Okay, here’s yet another reason to like Andrea Mead Lawrence: books. And reading to learn. Which was propitious for a girl who did not graduate from high school, yet went on to be one of this country’s most revered mountain people.
She and her brother Peter were raised by their Vermont parents who operated on the premise that, “If the weather’s good, you ski; if it’s bad, you go to school.” (New York Times). Good premise. Andy was on the U.S. Olympic ski team in 1948 when she was 14 years old. That didn’t leave much time for school.
“She learned everything she knew from books. She was a voracious reader and consumer of books,” said one of her sons, Corty Lawrence, himself a voracious reader.
Both Andrea and David Lawrence were avid readers, and books were their choice in gifts for their five children. “We grew up reading books,” Corty said of himself and his four siblings. “Reading was not pounded into us; our parents set the example.”
Throughout Lawrence’s active life of ski racing, public service and conservationism, she bought, read and kept her books. She was a tireless underliner of passages that resonated with her, and she tucked reviews, articles and related letters in their pages. Books became friends, friends that filled bookcases with a community of thoughts, ideas and memorable experiences.
After she died in 2009, her books filled some 30 boxes. Boxes filled from shelves all over her Snowcreek condo, even from a converted attic space. Her children recently made the momentous decision to donate the collection to the Mammoth Lakes Library. What better place to foster a love of reading.
Members of Mammoth Lakes Friends of the Library (MLFOL) started poring through these boxes in August, evaluating and categorizing the diverse gathering of books covering the Olympics, skiing, poetry (Mary Oliver, Rainer Maria Rilke to name two), classics, her home state of Vermont, conservation of not only the Sierra, but of the Earth itself, philosophy, religion, pets and pictorial studies of nature throughout the world. The books are waiting to invite new owners to take their own journeys through them, maybe make them part of their own collections.
The books will be available at a special sale of the Andrea Lawrence books on Thanksgiving weekend, Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 30, from noon to 5 p.m., at the Mammoth Lakes Public Library. Proceeds will go into the library.
Think of it as a kind of cocktail party: Meet Andrea’s old friends, learn something, take a journey through the pages of her books. They are inspiring. Many of the books are stamped and/or signed with her name, and are autographed or inscribed to her.
Here is a small sampling of the books in her collection:
“Wilderness at the Edge,” a book that was a citizen proposal to protect Utah’s canyons and deserts. The introduction is by Wallace Stegner, who also autographed the book. The 1990 book is numbered 262/500.
“Sierra East, Edge of the Great Basin,” by Genny Smith, who inscribed the book, “for my friend Andrea.”
“100 Golden Olympians, 100 Years of Achievement.” Published in 1996 for the U.S. Olympic Committee. It contains profiles of Olympians, many of whom autographed the book to Andrea, including skiers Milt Campbell and Scott Organdy from her Olympic years, Phil Mahre, skaters Dick Button and Bonnie Blair, and many more.
Books as diverse as a copy of “Robinson Crusoe” in French, Einstein’s “The Meaning of Relativity,” Vern Clevenger’s inscribed, slipcase edition of “Sierra Sojourns,” and “The Intriguing Indomitable Vermont Women.”
Beginning with a love of mountains born into her in Vermont, where her parents owned and operated Pico Peak ski area, she nurtured that love by actively working for the preservation of nature, through planning. As the New York Times said of her in its obituary, “Lawrence was a member of the Aspen, Colo., planning board before she moved to Mammoth Lakes, where she was elected a Mono County supervisor. She fought to preserve the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains through planning that balanced nature against real estate and tourism. In 2003, she founded the nonprofit Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers to push conservation.”
Mammoth Lakes Friends of the Library is a group of 350 book lovers from far and wide who volunteer their time to help sustain and improve library services, encourage reading and library use, and assist with children’s reading and story hour programs. Not to mention raising money for the library’s endowment fund for literacy and buying books, CDs, newspapers and magazines to enhance the library’s collection, helping to pay off the library’s mortgage, running a used book shop and mounting huge book sales every year during Memorial Day and Labor Day.