This March Anniversary

What a long terrible year it’s been. All the way through it, I kept thinking: how lucky I am, how sheltered, how safe. But the state of this blog is a good indirect illustration of my own state.

Social media has been full of one year pandemic anniversary posts. The mask found in the pocket of a spring jacket, the last hotel room, the last restaurant, the last hug.

What popped up for me was this photo I took over the counter of Buffalo Street Books, the independent cooperative bookstore where I have volunteered every week for years. I own a share of it, and I was elected to the board the summer of 2019. I love this store. Thanks to the heroic efforts of a few key people, it has barely survived as the last independent bookstore in my little college town for years, and I am devoted to keeping it, not just afloat, but growing in strength and , a solid cornerstone of our cultural life.

On March 19, 2020, I went into the closed store to help the manager call special orders, and as the news came in, and we realized we had to shut down completely for who knew how long, I ended up staying all day. We were already in rough shape for that calendar year, and had no idea when or if we would be able to reopen. I feel better when I can be useful in a crisis, so it was a cheering day of impending doom.

My college student was already home for the duration, his spring break extended right up to this present day. My high school student opted to study from home as well. None of my relatives have died. Many are now vaccinated. The bookstore still exists, getting by month to month on the thinnest of margins, as bookstores do.

But like a lot of writers, I lost track of my projects most of this year. I had so many plans, I even had a planner for the first time in years, with beautifully organized entries that ended in March. The only thing I finished was a novella, in which the world comes apart in a different way. And I kept struggling with the biography, and this winter I got it back off the ground. I found new materials, had some new ideas, I’m writing a new sample chapter. And today an archivist from a collection near me emailed to say that she found the microfilm of a tiny newspaper that contains some of the first articles my subject ever published in 1842, and that now exists almost nowhere. But she has over twenty issues, and on Friday I will drive up there to look at them on their broken reader that cannot print so I will have to take my camera and the stand and photograph the screen. At this point, that level of adversity looks like fun to me.

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