Where $69 will get you.

I am becoming an inventive packer. This afternoon's innovation: using my department's scanner, which has a document feeder, to scan my research notes into .pdf files and save them on a flash drive. I have now transformed several pounds (and many square inches) of paper into megabytes; tomorrow, I will keep this up. Many years ago, my parents bought me an all-in-one printer that has saved me many a time in my teaching career; there's nothing like having a photocopier in one's own house when it comes to class preparation. And I remember having tried to use its scanner to scan research materials into a computer in order to take them to Chicago one winter--but having given up because the whole process was cumbersome and totally ineffective. But HP has come a long way in creating fast, reliable document scanners; once I figured out my process, I was off and running, feeding article after article and essay after essay--and then handwritten scrawl after handwritten scrawl--into the machine. Tomorrow, I will mail two small boxes of books at the international priority mail flat rate, which turns out to be not so much more than the very slow M-bag rate. My goal now is to get the weight of my luggage into reasonable territory--somewhere it's not really used to being, not on research-related trips.

But this afternoon also involved shipping the first box off. Now, with $69 in postage affixed, a cardboard box is making its way toward the eastern seaboard, bearing within it eight crucial items: my Red Hot Mama quilt; my 1930s reproduction quilt; my favorite (fuzzy black cashmere) sweater; three miscellaneous sweaters; one pair of red Mary Jane sneakers; and my green winter coat. When I plunked the box down on the postal counter, Postmaster Chuck laughed at me, just a little. When the postage came up to only $69, I was relieved--happy, even. It's a small amount of money to pay in order to be able to keep using these things, especially the coat. And especially, especially the quilts.

In this case, $69 keeps me home, even once I've arrived over there. That's no small thing. (I feel as though I should be on a Mastercard commercial: here's what's priceless.)

Also priceless: Friday night dinner with my Gambier family, and a walk out into the cool night, all in our early-autumn bundles (some of them borrowed), for ice cream. Encountering my favorite village child, tearing up the road on his bike, apparently alone. "Spencer?" I called out. "I'm not Spencer," he called back, "but I'm Spencer's next-door neighbor!" "Then I should say goodbye to you!" I called back. His parents approached, catching up with him. My excellent friends had stayed down the street, talking with one of my neighbors. This Gambier is one I love: people go out for walks at 10 p.m., and children can ride virtually alone on a dark street without (much) fear. The bookstore is not just a source of ice cream but also a hub, a hum.