Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two new books

After several weeks of not buying a single book, I gave in. I should know better than to go to the antique store with money in my pocket. But it was meant to be an Arthur Rackham kind of day.

I found this copy of Willows to add to my collection. It's hardcover and still has the dust jacket, and I paid much less for it than it's worth. It's an unabridged 1940 printing with twelve color plates and an introduction by A. A. Milne:





I also found this copy of Fairy Tales by Andersen. It's not a particularly special copy, but it is hardcover with dust jacket and twelve color plates and tons more illustrations throughout the text. Plus I didn't have a copy. For a kid lit student, that's probably unacceptable:






Aren't they pretty...in a strange Rackham kind of way? Both books have that satisfying old smell to them which for some reason brings up a recurring image in my mind of a future me disappearing into thin air and kids coming across my spooky house out in the woods and finding it full of books and pulling ones like Fairy Tales off the shelves and flipping through the slightly gruesome pictures and more than slightly gruesome tales, completely enthralled, and hopefully sneaking out with books in backpacks or under their arms. I promise if this happens, and if you're that kid, I will not haunt you.

I'd be perfectly content to know my purpose in life was to leave books behind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burns Night Pictures

Some things I learned during our first annual Burns Night dinner:

1. Haggis was never meant to be vegetarian
2. In a contest between boiling water and loosely tied intestines, boiling water wins
3. Neeps ain't half bad
4. Just because something smells like woodsmoke doesn't mean you shouldn't drink it
5. Bagpipe music has the special ability to be awesome and annoying at the same time
6. The more oil/butter/cream/salt/sugar, the better (I knew this, but just in case you didn't)
7. Heaven is made of sticky toffee pudding

After much preparation, our Burns Night meal started with the Selkirk Grace, read by me (with bagpipes playing in the background, thanks to Pandora)...


...then To a Haggis, read by Jonathan.


Then the feasting began. I suppose we should have started with the starter, cock-a-leekie soup, but we just ate it along with our meal. It was delicious, partly due to number six above. Traditionally it would have had chicken in it, but ours didn't. Click here for the recipe. But add more oil to make it Southern good.


The main meal was very heavy and filling. Top left in the picture below are the mashed potatoes (I like leaving the skins on and putting in tons of butter and salt and milk). Top right is the mashed rutabaga (again, lots of butter and salt but no milk). That took care of the neeps and tatties requirement (some people mix them together, but we didn't). Bottom left and right are the two types of vegetarian haggis we had, sweet and savory. Click here for the haggis recipes if you want them, though I didn't like either very much. One was too mustardy and the other too gingery. They weren't awful, just not to my taste. As a former meat-eater, I appreciate those times when meat would be a better option. Like...when ordering steak for example. There's no substitute for steak. And, though maybe we just need to try a different vegetarian recipe next year, I'm currently of the opinion that there must be no substitute for sheep organs either.


One of our additions to the traditional menu was Jonathan's homemade sourdough bread. It's best toasted with butter and honey and is very pretty to look at. The hardest thing is waiting for it to cool before cutting it.


Our other addition was the pudding instead of a traditional Burns Night dessert. But before I show you pudding pictures, I may as well get one other photo out of the way. Below is Jonathan stuffing the casing with prepared veggie haggis. (The casing is supposed to be larger but must have been mixed up by the butcher with a thin sausage casing instead.) It was much more horrifying in person than the picture portrays. I shivered a little at the thought of it after it was all over. One more reason to never eat animal parts. The concoction didn't hold up under boiling water, but Jonathan wasn't put off and is planning to do 'real' haggis next year. I foresee myself leaving and coming back when it's finished.


I hope you can erase that image from your mind with the following: me preparing the sticky part of the sticky toffee pudding. The recipe is here. Whatever you're doing, stop and go make this immediately. You'll thank me.


Notice the fancy tartan apron?


