The Art Of Winter Gardening

Library Director Lynn Grundstrom’s reading circle for children on Tuesdays. Photos by Sandy Robison

On a bitter cold February day, the sun glinting, we Chautauqua County residents begin to weary of winter. We find ourselves tempted to stay indoors, to drink hot chocolate and forget the weather. But there are wonders in the middle of this long winter. A trip to any library is a good idea, a type of winter gardening where interesting and beautiful things flourish. The Fluvanna Free Library is one such special place.

On Tuesday mornings at the Fluvanna Free Library, which sits next to the Fluvanna Firehouse as it has for many years at 3532 Fluvanna Ave., little ones can listen to librarian Lynn Grundstrom read aloud from a selection of fine books for children. The children sit in a semi-circle, intently listening to the stories. She holds up the book so the children can see the pictures. Sighs and gasps of wonder escape them as she reads. For a magical while, the children are lost in wonder, leaning forward in their seats.

In addition to the children’s reading circle, Librarian Grundstrom makes her way to the Heritage Village Green regularly to visit with residents there. She reads aloud to them from her favorite books and plays Jeopardy on a board she made herself, full of timely references to music, books and culture. She takes books and stories, games and joy to the public. It’s a Chautauqua ideal to bring education and culture to the people directly, free.

Lynn writes a newsletter entry bi-weekly for the Chautauqua library system. This month her topic was getting children outdoors, exploring the natural world, in winter: “One of my favorite things to do with children in winter is walking in a quiet area during a gentle snowfall. You know those days … when it’s so quiet you can actually hear the snowflakes hit the ground around you.” She writes, “Watch how the snowflakes fall. Do they slowly flutter to the ground or fall at a steady rate? Are they clinging together or falling individually? Can you make out the different shapes? How many points can you see?” Lynn has a special project for children to capture the special magic of snow. “Did you know that you can keep snowflakes forever?” she writes. Here’s how: “Chill black construction paper and spray adhesive outside before your walk. Spray the adhesive on the black paper and then allow falling snowflakes to fall on the paper. They will melt but their distinct shapes will remain on the paper. Always a work of art.”

She advises us all to “… stop and enjoy the scenery, the powdery, untouched snow, the plants within it and the occasional animal that ventures out of its home.” This is a kind of gardening in winter — enjoying the outdoors as well as the warm indoors, cultivating ourselves in body and mind.

The quiet magic of the Fluvanna Free Library.

When we aren’t out enjoying the outside world, we can visit the library. The Fluvanna Free Library has led the way with its Chautauqua ideals since 1914. In its very title is the word “free,” indicating its ideal of bringing education and culture to the public without cost. When patrons step inside, they immediately realize it is a well-loved place. Someone calls out “hello!” There’s a serenity to it from the way the sun floods in to the artfully displayed books and plants. I would argue there’s always a magic in books and libraries, but the Fluvanna Free Library has its own special magic. There’s a fish on the checkout counter; the shelves are draped in green leaved plants. Books are displayed on shelf tops. Sunlight streams in from latticed panes. Comfortable wooden chairs entice readers to sit a while in a quiet corner. But it’s up to date too, offering a number of desktop computers and a printer. This library has a special charm.

Lynn says the library could not run without the help of its many volunteers and her Librarian Assistant, friendly and knowledgeable Anne French. Kathy Carlson, board member and volunteer, has a smile for everyone and is always happy to help and listen intently. Her kindness shows in her eyes. Bev McGraw is another volunteer who knows her books, and the history of Chautauqua County, and will help patrons find whatever they are looking for at the library or simply chat a while.

The Fluvanna Free Library began as an idea of Bertha Phillips and the original “Girls’ Club” of Fluvanna. In early autumn of 1914, the group met at the Bentley home in Fluvanna and elected five trustees and officers whose names are still familiar in the area: Hetty Sherwin, president; Edwin Sample, vice president; Mary Cam, secretary; F.B. Strunk, treasurer; and Jay Chapin, trustee. Early on, the library was located in the cloakroom of the Fluvanna Elementary School on the corner of Townline Road and old Route 17. It changed locations a number of times throughout the early years, even residing in a nearby barn loft for a short time. It was a labor of love to bring adult and children’s books to the public. Fluvanna resident Anna Sondell volunteered to be the first librarian and continued her work as head librarian for the next 76 years.

Now the quaint and lovely library is part of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System. Residents with a library card, which is free, can take out books, videos and CDs from the Fluvanna library or any one of the 38 libraries and return books to any of the libraries too. On any winter’s day, it’s a fine place to spend some time. All residents are welcome to visit the Fluvanna Free Library Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during winter hours. After April 1, the library will be open Saturdays too. Weekly Story Hour is free from 11 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays.

Novelist Libba Bray, who writes young adult books, says, “A library card is passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of all human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors. That is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy and ignorance.”

The Fluvanna Free Library.

In this world that flounders in chaos and too much noise, we need libraries like this one that nurture our collective and individual spirit. We need librarians who curate knowledge, who love stories and respect language, who know where to find answers, facts and truths. A good library is a garden of wonder, year round.

Lynn Grundstrom, director of the Fluvanna Free Library.