Books of Wonder and Places of Sanctuary

I get to hang out at one of my favorite bookstores this Saturday in an author-like fashion!

First things first, because otherwise this update will get buried in the post below, but this Saturday, 6/12, I’ll be visiting Books of Wonder to take part in a panel on YA and MG fantasy along with Neal Shusterman and Scott Mebus. The event takes place from 12-2pm, and looks to be a lot of fun–we’ll be reading and taking questions, so now I’m debating: what part to read? For anyone who hasn’t already read the book, this will be a meaningless question, but if anyone out there has (and there are at least twenty-five of you that I know for sure have, so speak up), what are your thoughts? So far I’ve read the first part of the story of Old Tom, ending right before the contest with the devil actually begins. I was also thinking it might be fun to read either the phrenology demonstration from the Nostrum Fair, or, for something a little creepier, the scene from Jake Limberleg’s consultation wagon (although that last scene does include something of a small spoiler). Anybody want to voice an opinion?

And now, a visit to the Odd Trails.

(If you’d like to skip the paragraph of reminiscence that follows, please do so and scroll directly down to the slideshow below. I won’t hold it against you.)

Among my favorite things to do is drive and look for interesting places. When I was growing up near Annapolis, my family used to take a day now and then to get in the car and go driving in search of…well, whatever we happened to find. Sometimes we had a plan of sorts, but more often we’d just pick a direction and meander. We’d stop if we saw a big old antique mall or a flea market; we’d follow handwritten signs to find a boat for sale somewhere down an unpaved road that took us an hour south of where we’d left Route 50; we’d detour to take a ferry crossing because why not, it’s a ferry! and take off our shoes and walk along the beach until the boat showed up to take us across to pick up the drive on the other side. I still love driving around looking at stuff. The longer I live in New York City and find myself rushing to get everywhere and feeling like I must make the best possible use of every moment of the day, the more important it seems to me to stop doing that every now and then and just let the road take as long as it wants to get me where I’m going.

Last week after the book signing with the unspeakably awesome Leah Cypess at Pandemonium Books, I stayed overnight in Sturbridge, Mass. The next day I found a listing on Roadside America for the Good Time Stove Company, and trusty Google Maps indicated about an hour and a half drive from my hotel in Sturbridge. According to the company’s website the shop was open by appointment or chance, so I called and left a message and not five minutes later, Mr. Richardson called back to say I certainly could come by, and to suggest that I hurry over so that I could take a proper look before it rained.

It took me about two hours of totally beautiful driving, but I got there. When I did, I met Sara, the Stove Princess, who in turn took me to meet her father, Richard “Stove Black” Richardson, who literally stopped his day to take me on a tour of what turned out to be one of the most amazing places I ever hope to visit: next to the Stove Company is the Richardsons’ home, and behind that is the Three Sisters Sanctuary, which Mr. Richardson has been building with the help of local artists and artisans for over two decades.

I am not sure how to begin to tell you about this place, or about the family of which it is part. I spent easily two hours there, more than half of which Mr. Richardson spent with me, showing me around the Sanctuary and telling me the stories of how it came to be, what inspired this part or that, and of particularly memorable moments that occurred there. At one point, it did rain very briefly, and we stood side by side under the umbrella I’d bought for a dollar a ways down the road while he continued his tales. Once the shower passed, we sat on huge rocks that just happened to be perfectly shaped to serve as easy chairs and chatted beside a grassy ampitheatre.

The place is magical to begin with, but the fact that the artist would take so much time out of his day to share it with a perfect stranger who just happened to be passing by really brought it to life. And, as if by design, my cell phone simply would not work while I was there. There was nothing to disturb the harmony of the place, except my utter disgust that I had only a little point-and-shoot digital camera with me rather than an SLR. I would’ve sold my soul at that point for my second-hand Canon and some reversal film. Still, you get the idea.

Rather than trying to tell any of Mr. Richardson’s stories, I beg you to go yourself if you can, and ask him how the Sanctuary came to be. Call ahead so that you can be sure it’s open that day. I promise it will be well worth the trip.

2 Comments

  1. Ah, Kate, this brings back such wonderful memories. Kiwis (New Zealanders) call your family’s driving adventures ‘tiki-tours’ (though goodness knows how that’s spelled) and ONE DAY I plan to do one around NZ with a camera in hand. There are the most exquisite eccentrics (how I love eccentrics = artists in action) in NZ. Gotta make my fortune first but you’re welcome along on the journey 🙂 Kindred spirits ‘n all welcome.

  2. What about the scene on pages 187-189 when Natalie and Limberleg discuss the perpetual motion machine? You could end with Limberleg saying “Are you sure you want to know?” Kind of creepy, but doesn’t give anything away.

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