I think the entire night was worth the effort for the dessert alone. It's really moist because it's full of dates and egg and butter. After the cake bakes, the topping is warmed and poured over and broiled till it bubbles. The following picture is what makes up the topping...brown sugar, butter, double cream, and vanilla...over heat it basically becomes caramel and after the broiling, becomes crunchy. Next time, I'll probably double the topping. Or maybe triple it...



Burns Night wouldn't have been complete without whisky. We had Bowmore. It smells like woodsmoke, a happy homey kind of smell, especially nice in winter. When you drink it, the smoke is mixed with a syrupy flavor that's quite good. And very warm.


We wrapped up the night with a few readings, then Jonathan sang Auld Lang Syne with a Scottish accent. Good food and drink and company. A very nice time. And though I probably won't read any Burns for a while or listen to bagpipes for an even longer while, I'm glad I got to know a little more about a literary heritage that's close enough to my heart to be my own. It's like they say, good writers manage to touch on something universal and make it accessible and moving. That's what Burns has done for others and what he's now done for me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Burns Week: Day 7

There's plenty more to say about Burns, but I think I've said enough. Today, he can speak for himself. In excerpts. (All excerpts from Project Gutenberg)
~*~
From Remorse - A Fragment

Of all the numerous ills that hurt our peace,
That press the soul, or wring the mind with anguish,
Beyond comparison the worst are those
That to our folly or our guilt we owe.
In every other circumstance, the mind
Has this to say, 'It was no deed of mine;'
But when to all the evil of misfortune
This sting is added--'Blame thy foolish self!'
Or worser far, the pangs of keen remorse;
The torturing, gnawing consciousness of guilt,--
Of guilt, perhaps, where we've involved others;
The young, the innocent, who fondly lov'd us,
Nay, more, that very love their cause of ruin!
O burning hell! in all thy store of torments,
There's not a keener lash!

From On Seeing A Wounded Hare Limp By Me

Inhuman man! curse on thy barb'rous art,
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart.

Full text of fragment The Book-Worms

Through and through the inspir'd leaves,
Ye maggots, make your windings;
But oh! respect his lordship's taste,
And spare his golden bindings.

From My Heart's in the Highlands

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe--
My heart's in the Highlands wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of valour, the country of worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

From Flow Gently, Sweet Afton

Flow gently, sweet Afton! among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream--
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

From Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min'?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
~*~
Tomorrow, we feast! Pictures to come...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Burns Week: Day 6

Almost there now! Tomorrow is the last post, then Tuesday is the supper.

So. Why celebrate Robert Burns?

That's a personal question, really. I suppose everyone would have a different answer. Some because of his works, some because of their ancestry, some because they like an excuse to drink whisky and wear a kilt. Whatever their reasons, I can tell you mine. From what I've learned in this short week (speaking of which, I knew practically nothing before this week, so this was never meant to be an academic pursuit, just a pursuit of pleasure, which isn't to say academics and pleasure are mutually exclusive, but which is to say don't quote me on anything without looking it up first for yourself), Burns seems to have been thoughtful, approachable, and flawed. He knew what it meant to be lovesick. He died young but left his mark by sharing his heart through the most powerful means--those that came naturally to him. He was a successful writer but still had to work a day job to make his way. He longed for adventure but knew how to see and appreciate his immediate situation. And his brief life was full of what some might call mistakes. In short, he's the kind of guy I'd have liked to have as a friend. In that case, why not commemorate? People lined the streets to mourn him at his funeral. Countless have been celebrating his life since before it ended. And though countless people in agreement can often be a bad thing, this time it isn't. When the people come together for something good, it's time to take notice.


So, then. How does one celebrate Robert Burns?

