Saturday, July 21, 2012

Blink-and-you'll-miss-it Village of Hopkins

Finally, a Saturday that isn't busting my chops with deadlines and projects, duties and responsibilities. I hardly know what to do with myself. But that lasts only a moment. Because of living long in the shadow of deadlines and projects, duties and responsibilities, my second tier to-do list is long. Very long.

  1. Wash dog
  2. Make blackberry jam
  3. Catch up with filing
  4. Weed garden
  5. Write the 15 book reviews still pending
  6. Prepare for tomorrow's interview for article to write
  7. Research for radio interview
  8. Revamp blog and website
  9. Visit Hopkins library and get library card
  10. and so on
  11. and so forth
  12. ad infinitum
Those last several items look suspiciously like deadlines and projects, duties and responsibilities. Yes, there is always something to do. Regardless, I start the blissfully cool Saturday early morning with a cup of coffee on the deck, book in lap, and allow a daydream or two. 

Then I start on the list. Wash dog. Oh, Guinnez is not the least bit happy with me when I slip off his collar; he knows all too well what that move initiates. He's a good dog, though, and doesn't run, only slumps like dead weight as I lift him into the tub. Wonderful! I made the discovery not long ago that taking a bubble bath in a clawfoot tub is delightfully comfortable, far more so than in modern tubs, but now I see that these old-fashioned tubs are also much better for dog bathing. The sides are too high for him to make a quick leap of escape. He realizes it and doesn't even try.

Suds and rinse, suds and rinse, we are both soaked, both clean.


I skim the list and find just the thing. The Hopkins District Library is open on Saturdays only until 1 p.m., so after a quick lunch, I get going. How is it possible that I have sported a Hopkins address since March and still don't have a library card?

Several reasons. Now with technology being what it is, this book addict already has near 3,000 books, nearly all of them available free, uploaded onto my two e-readers. I also have a special shelf stacked end to end with books sent to me for book reviews. I also have three other library cards, well used, in my wallet.

Even so, it doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like I am a resident until I have a library card in my wallet from the place where I live. I am a class B librarian myself, have worked in libraries since I was a kid, helping out at the elementary school library, paying my way through college on a librarian's salary, and working a second, evening job at the community library for extra income through much of my adulthood. Libraries are second to home for me.

As it is, I have hardly passed through Hopkins more than a two or three times since moving to Z Acres. My travels and commutes take me in other directions. And Hopkins is a pretty good distance from me. If nothing else, I'm curious.

I head out on a mission, and I smile at this road trip: I do love driving these "neighborhood" roads from Z Acres to anyplace remotely passing for civilization. The first half of my drive is all on dirt roads, winding through green canopies of trees. Finally hitting pavement, I pass horse farms and cattle grazing in rolling pasture. At last, a small sign points with an arrow toward the village of Hopkins.

Inevitably, I have to think about the other village where I once lived, far up north in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, on the Keweenaw. The village of Calumet, at least at that time when I lived there, had a population just a few heads more than 1,000. Hopkins has only about 600, so it appears I am succeeding on my life mission to downsize.

Otherwise, the village is not so very different. A few quiet residential streets branch out from the main street. About as many bars as churches. Not quite the history of Calumet, but there is the same faraway quality here to the slow pace of the people walking along the streets, some pushing baby strollers, dogs trotting along.

Regretably, no grocery store. I checked on that when I first moved. Neighboring bigger cities with their monstrous supermarkets sucked the life out of the local mom-and-pop grocery store. Sad.

But the little library is right on the edge of the center of the village, and I pull into the parking lot. Just to the east of the white building with its robin's egg blue doors and shutters is a park, and I am momentarily distracted by the lined up, classic old cars, their owners sitting beside their vehicles in their lawn chairs, ready to talk engines and gears. It's the great American love affair, citizen and his car, and I can't quite fathom the romance with metal. For me, my car gets me places where I can't quite make it on foot or by public transport, and I use it more than I like to admit ... but my heart does not skip a beat at the curve of waxed and polished steel over a rubber tire. Ever since reading Katie Alvord's Divorce Your Car!, I have become painfully aware of how nearly impossible it seems for most of us to break free of this toxic relationship. I wish I were doing better at that myself, and I aim to try.

