Every week, when time or travel plans permit, I continue to stop in at second-hand stores in the west-central area of the city. But since purging a dozen boxes worth of objects from our home at the beginning of the year (a number that will likely grow by a box/bag or two before the charity pick-up next week, since there are a couple of bookshelves and a toy box I’d like to poke through this weekend), I remain reluctant to bring in new things that don’t earn their keep in some way.
I did, however, stop in at the local Goodwill this morning while my little daughter was at school. Sadly, it’s a place I no longer enjoy going. Between the price gouging (scratched second-hand cereal bowls are now priced at $3.53 each) and the continuing flow of merchandise out the back door, shopping there feels like participating in a calculated rip-off. We don’t donate to Goodwill at all anymore, and I stop in partly because the rip-off hasn’t yet extended to books or children’s clothing in a systematic way (although almost any clothing with a recognisable label — Gap and Gymboree of course, but even Old Navy and, well, um, Sears — now receives ‘special’ pricing), and partly out of a morbid curiosity to see how far things will go.
Still, this morning I picked up a few books for my daughter: Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz’s The Daring Book for Girls (2007), a girl-positive activity book modeled on hobby/craft/do-it-yourself books for boys or girls that were once common, if rather sexist in their content and instruction; Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings (2001), part poetry, part art, part butterfly science; and Shannon Stewart’s Alphabad (Key Porter Kids, 2005). This third book is remarkable, not only for its subversive rhymes, but for well-known Canadian editorial cartoonist Dusan Petricic’s amazing-as-always illustrations.
I also bought Dorothy Ellen Palmer’s When Fenelon Falls (Coach House, 2010), a book I’ve wanted since it came out but which never made it to the top of my always huge to-order pile. Looking forward to adding this to my always huge to-read pile.
The little book on the bottom left didn’t come from the local Goodwill. I ordered it online after reading about it on Brian Busby’s fascinating Dusty Bookshelf blog. While researching the Imagining Toronto book, I lamented the apparent absence of Harlequin romance novels set in Toronto, having found only one: Rosemary Aubuert’s Firebrand (1986), a remarkable novel not for the romance but for the political intrigue. Cocking’s Die With Me, Lady (1953) sounds, at a glance and from Busby’s review, reminiscent of Hugh Garner’s early Toronto novels, among them Waste No Tears (1950; written under the pseudonym Jarvis Warwick, a name reportedly borrowed from the seedy hotel he frequented on his benders), Present Reckoning (1951) and the original (well, original as published) version of Cabbagetown (1950). In short, punchy stories heavily influenced by the curious combination of prurient voyeurism and moralizing that characterized their era. Looking forward to reading this one, too.
There wasn’t much else of interest at the local Goodwill this morning, but I did pick up this seventies-era made-in-Japan condiment set for about $6. The jars are ceramic, with wooden bases stained a warm tomato colour, and coordinate with my Casual Ceram Jupiter dinnerware as if they had been made to go with them. I like these little jars so much I found and ordered another set via Etsy, one that comes with a lidded mustard bowl.
And finally, because we both love owls and this one was especially cute (and reasonably priced at 99 cents), I bought this ceramic owl mug for my little girl, who has recently discovered the joys of chocolate milk. I think I was about her age when my mother first gave me a ceramic mug of my own (the first of several, in fact, which I still keep in the back of a cupboard in the downstairs kitchen). Pity none of us are coffee/tea drinkers, or they would see much more use.
And so: that’s it. As mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a mid-sized Autumn Harvest casserole dish at the Salvation Army a week or so ago, along with a stuffed toy or two and a dress for my girl, but apart from that I have picked up very few things. And it’s not as if there isn’t plenty of merchandise (including Pyrex) on the shelves; just not much that seems worth bringing home to our newly uncluttered home.
I titled this post “Winter Light” because the muted light in winter makes me meditative. The sun returns to the hemisphere, but overcast days draw me inward. I rise in the night to write, listening in the stillness of the house to cat footfalls and the flow of air through the heating vents. On quiet mornings I ghost through the house, and sometimes on still afternoons find time to retire to the bath.
It is possible to do so, once again, because certain kinds of peace are restored to our life. There are longer gaps between writing deadlines, between teaching days, between the hours spent dressing or feeding or otherwise caring for our child. And so I withdraw, a little, from external engagements, and bask in a certain kind of solitude.
A wintry solitude; a short time away from time; a break that will end when the light shifts again, when the crows begin to call. In another week, in other words: because the new season begins to unfold not when the river is released from its casing of ice, but when the light grows strong enough for buds to begin chafe in their beds.