Monday, July 21, 2014

BOOKS AT A BAZAAR

Bookstores and readings are common venues for book sales, but Friday I enjoyed a different kind of marketing event. I sold books at a bazaar hosted by the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly Women's Association in Monteagle, Tennessee, just down the road from Sewanee. It was a "dark and rainy" morning when the sale opened at 9 a.m, The event was slated to close at 4 p.m., but my personal fortitude waned after standing by a table hawking books, from set-up time at 7 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., when I threw in the towel and helped pack boxes of books. Rain pelted us as we exited the bazaar and headed for dry quarters.

The bazaar featured everything from arts and crafts to clothing and baked goods. When we first entered the auditorium, I was intimidated by the long tables of goods since Border Press had only a small card table and copies of five book titles arranged on it, with photographs of the book covers of Porch Posts and Why Water Plants Don't Drown (Pinyon Publishing) in the foreground of the display. I was further intimidated by a craftswoman next to our table who had a large, dazzling display of silver jewelry created from old forks, spoons, and other silver items that took her at least an hour to set up on a table twice the size of ours.

"Are there many book sellers at these bazaars?" I asked the craftswoman.

She looked at me, gave our table a cursory glance, and said, "There's at least one of those at every crafts show I go to." She returned to arranging her table.

"Do they sell many?" I persisted.

"A few," she said dismissively. She was a native Tennessean from Tracy City, so I was accustomed to such brief conversations, but the dismissal didn't inspire confidence.

"Been to many of these crafts shows?"

My interruptions seemed to be a bit much for her, but she threw a long reply over her shoulder, "I go to three or four of these every week. I fill my van with the jewelry, take it to the show and unload it, find a campground, take out the seat in the back of the van, unroll a sleeping bag, and I'm good for the night." She beamed a smile, pleased with her resourcefulness.

The last piece of information silenced me. I thought to myself, this gal ain't camping out in a van to sell a few books... and I sent out for food fortifications.

I met visitors to the bazaar from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia, and the first half of the day passed quickly because we received and talked with a lot of lookers. I spent several hours touting the virtues of porches and plants, but most people were more interested in the conversation than the books. After lunch, time lagged, and although my neighbor, the jewelry maker, stayed until the bitter end, we left at 3:30 p.m., having sold a dozen books and a few packets of cards. The cards featured the beautiful plant paintings of Susan Elliott who had illustrated Why Water Plants Don't Drown by Victoria Sullivan, owner of Border Press, and the arresting pictures attracted many lookers.

Although the sale seemed to last as long as a church meeting "singing all day and eating on the ground," it was a colorful event that benefits the work of the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly Women's Association, which has sponsored the bazaar and Tour of Homes for 51 years. Following lunch, Ralph Null, renowned floral designer, demonstrated his secrets for easy floral arrangements and auctioned these arrangements at the end of the program. Proceeds benefitted the Monteagle Women's Association.

The Monteagle Sunday School Assembly has a history dating back to 1882 when the Sunday School Convention of Tennessee established an educational congress for Sunday School teachers. Sunday School teachers from many southern states attended summer classes at the Assembly in Monteagle to enrich their Sunday School teaching.

The Monteagle Assembly had close ties with the first Assembly in Lake Chautauqua, New York, which was created to combine Sunday School teaching with "the promotion of the broadest popular culture in the interest of Christianity without regard to sect or denomination," and the organization attains its mission through a variety of spiritual, health, cultural, and educational activities. The Monteagle Assembly eventually became the headquarters for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

"The Assembly," as Sewaneeans refer to the attractive property, also contains over 160 homes, and the homeowners are fifth-and sixth-generation Assembly families. Two of the homes on tour Friday were the "Hallelujah Cottage" built in 1905, which has always been owned by women, and "Mojo," formerly known as "The Little House," built in 1885, that also has a special arrangement for dogs to come in through the screen porch door and leave through the kitchen door. Many of the homes have porches that reflect Queen Anne and Gothic architectural influences, which interested me because I've just published a book about porches and porch sitters. The homes are sought after as rentals during the summer months when special activities for adults and children are offered—youth programs dominate the Assembly's schedules.

The Assembly has an active rental program, public meeting rooms, a dining hall, tennis courts, an amphitheater, and other buildings and programs designed to accommodate thousands of visitors every summer. Sunday services and evening prayer (called Twilight Prayer) take place every week, and outstanding guest ministers and lecturers are featured in programs offered to the public.  


We actually developed good rapport with the silver jewelry craftswoman who was our neighbor at the bazaar and shared part of our lunch with her. She told us that she makes a better living creating and selling jewelry than she did managing a convenience store and gets more satisfaction from a creative occupation. In her spare time, she paints. She's representative of the numerous, talented craftspeople and artists born and bred in the Cumberland country, and I admire her ingenuity. But I'm still not going on the road and sleep in a van in order to market my "creations." Perhaps I would've been game for this sleeping arrangement at age 40, but that number is getting ready to double!

Monday, July 14, 2014

NIGHT OFFICES

Straight from the blurb written by Border Press regarding my newest book of poetry available on amazon.com in a few weeks:

"If you've ever suffered from insomnia or if you're a person who composes nocturnes of any kind during the night hours, Diane Marquart Moore's Night Offices, her nineteenth book of poetry, will "speak to your condition." Moore explores the uses of and the cures for insomnia, famous characters who have suffered from this malady; e.g., W.C. Fields, Groucho Marx, and Thomas Edison. With characteristic wit and irony, she records the sleeplessness of various family members and friends, including her own propensity to recite the night offices, writing that "in four vigils of the night you wake/with desolation for a pillow./Phantom crucifixions hover--/monsters that pull/your soul from sleep,/peer over the edge of a ceiling fan..." She confesses that no matter where she closes her eyes, "a lightship lowers its anchor in the room."