I head into the library for books, instead. About what I expected, I suppose. A few shelves here and there, a rack of magazines, newspapers strewn across a coffee table in front of a plump sofa, a gigantic stuffed bear slumped to one side in a chair. A group of women in the back chatter softly over some activity that has gathered them together here on a Saturday morning, but I wander instead to examine the books on the shelves.

Not much here. Cookbooks are well represented, and books on crafts and home projects and gardening. I find a book that reminds me of another item on my to-do list, looking into sellling my father's artwork on eBay, and I bring Expand Your Business Using eBay to the circulation desk.

"I'd like a library card, please," I say.


"Oh yes, for a few months now." I pull my driver's license from my wallet with the change of address label on the back. And in a moment, I am the proud card-carrying patron of the Hopkins District Library, my first checked-out book in my bag. The librarian and I chat for a moment about book donations; I have more books than can fit into my little red farmhouse at Z Acres, and it is time to downsize that collection, too. Something I thought I would never do, but I figure it would be a good deed to add to this tiny library some of my own literary treasure to share.

I wander the streets of Hopkins then. There aren't many. Just as up north, the school buildings are surprisingly immense, gathering in one location all the children of the surrounding rural expanse. Home of the Vikings, says a sports score board on a green field, and another Viking head is painted on the side of a hardware store.

Another sign calls village residents to a meeting--to learn more about the process of hydraulic fracturing, called "fracking," as unfamiliar companies' representatives are knocking on resident doors offering money for mineral rights, including gas and oil rights, to their property. Environmentalists are alarmed, and from what little I know about fracking, it alarms me, too. The process pollutes air and soil with chemicals, and it depletes local water sources at a time when we are beginning to hear about global water shortages that may well make oil shortages laughable.

To my amazement, when I first saw the list of deeds to Z Acres, beginning with 1893 for the first owner, gas and oil drilling companies have been walking my land, too. No longer, not as long as I am the owner here.

These are the dramas of these small, rural villages, and they are not unimportant ones. Great wars are often fought on small fronts.

I head home again, winding back down those ever more narrow dirt roads into ever thicker green canopy. Four months since my move, my heart continues to hum with pleasure and wonder at living here, in this place so tucked away in the country, and I expect it will always do so. It is a dream worth protecting. Maybe I will do more than sign up for a library card to become a true Hopkins resident. Maybe I will attend one of those village meetings and make my voice heard, too.

This afternoon, though, is ripe for making blackberry jam.


  1. Almost entirely unrelated, but...

    We did a blood drive at the Hopkins United Methodist Church during my last year with the Red Cross. One of my co-workers, Donna, was there with me. She was always fun to talk with. She kept forgetting what city we were in, and finally someone suggested that she think of Bunnies: Hop-hop-hopkins!

    I ran into another donor there who I had only met once years before - I didn't recognize her at first, but she remembered me and told me about her donation at the Allegan Career Center, and upon hearing it, I instantly remembered that she had been wearing Scooby-Doo scrubs at the time, as well as the fact that she was the one who gave me the news that Subway was going to stop having mushrooms as a topping. Very sad.

    I also remember buying some home made jam that was being sold there at the time. It was a weird combination (Blueberry Rhubarb, maybe?) and I just had to try it out. Turned out to be quite delicious.

    I have a terrible memory, so remembering all of those details about a single otherwise insignificant even is kind of exciting to me. Forgive me for rambling...

  2. A fun ramble, Austin. Bunny village, eh? I like it. Plenty bunny rabbits around here. But I am saddened to hear Subway has de-shroomed. Then again, shrug, I never eat there anyway.

    And my jam came out well! Waiting for it to finish setting, but a dipped finger is promising.

  3. The new library card is part of the rite of passage when settling down in a new place. Compared to Hopkins, I feel like Jefferson, GA (at nearly 10,000 now) is a metropolis.