March 26 06:23 AM

Water, books and the beauty of bravery

September 02, 2009
Some people (myself included) are still dealing with the aftermath of the August 8-9 deluge. The toll it took, whether financial or psychological, is huge.

We've had stories over the past few weeks detailing some of the problems. Some people want to find someone to blame. Some blame themselves for not being better prepared. Some just take it in stride and move on and most amazing are those who actually manage to look at the bright side. Here's one such example from Janis Grant, owner of Reliteration Used Books in Almont.

Janis's lifelong dream has been to operate a comprehensive used bookstore. She's a natural, and it just seems books and customers found her. After operating out of a tiny storefront in the tiny, tiny village of Leonard, Janis moved Reliteration into the second floor of The Mill Brew House and Café. Outgrowing that space, Janis recently moved to a new, independent location next door to (and a little to the rear) of The Mill. Of course, both The Mill and her new location (the Troia's former family home) have what are normally lovely and peaceful views of the Clinton River.

Here's what Janis had to say right after the August flood:

I thought you might be collecting flood stories and wanted to send mine along. For a brief but difficult few hours ReLiteration-on-the-River became ReLiteration-in-the-River. It has left us bowed but not beaten by any means. We have probably lost about 3,000 volumes but that still leaves about 27,000 high and dry so we will be in good shape. The bottom shelves of books throughout the entire store suffered water damage. Some subjects were particularly hard-hit. Photography, architecture and quilting are gone. Poetry suffered a bad blow—an entire shelf, and since they are such slim volumes, I threw away about 50 of those. A shelf-and-a-half of WWII. These things are difficult to replace. To have to throw away a hundred-year-old book that was just fine when it came into the shop leaves me feeling terribly negligent. If only everything could be at eye-level but unfortunately somebody has to live on the bottom shelf.

I had just shelved a lovely book on the architecture of the DIA published in 1928 shortly after it had opened. That one really hurts. But we still find occasions to laugh. My son discovered an entire 20-volume block of Chicken Soup books welded together and said, 'hey, Mom, you can sell these as a boxed set!'

And, silver lining, a few folks were able to find salvageable items that I was so glad to not have to throw away and they were glad to have. So, all will be well.

If you build on a fault line, you better expect to be shaken up a bit, and if you put a bookstore on the river, then you know you're gonna get wet.

We'll be mopping up this week but open for regular business hours...

And I thought a few albums and some remnants of gray carpet in my sodden basement were bad...What bravery Janis displays! I saw photos of the swollen river near her store and can only imagine the horrible feeling that must have planted itself in the pit of Janis's stomach with every hour of relentless rainfall that ticked endlessly on. Then the suck-it-up courage and determination it takes to go in there as the water recedes, to wade around in knee-high boots, to handle coveted objects that brought the world beauty that are now sodden and slimy—to watch as they fall apart, to hear the 'splat' as the muddied pages hit the floor.

Now that's bravery of notable proportions. Even more brave is Janis's real-ization at the end of her email. There's a grand beauty in taking responsi- bility for oneself. It is an increasingly rare condition in a widening finger-pointing world.

In fact I bet I can read up on this cultural phenomenon—and about the intrinsic value of working hard to follow one's heart—for just a couple of bucks at Janis's store...

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