Paul Marquart, my brother in northern California, rendered the painting for the cover design of Night Offices, and Martin Romero, my grandson, designed the front and back covers.

A sample of the poetry in Night Offices entitled "Opus Dei:"

Sister Elizabeth's slippers,
the feet of prayer,
hurry along sacred corridors
bringing vials of care
between the aisles
of Compline and Lauds,
reciting the night Vigils,
her arms encircling
Sister Lucy, Sister Mary Zita
whose needs demand
God's love and mercy
each hour of the night
against the threatening void,
their souls suspended,
as a saint with callused feet
lights the lamp
for His arrival.

Thanks again to Border Press for launching Night Offices. I might add that another book of poetry, which will contain poems about humanistic botany and photographs of plant life taken by botanist Victoria Sullivan, is in the writing stages. It's entitled Between Plants and People. Most collections of my poetry are listed on amazon.com and on the borderpressbooks.com site. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

EVERYTHING IS PEACHY AGAIN

These excursions to buy peaches fresh from orchards seem to have become an obsession with me! Friends here at Sewanee gave us a tip about the best fruit in the area, and Saturday we set out for an orchard that we thought was in Tennessee but turned out to be in an adjoining state! We drove toward Winchester and veered onto Hwy. 16, which originated in the valley and led to Hwy. 79, where we began to climb, passing by granite cliffs and densely wooded areas that are characteristic of the Cumberlands. Although the highway was wide and in good condition, we had the entire road to ourselves. I began to feel we had driven onto the set of Deliverance and expected mountain men to come out of the woods to attack us at any moment. 

Several signs advertised the Walls of Jericho, and I wondered if we had driven into a time warp. I discovered later that the signs referred to Tennessee and Alabama trailheads that are part of the Skyline Wildlife Management area, which had once been the property of a Texas oil magnate who bought 60,000 acres of the land in Franklin County, Tennessee and Jackson County, Alabama during the 40's. The Nature Conservancy now owns 12,000 acres in Alabama and 8900 acres in Tennessee.

The road seemed endless, and I thought we were on a wild goose chase when we passed from Tennessee into Alabama. We turned around and after fifteen minutes and numerous attempts, I was able to get cell service and connect with the friend who had sent us peach hunting. She revealed that she had forgotten to tell us the orchard was in Alabama. Again, we turned around and retraced our route.

"We are in holy country," I told my friend Victoria who was driving. "We've passed at least three Holiness churches—the Free Holiness Church, The Holiness 79 Church, and some church with an acronym before the Holiness..."

"We can always get churched if we don't find any fruit," she said drily. I could tell that she was annoyed because even the GPS had ceased to register a speed limit for the area, which meant we were in uncharted territory.

When we had reached an elevation of 1700 feet, a sign appeared at the head of a small country road.

"Voila—Crow Mountain Orchards!" I exclaimed.

"Your favorite bird has come to the rescue," she said. "Only 7 1/2 miles more to travel... as the crow flies."

When we turned off on another lane, we began to see peach and green apple orchards and blackberry bushes growing by the roadside. We parked alongside six or seven cars and could see that the farm store didn't lack for customers—'though we wondered what highway they had traversed as no cars had passed us enroute. Inside, we found cartons of  peaches, blackberries, plums, and green apples and were given a taste of the fresh fruit. After sampling the delicious fruit, we bought peaches, blackberries, and plums and departed.

Bob Deutscher, the owner of Crow Mountain Orchards, was born and raised in Indiana and once had an active fruit operation there, but because he was forced to pick the fruit before it ripened in order to make a profit, he traveled south to find land suitable for an orchard so he could capture the early northern market. He purchased the 126-acre site on Crow Mountain in the early 70's and had plans to ship his fruit out in an effort to corner the northern wholesale market; however, the quality of his fruit actually brought people to his door. Today, most Crow Mountain produce is sold locally...even if goose girls like us have to get a bit lost before they locate the orchards. Apples from the Crow Mountain Orchards have been touted as the apples having the best color in the state and are among the tastiest, according to an Auburn horticulturist quoted on The Crow Mountain Orchards internet site.

The drive home seemed shorter, and when we brought the fruit to the Hammans, our friends who had sent us into the hinterlands, they invited us to sit a spell on their porch. We ate the plums for an appetizer and were lucky enough to be invited for supper and a rock music concert via Henry's streaming device. 


The trip reminded me of the years I spent in Iran when expatriates had to devote an entire morning to shopping for fruit and vegetables in the bazaar, but none of the Iranians' fresh produce equaled the quality of the fruit we brought back from Crow Mountain. The Hammans, who lived in Tehran several years, agreed with me, and Kathy described how ecstatic she felt when she entered a Kroger's market and found a gleaming display of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables the year they returned to the States. Her feelings resembled my own when I discovered a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce displayed on a shelf in the Ahwaz Super Store in Iran. "Hay la bas," I exclaimed when I saw the bottle of flaming sauce in a green bottle...then burst into tears!