Any way one likes. But there are some pretty rigid traditions you can follow if you choose to. Jonathan and I have chosen to use the rigid traditions as a loose guide and make the night our own (especially since authentic haggis isn't legal in the states...yet). We considered going to an official Burns Night celebration, but to my surprise, the big ones within driving distance are all black-tie events. And they're fairly expensive. I don't have much interest in going to a Burns Night where Burns himself wouldn't be admitted, though I don't necessarily disparage others for going. I learned from a Burns expert this week that the formality seems to be a regional response. Somehow, though I'd imagine the South to be the place where the most relaxed celebrations could be found, they've become formal events. I suspect what some people call Old South money to be behind it (you know, big plantations, southern belles, all of that), as well as the exclusivity of some of the regions' Burns clubs (some are for men only and many are just for people with documented Scottish ancestry), but I can't be sure. Apparently, if you want to find a more farmerly highlander style gathering, you have to have one of your own or find a small group of people who've done the same. Sadly, we don't know any of those people, so we've decided to have an intimate little feastie with just the two of us. Perhaps if it goes well we'll invite others next year.

The disadvantage of a small gathering is that much of the ceremony is lost...no piping in of the guests or the haggis, no lovely accents for our readings, no kilted revelers spinning around the room to live music, no grand immortal memory. The advantage is that Jonathan doesn't have to rent a tux and we don't have to feel that awkward tension of sitting at a table full of strangers. More than that, we can decide what's most important to us and make the night personal. And when it comes to what's important, I tend to agree with Burns:

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Burns Week: Day 5

We're getting close to Burns Night now and that means grocery shopping. The classic menu is pretty basic:

Cock-a-Leekie soup (fowl with lots of leeks mixed with veggies and broth as an appetizer)
Haggis (sheep organs with spices and oatmeal cooked in a casing as a main dish)
Mashed Neeps and Tatties (mashed rutabaga and mashed potatoes)
Typsie Laird (fruit trifle with sherry or scotch...hence the tipsy part)
Cheese and fruit (whatever you like)
Scotch (whisky...not whiskey)

As you may or may not know, I'm a vegetarian. So the menu has had to be adjusted a bit. Plus the dessert seems to be variable, so we're skipping the trifle and doing one of my favorite desserts instead. But more about our menu on the day! Here are some pictures of our shopping adventure from earlier today during which we got many things we've never bought before including prunes, dates, rutabaga, eggplant, and a two foot length of hog intestines to use for casing.

This is my husband admiring beans. It's very like him to admire beans.


This is eggplant, which you probably knew, but which I've only ever eaten unknowingly. It'll end up in the vegetarian haggis.


Those big mushrooms on the right (which taste and smell and look like dirt if you ask me) will end up in the second vegetarian haggis, the more savory one. Actually all of our haggis will be vegetarian, but Jonathan's veggie haggis will at least be cooked in the hog casing.


Those big roots on the left are rutabaga for the mashed neeps.


Ginger for the haggis.


Prunes for the leek soup and dates for the dessert.


Hungry yet? You could always ask the nice folks at the rare books library if you could borrow Burns' old porridge bowl and spoon, but I doubt they'll let you. It's on display along with a bronzed plaster statue and some very handsome portraits and other interesting things, so if you're ever in Columbia, South Carolina and have a minute, stop by. I especially like the initials and year carved into the side of the porridge bowl.




More tomorrow about what to expect out of a Burns Night celebration. For now, a verse about a rodent (but really about so much more). To experience this one in a particularly special way, read along here (so you can see the Standard English translation alongside the original for those bits of dialect that aren't made obvious by the context) while you listen as Liz Lochhead, Scotland's recently appointed national poet, recites the piece at the Guardian Books podcast here. (She starts her recitation about 23 minutes in, but the preceding information in the podcast is really interesting if you wanna learn more about Burns.) To a Mouse is one of Burns' most famous and well loved works, its popularity having as much to do with bards as with beasties . . . enjoy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Burns Week: Day 4

After a long day at the library which ended in a serious headache over the two hour drive home, I've only just convinced the pain to mostly go away for long enough to get my Burns post posted. Therefore, this shall be a post of pictures even though I have lots to say after talking with Burnsian experts and looking at cool Burnsian stuff and finding out interesting things about Burns Night traditions. That'll all have to wait till tomorrow. For now, just a few of the things I came across today which don't even scratch the surface of what the library has in its awesome and magical and mysterious vault where the really cool old stuff is. No explanation will be given now for what you're seeing, just know that they're all Burns books and that sometimes the book itself is a work of art and needs no explanation...especially when one is nursing a headache.











