My books are glaring at me. More than a dozen copies are piled up in a solid column, spine over spine. If they were glued together, I could open them until they fanned out like a ravenala or traveler’s palm tree, their foliage dripping with words unseen, unread. From afar, this towering inventory might resemble an untouched stack of Jenga blocks, dusty and forlorn, waiting for god-knows-what; maybe nimble fingers to slide out a copy, open the cover, flip the pages, still so crisp.
I woke this morning and remembered the date; or more precisely, I remembered yesterday’s date as it was to be the first of two book events planned for April. In early March, still blissfully unaware of what was yet to come, I journeyed westward, for a meeting at Biku, a longtime expat and literary haunt on the west side of Bali. The owner and I bandied about plans and ideas. Once we settled on a date and other details, off I went; thrilled at the prospect of sharing my stories with a community of readers, authors and Biku regulars, most of whom would be unknown to me. Before leaving the restaurant, I headed to the toilets – where two containers of hand sanitizer were neatly placed on either side of a pretty flower arrangement. Clearly, we still couldn’t fathom what lay around the corner.
A couple of weeks earlier, on a visit to my old hometown, another meeting (at Paradiso Ubud) clinched a plan for a book-and-film event. Scheduled for this coming Saturday, I’d dug up a documentary on the Camino de Santiago that would have paired up quite nicely with the excerpts I planned to read from (Un)Bound, Together. We’d bandied about a few other ideas for the event; the time, F&B, and how to get the word out. Then too, we were naïve enough to plan ahead; neither of us breathed a word about the virus, imagining perhaps that we would safe from harm, or that it would blow over, swiftly enough that life would unfold unimpeded.
Much earlier, in hope and anticipation of holding more book events before I departed at the end of April (or so I’d planned), I found a couple of supportive friends heading to the US and happy to bring back a few copies. (Mailing books to Bali is, for several reasons, a risky and potentially exorbitant undertaking) I had several copies shipped to California, others to Florida. And, with my own two-month Indian odyssey coming up, I shipped a box of books to my hotel in Jaipur.
Miraculously, all the books reached their designated destinations; they were all packed and flown back to Bali. I picked them up, in Jaipur, in Ubud, in Sanur. The books were ready – to be signed, sealed, sold and delivered. And then, over the weeks, a creeping realization took hold, caused ripples in my gut, as word came from Biku (and no word at all from Paradiso) that the events would be cancelled. Kiboshed. Or at least postponed. Of course. It had to be so.
I looked over at my newly minted, printed-on-demand books. Patient. Resilient. Eager, like stray Bali dogs, to find their forever homes. For the moment, they still are mine as I am theirs; reminding me of what was, what might have been, and what might remain of this time, uncertainty and hope all bound up together.
In these COVID19-challenged days, Indie bookstores and authors (like myself) find themselves in a precarious position. If you’d like to bolster and support the Indie movement, head over to one of these: Indiebound and BINC. #saveindiebookstores
And, if you have a friend who loves to walk, explore or “slow travel,” and their book pile is nearly depleted, why not gift them a copy of my memoir; about walking and healing on the Camino: (Un)Bound, Together: A Journey to the End of the Earth (and Beyond). It’s available at Indigo Bookstores (Canada), Book Depository (free shipping), and elsewhere too!
More about my book (and launch): When A Walk is More Than Just a Walk!