Bookseller ANNIE GROSSMAN (Annie’s Books, Peregian Beach) ruminates on reading.
I can’t imagine my life without books. These days they are my livelihood, but all through this life, they have been my friends, my entertainment, my therapy and my medication.
The last few months have been surreal to say the least. The whole world has joined together in the Covid dance, creating a strange kind of unity; we are all facing the same enemy. From my perch in the Peregian Beach Village, I have watched people rekindle their love of reading, and have seen many return to reading for the first time in many years.
“I just don’t have time to read” is no longer an excuse. What we do have is plenty of time. Many of those people who read on devices have also returned to the paper version, finding comfort in the more tactile form of reading, and within the publishing industry great new books have continued to be available, maintaining interest and excitement. My shop and many others have remained open throughout the lockdown; we were providing an essential service after all! We are all so grateful for the ability to keep working and offer an enriching way for people to survive and enjoy their confinement.
Prior to the virus, my small, tight community bonded together as we faced the very real possibility of losing our village and many of our homes as an out-of-control bushfire raged around our perimeter. I developed a (temporary) love of social media, as we could share our experiences, our knowledge and our fears as the fire licked at our village. As luck would have it, there were few fire emergencies at that time around the state and country, as opposed to a few weeks later, and we had an enormous number of fire fighters camped around the village, protecting us at great risk to themselves.
We all have a new respect and love for these people who put their bodies on the line to protect us. A memory which I will always have is of people enjoying coffee out on the street in Peregian Beach, standing up and cheering as a fire engine drove by.
Once the emergency was past, and we came back to our homes and businesses, a group of about 20 to 30 of us got together for a drink at Pitchfork restaurant, finally able to relax and talk through the almost-disaster. We were a bit hysterical, as people tend to be after a near miss or a shock. (I remember a similar hysteria when a group of us in a remote part of Africa were surprised by a lioness who decided to join our campfire party!) During our debrief drinks, we compared notes about how we had got through this week, the most entertaining conversation being about what we decided to pack and take when we were evacuated. Personally, I packed a box of old photos, my binoculars, a bottle of wine, the book I was reading and my partner’s ashes! It’s funny what becomes important in an emergency.
Just a month before the bushfire, I lost my beloved partner of 20 years to an enemy we did not know was lurking in our lives; that insidious beast, cancer. My lover, my friend and my hero who helped to beat off the hardships and evils of the world was gone. Almost a year down the track I am doing well. I have lost the constant overwhelming sadness that I woke to every day, and find much to be joyful about.
Again, reading has been my balm and my escape from sadness. Books have been my doctor and my grief counselor; again, I am so grateful that my parents put books into my hands and encouraged this love. My little business, which has always brought me joy, has been even more therapeutic during this time; I feel a smile appear as soon as I put the key in the door. My days are filled with conversation about books, life and all other things, and my relationships within my community continue to grow and blossom.
It has indeed been an “annus horribilus” but I feel that the future is bright.
My amazing 93-year-old mother seems to have an endless supply of wisdom, but I feel this says it all: “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”