Today's Burns sample goes along with the subject of yesterday's post, but first, look up these words together--Sylvander and Clarinda...or simply, Letters Addressed to Clarinda. In honor of this special relationship, I present to you, Ae fond Kiss:

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae fareweel, and then for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.
Who shall say that fortune grieves him
While the star of hope she leaves him?
Me, nae cheerfu' twinkle lights me;
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy,
Naething could resist my Nancy;
But to see her, was to love her;
Love but her, and love for ever.--
Had we never lov'd sae kindly,
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met--or never parted,
We had ne'er been broken hearted.

Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, enjoyment, love, and pleasure!
Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
Ae farewell, alas! for ever!
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Burns Week: Day 3

Burns seems to have been a hopeless romantic. He ended up with many soulmates and many children and therefore many poems and songs about the splinters of his heart. His life is like a love story, and then another, and another. The question is, what came first, the poet or the lover?

Here's just one of many such verses. I like this one because it's supposedly about someone he didn't even have a relationship with--he just appreciated her beauty in passing:

Her Flowing Locks

Her flowing locks, the raven's wing,
Adown her neck and bosom hing;
How sweet unto that breast to cling,
     And round that neck entwine her!
Her lips are roses wat wi' dew,
O, what a feast her bonnie mou'!
Her cheeks a mair celestial hue,
     A crimson still diviner.

But he was more than just a ladies' man. For more about where and when this romantic came from, see the short video below from www.scotland.org:


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Burns Week: Day 2

I've been trying today to make a connection between Robert Burns and children's literature since that's what this blog aims to be about. Though I don't like to put literature into rigid categories, I do think his writings with heavy dialect would be inaccessible to children who don't have someone to help them along. And though there are plenty of biographies for children about his life and writings, I didn't find an overwhelming number of books that make his actual poems and songs accessible.

Which is a shame. Because children connect with sounds and rhythm and images, not necessarily meaning. They don't actually have to understand a thing to experience it on some level. Take Mother Goose for example. Most of the nursery rhymes I grew up on have yet to make any sense to me. But it didn't matter because there was a rhythm, something memorable, a song, and what I brought away were images. It never occurred to me that a dish running away with a spoon didn't make sense because I was a kid and so it did make sense. Or consider the sing-song rhymes used in everyday play. I didn't have any idea I was being morbid by singing ring around the rosy, but it didn't matter. It was all for play, as well it should have been. It's disproportionate, the number of living years humans spend worrying about grown-up things, so if a child wants to spin in circles while chanting disturbing rhymes, just leave her the hell alone! No, in fact, I've got one better. Give her more rhymes and rhythms to add to her arsenal. Perhaps starting with this one. The dialect isn't as heavy as some of the others, it's not political, and the sounds are sweet and pretty. Trust me, she'll love it (and if you get really brave, you can learn the tune and teach her to sing it):

A Red, Red Rose

O, my luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O, my luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
'Till a' the seas gang dry.

'Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a-while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile.

For a more scholarly connection between Burns and children's literature, read this from the National Library of Scotland. Then think back to the fairy and folk tales from your own childhood, the wild imagery, the strange characters, the unexpected twists, the heroes and villains--if your childhood was anything like mine, those became the foundation all other stories would rest on.


Image: By William Hole R.S.A. (The Poetry of Burns, Centenary Edition) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Burns Week: Day 1

A few months ago, I found this tiny book of poems and songs by Robert Burns at my favorite antique shop:


The printing is part of a series from Little Leather Library Corporation, New York, and this copy is probably from the early 1920s. I picked it up for a friend because it was pretty, but since I knew nothing about Burns, I thought I should read through it first. By the end, I decided to keep it for myself. Selfish, yes. But I'd made a connection, and my friend didn't care either way. I've always had a difficult time reading anything poetical (my preferred adjective over poetic). The best I do is a little bit of Frost or Dickinson or Silverstein or Seuss. When I read Burns though, the themes and dialect and tone spoke to the mountain folk mentality that lies deep within me. He could just as well have been a good ol' boy from Appalachia as Scotland's national poet. I only learned he was so famous after I decided I loved him which I'm glad of because I wouldn't want to just love him because everyone else does. And guess what just so happens? Jonathan and I have a Scotland driving trip planned for this summer!

