A friendly free library

The Little Free Library movement began in the United States in 2009 when a Wisconsin man built one to honour his late mother who had loved books and, despite some carping by city officials in the Los Angeles and Shreveport areas, it’s still going strong. (I previously posted about finding one in Prairie City, Oregon, and adding my book of haiku.)

I was following the ‘5 Rules of Travel Photography’ suggested by ace Tauranga photographer Kim Westerskov when in Natanz, Iran recently:

  • Photograph what you came to see (the Jame Mosque)
  • Shoot context
  • Shoot detail
  • Shoot people
  • Turn around and see what’s behind you …

What we came to see: The portal of the Jame Mosque in Natanz is dated 1317 but the rest of the mosque mainly dates from the post-Mongol period of about 1450-1500. Photo: Sandra Simpson

I turned around and saw a red-and-white-sign on a wall announcing in English: Armaghan’s Free Friendly Library. Beneath the sign was a beautifully painted metal cabinet, the sort found in many schools and offices, that when opened contained shelves of books! Well done, that person (or indeed, business) and I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more about it.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

WordPress, by the way, is one of the several sites blocked in Iran, hence a lack of updates as I travelled.

Postcard from Prairie City

We stayed just one night in Prairie City in eastern Oregon, but the long drive there from west of Portland was well worth it. Kate, the check-in clerk at the historic Hotel Prairie, was waiting for us and a more enthusiastic and charming young woman it would be hard to find.

The word ‘city’ is a bit misleading as the community numbers 910 (but growing, according to the town’s website).


A welcome mural. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Was there somewhere to have some dinner? Kate recommended a place down the street but then came right back and said unfortunately it had already closed … but no problem, if we didn’t mind something simple. Hotel owner Donna Merrill rustled us up some drinks and delicious toasted sandwiches – they were on the point of doing food in their nicely fitted out dining room so we were a sort of test run – and put on a great DVD about the John Day Fossil Beds, which we were going to see the next day.

Donna and her partners bought the hotel in 2005, when it was 100 years old, and she has been project managing its restoration ever since. The pressed ceilings in the dining room and lobby are new but based on old patterns, while the wooden floor in the dining area has come from another part of the hotel and been carefully relaid to match the fir and pine timbers.


The lobby of Hotel Prairie. Photo: Sandra Simpson

After dinner I had a stroll along Prairie City’s main street (Highway 26 but almost entirely devoid of traffic in the long evening), peering in shop windows and enjoying the rich light on the nearby Strawberry Mountains.

The guy at the gas station said he could live anywhere, “but I like living here”.

When I found a Little Free Library on the main street, I knew what to do. The next morning I added a copy of breath with the hope that at least one person in Prairie City will discover haiku – and maybe even try writing some about their home.


Prairie City church with the Strawberry Mountains in the background.                       Photo: Sandra Simpson