Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A flower collection

Spring Larkspur
Forty-one years ago, a now-forgotten science teacher in Creston, Iowa gave his class an assignment: turn in a collection of 35 dried flowers gathered in the area by the end of May. He was met with a silent groan from his class of sophomores -- I was one of them.

Flower Press
The project seemed impossibly huge and un-doable.  I doubted that 35 wildflowers existed in the hills of southwest Iowa. But my dad and I dutifully made a flower press out of two pieces of wood and I spent about a month combing the streets, roadsides and pastures around Creston, picking the wildflowers and carefully pressing them between sheets of waxed paper.

I know I didn't want to make the flower press, but it did the job well.  The collection, carefully stored in a Ziploc bag, contains yellowing sheets of paper on which are arrayed the wildflowers we picked that spring over 40 years ago. Some even retain hints of their original color.

Each flower is painstakingly labelled with the scientific name, common name, location, date, student name, amount of flowers in that locale. Here's an example:
Denturia lacinata
Northeast of Creston
April 17, 1971
Melinda Hall
My dad took a real interest in the project.  Fortunately, he was a hiker and loved driving into the country on Sunday afternoons where we nonchalantly climbed over fences and trundled down hills in search of elusive Jacob's ladder, mayapple, and Dutchman's breeches. Those sunlit wildflower-hunting expeditions are precious memories, now that my dad is gone. And the names of many of the flowers have stayed with me, so that I can identify toothwort, columbine and false anemone with superiority and not a little pleasure.  

Wildflowers are everywhere -- abundant even on the hills of Iowa. May I always see the world with abundance!

Jacob's Ladder
Lily of the Valley

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reading enjoyment at the Rochester Library Book Sale

I spent last night and this morning working at the Friends of the Rochester Library book sale. I am a member of the Friends and the book sale is by far my favorite event. I get to see a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time, browse used books, and hang around the library. What could be better?

Last night was a Members Only preview night, essentially the only tangible benefit for belonging.  I was in charge of checking off Friends names from the list. Of course some had not renewed their membership and I was willing and able to help them with that!  Last night was busy, but since the sale was open to the public today, it slowed down enough for me to do a little shopping.

Chelsea had asked me to look for books for her third-grade class and I found several by some perennially popular authors; Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, etc. I also picked up a copy of Harriett the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, a book that played a major role in my writing ambitions. Finally, I couldn't resist buying a couple of books for me: Little Bee by Chris Cleave and Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. They  only cost a quarter each so I'm not out a lot of money if I don't like them.

When the sale closes tomorrow at four we will draw a Friend's member's name for a free Nook e-reader. It's somewhat ironic to give away an e-book reader at a used book sale, but the fact is that e-books are rapidly growing in popularity and many titles are available for free via booksonthego.org through the library. The role of the library itself is changing, but I hope that the idea of having books available for free, to everyone, never goes out of style. I'm not sure how long printed books will be around, but I do know as long as there are readers, there will be used books.