Providence and luck got together and followed me from the antique shop to trip planning to the rare books library where I volunteer. Turns out, one of their prized possessions is a collection of Rabbie's manuscripts, letters, chapbooks, pamphlets, you name it. I've started noticing Burns everywhere there. He's on book trucks and shelves and on people's desks and in display cases and in stacks waiting for protective covers and on the website for scanning digitally and on and on and on--it really is a sprawling collection, like this little leather copy of Tam o' Shanter with its tiny leather tie string:


Sometimes don't you wanna just do something in response to the nice things you find in the world? Don't you want to celebrate the universality of life in some tangible way that says, I see the connections that exist within the chaos, the pains and joys of life that bring commonality and therefore comfort? I do! That's why I'm spending the next seven days with Mr. Burns, up to January 25 (Burns' birthday) when Burns Night is traditionally celebrated.

Every day till then, I shall read something of Burns' and learn something new about him and post my findings and pictures here. Then on the night, there will be haggis (both the vegetarian variety and the stomachy kind) and whisky and music and readings and possibly at least one guy in a kilt. (Pictures to follow)

For today, I leave you with an excerpt:

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin!
In vain thy Kate awaits thy coming!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do they speedy utmost, Meg,
An win the key-stane of the brig;
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they dare na cross.
Bet ere the key-stane she could make,
The fient a tail she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard upon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle;
But little wist she Maggie's mettle--
Ae spring brought off her master hale,
But left behind her ain gray tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lady in White

I can't say for sure about the lady in white. Whether or not she's real. Whether or not the nice woman behind the counter in the back corner of the shop is right to have her doubts about the lady's existence even though the owner of the shop has often seen the specter walking the narrow staircase that connects the first floor of books with the second floor of even more books which are stacked to the ceiling and layered two to three rows back on every shelf and standing in wavering piles in the corners and lining the carpet and crammed into the open space beneath the window. But saying things for sure has never been very interesting to me anyway. Saying things for maybe is much more intriguing. And now that I think of it, probably much more true.

In July 2009, Jonathan and I walked down a side street in Cambridge. A shop caught my eye because the sidewalk out front was lined with boxes of books and because the bright red front window was crammed so full of kid book titles I couldn't see inside. It's been my favorite shop ever since.

But I can't say I felt a tingling when I walked up the crowded stairs or an unusual draft as I flipped through the brown pages of early prints of school stories or sensed a strange presence in the tiny room with bars on its windows where the Pooh and Alice books live. Even though the sign over the door said Haunted Bookshop and even though I've had plenty of unexplainable interactions with not-so-solids before, I felt nothing.

We were almost ready to leave (I think Jonathan was discussing the history of the place with the woman behind the desk) when I knelt down to save a thin book which had been crammed awkwardly on a bottom shelf between two hulking hardbacks till it was nearly crushed. When I turned it over to see a green cloth binding with a picture on the front of the boy who never grew up, my heart stopped. Peter Pan and Wendy. My very favorite book of all time. It had to be old. It was in plastic. I carefully pulled the book from its wrapping. Inside someone had written in pencil, "v. early copy of scarce item £45". . . at the time that was $76 I didn't have to spend on books. I showed Jonathan. It was a 1918 printing, I said. I asked the person working if she could take less for it. But it didn't work out. I couldn't justify the cost. It didn't make sense to buy it. I had enough books already.

We left the store and the book and the street and Cambridge, but I'm not ashamed to admit I cried. I know it's just a thing. Just pages with words printed on them. The story itself is not in the ink. And the story is what I love. But there was a connection. A meant-to-be. I guess I knew that, but I left it anyway. Because it didn't make sense.

