October 28: The wind swept me off the beach. I landed on a sunny deck overlooking Sinepuxent Bay, courtesy of the Assateague National Seashore Visitors Center. With rocking chairs and lovely views, the deck offered the perfect place for me to read my book. Tourists admired the view, snapped selfies and ignored me — until a man my age asked me what I was reading.
I know why he asked: the cover of my book was straight out of 1950s pulp fiction, all lurid poses and chiaroscuro. Perhaps more surprising was the the lapel-grabbing text, which my visitor couldn’t see: “The famous novel by the Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner: Sanctuary.” (Considering Faulkner’s other works, calling Sanctuary famous, I think, is a stretch…)
Why I owned this particular Faulkner novel and this edition, I don’t know. Its peculiarity, though, is what prompted my visitor to tell me his own story about books. He proudly claims no bookshelves in his house and only one box of books. “Well, you and your husband are librarians . . .,” I suggested.
Oh no, he said, that’s not the reason. “When we downsized, I sold all my other books: 330 boxes of them.”
Kevin, Nate, Jeremiah and I have many, many books. Three hundred and thirty boxes sounds like an overwhelming number. I guess I could make a rough survey of our bookshelves. But maybe I don’t want to know.
October 29: We stood in the church graveyard, well past dark, a shivery wind sometimes brushing our cheeks. The Berlin (Maryland) Ghost Tour guide leaned in to show us a photo, and then she squeaked. “I thought that tombstone was a person,” she said. Meanwhile, I thought that gray-hooded person was a tombstone. This, I thought, was a pretty good start.
Leading us through the tiny brick-clad 200-year old town, she told of ghost cats haunting an old fishmonger alley, “healing trees” and electromagnetic “ley lines,” and a despondent spirit woman known to stand right there (where I was standing; I moved). A car blared the song “Ghostbusters” as it passed us, and we appreciated the laugh, for soon we stood in front of a large 1830s house that, despite a fresh coat of paint and perfect location, hadn’t been occupied (by living people) for over 70 years.
We finished in the well-lit courtyard of an old (haunted) hotel and said goodnight. I walked to my car alone down the dark empty street. The leaves scudding next to me sounded like footsteps.
I’m glad I left all the lights on at home.
October 29: I returned today for a closer look at one of those haunted houses. Definitely not the long-abandoned one, but instead a lovely house museum that held the “healing tree” on its grounds. Built in 1832 in the Federalist style, the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum boasted painted canvas floor coverings, block-print wallpaper and beautiful period furniture local to the Chesapeake Bay region. It also came equipped with a wonderful docent, who shared my passion for Abraham Lincoln, old maps, Cary Grant, and stormwater management.
Subdivided and almost derelict, the house faced demolition in the 1980s. The community stepped in, raised money, and skillfully restored and furnished the house. The community also created a rich museum to the people, events and artifacts of the town of Berlin. (Local heroes include the Reverend Dr. Charles Albert Tindley, a founding father of Black Gospel music, and thoroughbred racing champions Man O’War, War Admiral and Seabiscuit.)
Sensing my evident interest, the docent tempted me with volunteer opportunities. I suppose, when visitors are scarce, I’d be able to linger at last over all that history.
October 30: A woman in elaborate Halloween garb — Frida Kahlo? — turned onto the path in our neighborhood woods. Dressed in a ruffled gown and white lace, the woman carried a large framed painting and a tripod.
I caught up with her and we exchanged greetings. Her name is Teresa Oaxaca and she lives nearby. A painter, Ms. Oaxaca photographs her work in the environments that inspire her.
As I write this, Ms. Oaxaca is a few yards away, her vibrant painting hanging from a tree, her veil cascading over her camera and tripod, and passers-by stealing peeks as she works.
People expect mystery at Halloween. I hope to see her again when she’s the only one in costume.
October 31: Yesterday, Jeremiah prowled the bookstore in his dinosaur costume. Tonight he and his costume helped me greet trick-or-treaters at our front door. Candy wasn’t the only attraction. “Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Ogle!” our visitors called out when I opened the door. (Jeremiah, meanwhile, enjoyed the admiration and astonishment of the toddlers.) Make-up, masks and old age prevented me from recognizing the elementary school kids as quickly as they recognized me. I doled out plenty of candy, but the treat was all mine.
November 1: Fourth-graders Colette, Jack and Corrine (“I’m still in second grade but I’ll be at Oak Street next year”) came to my door. “We were playing in the leaves and we found this,” Colette said. They handed me a sharp piece of metal. Well done, I told them.
Then, eying the carpet of leaves under our shining maple tree, I offered them rakes to make a jumping pile. They happily accepted my offer. When I checked on them again, they had raked a two-foot pile of leaves and were making running leaps from across the yard.
I gave them a thumbs-up. Maybe tomorrow I can point them to the leaves in the back.
November 2: Still energized by my substitute stint in a middle school civics class, tonight I attended a listening session of our town’s planning board. I thought we’d be discussing sidewalk improvements and pedestrian safety, so I was surprised when our town’s urban planner, Mr. Trainor, presented an entirely different and — judging from the 100+ citizens in attendance — a far more controversial topic.
A rostrum blocked my view of Mr. Trainor. I thought immediately of our friends of the same name, but their professions don’t involve urban planning.
Then the urban planner rose to accept new speakers’ slips. Mr. Trainor, it turned out, was one of Nate’s dearest friends, who — I now remembered — had moved back to the area after a decade in Pittsburgh. I was very tempted to submit a speaker’s slip, if only to hear Jack say my name perfectly (and maybe signal “hello”).
Bonus: Sometimes a sentence in a book strikes a little too close to home. Briskly walking to the farmers market while listening to Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz, I fairly blushed to hear this line: “She smiled at everyone even if she preferred not to stop and chat.”
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