No, this is not a post about a movement to free the oppressed Anemones; it’s an ode to Dover Books, the source of these anemones. And about a lagniappe of sorts.
To your right is a nice William Morris anemone pattern. It comes from Dover Books. It was free.
I like a lot of things about Dover Books. That they sell things that are reasonably priced and fun and low tech. And that their embrace of the internet has just led them to do more reasonable and fun things.
I’ve bought things from Dover Books before. The other day I was thinking about how nice it would be to have some clipart that might be used by children who would like to advertise (a) the world’s largest yardsale; (b) the best lemonade stand Ever; (c) a low cost dog walking service. (The BlogLily boys are as entrepreneurial as they are weapons crazy.)
And that’s when I discovered that, in addition to a huge catalog of interesting things, Dover will email you every week — for free – a selection of images you can use for projects such as the ones I’ve outlined above. That’s a pretty nice internet lagniappe. When I came across it I thought about how it’s not creepy or bad to offer something free like that: it’s a a terrific way to thank people for being customers and potential customers. The Bloglily boys are going to have to think about yardsale, and lemonade stand and dog walking lagniappes. They’re something that makes doing business with people a tiny bit nicer.
Oh, and one other thing. Dover Books has a huge series of paper doll books. Do you remember paper dolls? I loved them. I doubt there are many children who play with them anymore. But Dover keeps carrying them: a lot of them. Brides around the world, Fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Napoleon and Josephine! Someday, a resurgence of interest in paper dolls will sweep the world and Dover will be there ready, with those paper dolls, for a reasonable price for a new generation of paper doll appreciators.
Yesterday, I talked about making a list of things that represent the kind of open-handedness that leads people to put a 13th cookie in your bag, or to wrap your purchase in beautiful paper and give you a free postcard to go along with it, even though all you bought from them was a cake of soap. As I thought about this, I realized that maybe the reason this custom flourishes in New Orleans long after whatever merchantile calculation at its origin is forgotten, is because the giver enjoys doing it as much as the recipient enjoys getting the extra thing. It's counter-intuitive, but I suspect that you can't feel impoverished when you give things to other people. "Things" would include material things and also things that take time to do, even if they don't cost anything.
I've been thinking about how it feels when you don't have as much money as you'd like — whether you've just got the change at the bottom of your purse or pocket, or you're down to your last $5 before you get paid in a week, or your neighbors have so much more than you do that whatever's in the bank doesn't feel like it's enough.
Many things conspire to make us feel diminished by this. If you're going to fight back against that — and I think you should, even when your balance sheet shows more money than just spare change — you've got to do a sort of mental shift, an Escher-like move in your head. And then you'll see something where many people see nothing, and you'll be better able to give when you earlier felt you had nothing worth giving. I'm not talking about true poverty, by the way, but about the moments when we feel like we don't have enough, although objectively speaking, we have everything we need (shelter, food, warmth). I'm speaking of a kind of impoverishment that's foisted on us by the culture we live in, a feeling that we're lacking something, which creates the kind of panic that leads us to buy a lot of things at Walmart we don't really need.
In some communities, there are established social behaviors that help people triumph over feelings of impoverishment. In New Orleans, there's even a word for it: Lagniappe. It's a word that sums up a way of operating in the world that's generous and open-handed, even when everyone involved might be described as struggling. The first time I heard it was in 1984, when I lived in a condemned apartment in Jackson Square, not far from the Mississippi River, over a kite shop. I guess it's kind of obvious it was a time when I had more leisure than money. But it was also a time when, between the hours of 4 and 6 in the afternoon at a bar by the river, you could get really good oysters for ten cents on Fridays, simply because it was Friday.
Mark Twain is — as he always is — the best place to get a fuller sense of this idea: