Creating Community Through The Looking Glass

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A community hub is what five women in Pine want to create with their bookstore, the Looking Glass. This fascinating, multi-talented group consists of a writer/journalist, an English professor/journalist/writer, two ordained ministers/clinical social workers/Reiki masters and a writer/ student of eco-psychology.

The bookstore was the brain child of Breyeh Freesol who came to Pine a year ago with Billie Grace and started what became a very successful business called Jane of all Trades.

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The five, multi-talented owners of the Looking Glass Bookstore in Pine hope the store will become a social and educational gathering place. "We want to have poetry readings, workshops and classes," owner Jennifer Zimmerman said. "We really want to create a hub for the community." Owners of the shop are, from left, Karyn Riedell, Jennifer Zimmerman, Cathie Lamb, Evelyn Santos and Breyeh Freesol.

Jane of all Trades is a home and property maintenance business that uses the slogan, "Gentle on your land & gentle on your pocketbook." Both Grace and Freesol say they feel deeply connected to the earth and everything is done in an ecologically- sensitive way.

Last spring, Grace and Freesol organized a rain dance and workshop led by renowned author and spiritual teacher Brooke Medicine Eagle. The event was in response to the state of the forest after years of drought and bark beetle infestation. Several local organizations and residents supported the day-long event which drew people of all faiths. The following week, storms deluged Rim country.

After Jane of all Trades got off the ground, Freesol wanted to explore opening a bookstore, one that was not just a place to buy books, but a gathering place for the community.

In a matter of months, four other women entered Freesol's life who also had an interest in a similar venture.

Jennifer Zimmerman and her husband purchased a log cabin in December which had 36 bark beetle infested trees. She hired Jane of all Trades to take them down and in the process met Grace and Freesol and realized they were neighbors.

"They did an amazing job and they've become really good friends," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman has had a long career in journalism, using her maiden name, Cushman.

"I started out as editor of the Camp Verde Journal, then went to the Gilbert Independent, then the Gilbert Tribune," Zimmerman said. "I also was the business and technology writer for the Tucson Citizen and then The Arizona Republic."

Zimmerman left The Arizona Republic five years ago to freelance and has been published in Southwest Art, Phoenix Home and Gardens and has been the arts editor for Scottsdale Life magazine for the last three years.

"They are shutting down the publication," Zimmerman said. "My goal and my dream is to write books, so this is giving me time."

Zimmerman is also busy raising her 4-year-old son.

"There's this energy that's happening -- people are coming to town and trying to build community," Zimmerman said. "It's our intention to be a community- minded business and a hub for arts and cultural activities."

Karyn Riedell, also a writer, a journalist, and an English Professor at ASU, knew Zimmerman from the journalist circuit.

"We mostly knew each other through our bylines," Zimmerman said.

Riedell, also a resident of Pine, taught writing at Payson's community college, then called Eastern Arizona College.

Two more new residents became owners in the Looking Glass Bookstore shortly after relocating to Pine.

Evelyn Santos and Cathie Lamb left the urban sprawl of New York City for the peaceful solitude of Rim country.

Both had busy careers as clinical social workers with full case loads and decided it was time for a change. They underwent a two-year training program to become interfaith ministers with an 50 year-old organization called the Bridge to Spiritual Freedom.

"The first year you spend studying many different religions," Lamb said. "The second year you learn how to direct ceremonies."

Lamb and Santos can perform a variety of different ceremonies for an array of faiths or a combination of faiths.

As if they weren't busy enough, both women are also Reiki masters and practice the ancient form of healing.

Santos, a native of Colombia, is working on a Spanish language section of the bookstore for Hispanic and Latino residents of Rim country.

With all the combined knowledge and talent, the owners of the Looking Glass are planning a series of classes and workshops on a variety of topics.

"We want to have writing workshops and a children's story hour," Zimmerman said. "Breyeh is into environmental issues so she wants to teach people how to use the rainwater and runoff and prevent erosion. Karyn will teach creative writing. Evelyn is a healer and we want Billie to teach basic marketing. Billie is amazing at teaching others how to start a business and market themselves."

Since the Looking Glass has only been open a little more than a week, the owners are still working on the inventory and planning the workshops.

"There's going to be poetry readings and author book signings," Zimmerman said. "I do scrapbooking, so I want to do a class on that, too."

While they continue to get books daily, the current selections range from science fiction to children's books to spirituality and wellness.

"We have a variety of books on spirituality ranging from books on Christianity to Buddhism to Native spirituality," Freesol said. "But we are not a spirituality bookstore -- we want to carry everything. We can order books and we also plan to stock books for parents who are homeschooling their children."

The most important thing to all the owners of the Looking Glass is that it serve the community. Outside the store is a recycling bin for the humane society, a cause that is especially dear to Riedell, whose pound puppy, Billie, is the bookstore mascot.

A deep appreciation for life and community is what these women say drew them to each other and to this endeavor.

"People coming together is a very powerful thing," Freesol said. "We are all in this together."

"Bookstores are a perfect place for a community gathering spot," Zimmerman said. "It's a wild and fun connection we all have and we want the whole community to come out and join us."

The Looking Glass is currently open Thursday through Sunday and the owners invite residents of Rim country to come in and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, and look through the selection of books.

"We are here to be helpful and friendly and serve the community," Freesol said. "Come on in and tell us what you need and what you want to see."

For more information on the Looking Glass, call 476-4771.

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