Filed under election