There is something about the number 9.
Excuse me for a minute while I ramble. My finger twitched when I went for the number key instead of typing n-i-n-e. That’s because it was stamped into my young brain in journalism classes at the University of Alabama to follow the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook.
That’s a thin book with all the rules of how to follow all the rules for newspaper spelling and grammer and punctuation, and stuff. On page 203 of the AP Stylebook it says: “Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) nine.” The Chicago Manual of Style agrees in Section 9.2-4, “Spell out whole numbers up to (and including) one hundred.”
But I typed the number instead of spelling it, because I like the shape of a 9. It’s not angular like a 4, or a 7, or a 2 with its little pointy toe. And, yes, I know a 9’s like a 6 upside down. The thing is, the 9 has come up in my life in ways special enough, or odd enough, to notice the number.
I’ll just mention a couple. When I rented a post office box way back when in Fairhope, they handed me the key to PO Box 639. Now, if you do this thing that a numerologist will do with strings of numbers, you come up with a 9. Like this: you keep adding a string of numbers together until it becomes a single digit. That’s its number value. So, 6 plus 3 plus 9 is 18. You got it, the commotion settles down at number value of 9.
When I finally settled down my Over the Transom Bookstore at its great good place in Fairhope, it was at 9 North Church Street.
Later, when I went to the Fairhope City Council meeting to ask them, “Please don’t tear down that funky little cottage on the property of the new library.” They were gonna bulldoze it for a parking lot. And I told them we’d love to use it for a visiting writers’ cottage, call it the Fairhope Center for Writing Arts. They agreed. And we later changed its name to the Betty Joe Wolfe Writer’s Cottage to recognize the superhero literary efforts she made in her role as owner of Page & Palette Bookstore.
The address just turned out to be 9 North School Street.
I was on the 9th floor of a hotel in New York when I learned the good news that Maureen O’Neil, an editor at Random House, would “take a look at my pages” for The Poet of Tolstoy Park. She later bought the book and published it.
You get it. I like the number 9. And still it keeps popping up weirdly.
When I just now emailed to myself the photo of the ceramic 9, the computer assigned it this number. IMG_1143. Add those numbers. Weird! I mean, really? I took a picture of my Macbook screen so you can see what I’m saying, albeit blurry, there in the far left corner.
And, naturally, I looked into the significance of my number. And I learned, for instance, in the Jewish mystical tradition called Kaballah that 9 is the last number in a base-10 system. The 10 being a function of the number 1. So, the 9 is all about finishing things up. Which, of course, also implies new beginnings, right? Like, when you get to the end, you start over on something else.
That fits me.
I love, also, boats. Though someone who knows me well said it’s not boats I like, it’s the idea of boats that I like. I get that. She said it because I’d no sooner get some old boat fixed up, when I’d sell it and go get another one and do it all again. And, I’ve had more than sixty boats in my life so far. Garden and Gun magazine just published a piece I wrote called “A Boat to See Me Home” that kind of wonders what kind of boat I’ll be messing with when I’m called to that great boatyard in the sky. A link to that story is on the home page of this blog under the heading Books & Magazine Writing.
The point is, I get to the end, and I find a new beginning.
Whether it’s an address or a PO box or an ending-beginning thing, I like 9s.
There’s also this weird thing that 9s do in simple math. Added to itself, the sum of 18 has a value of itself, a 9. But weirder than that, run the multiplication table on 9s up through any number to infinity. Add the product until you get a single digit. I’ll go ahead and tell you. The number is always 9. That’s cool even if you don’t like math.
So, let’s wrap this up with a picture. Saves us a thousand more words. I’ll just say that this moth in the picture came to see me in the night not long ago. Right there on its wing. Well, you see it. And I get it. Good tidings of things ending and things beginning, until forever and ever…
POST SCRIPT: I just booked a room at a tiny hotel in Fairplay, Colorado. Friends who live there tell me it’s haunted, that the proprietor saves a barstool for her. And they told me the hotel’s located right on scenic Colorado Highway 9.