Nearly a year and a half later, just this December, I found myself faced with the daunting task of making a Christmas list. I thought and thought and thought until a brilliant idea came to mind: I'd ask for a Peter Pan print to frame and hang in the living room. A brief search online and I found the exact thing. F. D. Bedford's "Peter Flew In". Beautiful.

A few days later, many weeks of planning ended with me sitting on a plane headed to England. I was to meet a friend in Oxford and then go with her to Cambridge. I'd really been talking up the haunted bookshop. I recall saying something about it being my favorite store in the world and about it being amazing and quirky and something about Cambridge not being worth the visit if you don't at least stop in to see the books. When we arrived, we found the shop easily, and I was so pleased to see a messy pile of books on the sidewalk, including one stuffed with Christmasy titles. The red paint around the window was the same, and the shop inside still hidden by the books behind the glass. Lovely.

We went in and immediately began to rummage through the piles. Ellen became engrossed in looking for this or that author. I flipped through some girls' books. I tried to find an early copy of Swallows and Amazons, but had no luck. A Christmasy book nearly fell from a tall pile, so I looked through it for a while. Pictures were taken. Then I left Ellen upstairs to search for my classics on the first floor.

The same helpful woman from a year and a half before sat at the back. I asked her where Milne and Carroll were and where the copies of Treasure Island were and if there were any old versions of Willows. And then of course, I asked for Peter. You know, it never occurred to me that the little green cloth copy would be there. How could it be? It'd been so long and it was a fairly affordable price for an early printing and I'd wanted it so badly that my greed had surely been punished by some wretched uncaring soul snatching the book up and whisking it away to let it live on a shelf, never a page to be turned. But when I asked her, she brought a stack of books, one of which was small and thin and wrapped in plastic. She tried to point out a very nice hardcover edition with Rackham illustrations, full color, beautifully presented, but it was £2000! I'll never own that book. But the little one with Peter on the front holding his sword and Hook's ship in the background looming on a turbulent sea--that little one was now well within my reach.

I took it out of the plastic, flipped it open--still £45. I turned to the next page. It was blank. Next was the title page with an illustration--but not just any illustration. It was F. D. Bedford's "Peter Flew In". No way, I thought. No freaking way. I had no memory of seeing that illustration. I didn't even know who Bedford was a year and a half ago! I knew then I wouldn't walk out without the book a second time. I carried the thing around with me for another half hour, talking about other pretty little books and about the shop and the weather and finally about the lady in white. I was told that the owner has seen her many times, but the only experiences the woman I spoke with had had were more mischievous. According to her, things go missing. Obvious things that she knows right where to look for (and she really does seem to know where everything is). She'll search and search and never find a book, eventually assuming someone has stolen it or it's been sold without record on accident. But the next day, she'll come back in to work and find the book laying in the middle of the floor as if someone was holding it back the whole time to play a trick on her.

As she told me stories of the lady in white's mischief, I immediately realized what had happened with Peter and Wendy. The lady in white must have been there on my first visit. She'd seen me peering in through the front glass and known immediately how I would be and taken the book and crammed it between the hardbacks so I'd notice it. But she hadn't expected me to leave without it. And she'd watched me back on the street wiping my eyes. And when the nice woman closed the shop up for the night, the lady in white must have come down her stairs and taken the book away to a far shelf somewhere out of sight. Then she waited and waited and waited. The exact amount of time I did. And on a cold day in December, I walked back into the store, my heart completely void of hope for the book, only to find it there waiting for me.

"It's snowing!" the woman said as I held the book in my hand.

I paid and Ellen and I went back out onto the street to find huge white flakes falling, soft and pretty. Very rare, I hear.

My new year's resolution has to do with following my heart, believing what it says, and trusting things will work out. But the lovely thing is that sometimes, even though I must give in to reason, my heart keeps beating in the background.

"Peter flung out his arms. There were no children there, and it was night-time; but he addressed all who might be dreaming of the Neverland, and who were therefore nearer to him than you think: boys and girls in their nighties, and naked papooses in their baskets hung from trees. 'Do you believe?' he cried."