In the footsteps of Norman Maclean

Sunday afternoon, I sat alone in a theater, surrounded by people and cried. There is a lot of sadness in the world. I was listening to writers speak of this sadness, expressing it so eloquently. The power of words and people who craft them perfectly is enough to bring me to tears.

The In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean festival, free to the public, brought Timothy Egan, Shane Morigeau, Debra Magpie Earling, Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass, Doug Peacock and more to the stage.
Rick Bass, who I adore, introduced Terry Tempest Williams with humor and tenderness. They are long time friends.

Terry in turn, told a story of how Rick had been there for her when her brother committed suicide a couple of years ago. He rang, she said and started telling me a story. He didn’t say, “I’m sorry for your loss” nor try to say the right thing. He just told story until they hung up.

In keeping with the theme, public lands and sacred ground, Terry shared a story of Willie Grayeyes, a Navajo Utah commissioner candidate who went to court to prove his residency. You can read more of his case in the Salt Lake Tribune. He did win. Terry asked Willie, “what do we do with our anger?”
“Terry, it can no longer be about anger. It has to be about healing.” Willie Grayeyes


I missed the speakers on Saturday. Heard it was excellent, with a tribute to the late William Kittredge. Terry shared a passage from Bill’s book, Hole in the Sky,
“We tell stories to talk out the troubles in our lives, trouble otherwise so often unspeakable. It is one of our main ways of making our lives sensible. Trying to live without stories can make us crazy. They help us to recognize what we believe to be the most valuable in the world, and help us identify what we hold demonic.” William Kittredge

Doug Peacock shared stories and read from his books. I confess I have not read them yet. Listening to him, I’m inclined to read them. Rick mentioned he requires his students to read, The Grizzly Years. That’s now on my “must read” list.

Another take away was a reminder of the work that needs to be done to save Yaak Valley Forest.
“In addition to being the stronghold of the last 25 grizzlies in the Yaak Valley, the northwest corner of Montana holds one of the great stalwarts for any successful plan for the western United States to successfully weather the rising tide of global warming.” Rick Bass, Black Ram Project.

As a high school friend of Rick’s ex-wife, I had the good fortune to visit and stay with them in the Yaak on several occasions. We’ve floated the river, passing moose, walked in the forest, watched the northern lights from a fire tower and sat atop a mountain ridge with the taste of Rick’s freshly baked pie in our mouths as shooting stars were the free of charge showing for the night.
It is, as many places are, a place worth saving.

“The cruel things I did I took to the river.
I begged the current: make me better.” Richard Hugo “The Towns We Know and Leave Behind, The Rivers We Carry With Us”

As always, thanks for reading.

Salad

I giggle almost every time I tear pieces of lettuce for salad makings. It’s a memory that has stuck. As a young girl, I was proud to be given the task of making salads for family dinner. Mama told me, “make them bite size.” I did. As we all gathered at the table, she remarked, “why are the salads so small?” Of course she meant to tear the lettuce into bite size pieces!

That particular salad was a standard in our house:
In individual wooden bowls tear green leaf lettuce into bite size pieces, top with crumbled bacon and hard boiled eggs. Dress with vinegar and a dollop of my mama’s homemade mayonnaise.
I guess the lettuce made it a salad!
Her mayonnaise, with a strong lemon essence was another staple. First thing after school, my favorite snack was saltine crackers dipped in her mayo.
Instead of a salad, sometimes mama would serve half an avocado and fill the center with oil, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. It was yummy.

Salads have become an almost daily meal for me, now that I am dairy free and gluten free, they satisfy my hunger while replacing the go-to sandwiches I used to eat.
Green leaf lettuce, chopped carrots, celery, avocado and sesame seeds with homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Sometimes I cheat and put in a little grated cheddar cheese without any ill effects.
I have yet to find a bottled dressing that I love. Annie’s green goddess is pretty good.
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of honey, mustard and salt make a tasty dressing. My friend, Wendy, makes a good one, adding a little orange juice to it.

A favorite of mine and many of my friends since I have made it for them is feta salad:
In medium to large bowl, add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. I never measure, just taste as I go. You can leave out the garlic if you don’t like it (Lola). Whisk or stir well, add green leaf lettuce, avocado and feta, and toss. Although I’m not a fan of the Athenos brand. Deli sections usually have a better selection of French or Greek fetas.

The dressing is what makes a good Caesar salad. My friend, Jane, who I met waitressing in a restaurant 40 years ago makes a mean one. She’s since been a baker, chef and worked as the family chef for three different Montana governors. She can cook for a crowd, make it look effortless and want you coming back for seconds. I texted her for her dressing recipe. Five minutes later the phone rang. After an hour of laughter and tears, she remembered to speak of her dressing before we had to hang up.

Caesar salad dressing:
1/3 white wine vinegar
1/3 oil (she likes to mix canola and olive)
garlic
anchovy paste
mustard
Worcestershire sauce
lemon

Salad:
Romaine lettuce
Homemade croutons
Parmesan cheese

Thanks for reading and happy salad making.

My Little Window Garden

Morning Prayer, Padraig O’Tuama

Good morning,

The dog and I are cuddled up, coffee in hand, listening to a conversation between Krista Tippett and Padraig O’Tuama, On Being.
It is aired from Ireland. The scenery around me at my week long pet sit, could be in Ireland.
Padraig gives hope for unimaginable repair. It’s worth a listen.

His morning prayer:

“Neither I nor the poets I love found the keys to the kingdom of prayer and we cannot force God to stumble over us where we sit. But I know that it’s a good idea to sit anyway. So every morning I sit, I kneel, waiting, making friends with the habit of listening, hoping that I’m being listened to. There, I greet God in my own disorder.
     
     “I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. I say hello to distraction and privilege, I greet the day and I greet my beloved and bewildering Jesus. 

     “I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body. I greet the things I think will happen and I say hello to everything I do not know about the day. I greet my own small world and I hope that I can meet the bigger world that day.

     “I greet my story and hope that I can forget my story during the day, and hope that I can hear some stories, and greet some surprising stories during the long day ahead. I greet God, and I greet the God who is more God than the God I greet. Hello to you all, I say, as the sun rises above the chimneys of North Belfast. Hello.”

  

Podcast, gun laws, books and movies

Usually, I listen to an audible book or podcast while driving in the car. It especially helps while running errands in Missoula since traffic has gotten out of control with the influx of people moving here. That’s another story.

A few recent good ones worth noting:

-Glennon Doyle’s We Can Do Hard Things, episode with Dr. Galit Atlas discusses Atlas’s new book, Emotional Inheritance, A Therapist, Her Patients and the Legacy of Trauma. Emotional Inheritance is about family secrets that keep us from living to our full potential, create gaps between what we want for ourselves and what we are able to have, and haunt us like ghosts. 

-Glennon Doyle also aired a podcast in response to the recent shooting in Texas. How We Will Save Our Kids from the Gun Lobby’s Greed with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. It’s educational and shares some actions we can take to get common sense laws passed. It’s effortless to send a letter to Senators urging them to pass gun safety laws at, MDA, take action.

-Tin House podcast, Between the Covers, episode with Caren Beilin – Caren discusses her new novel, Revenge of the Scapegoat.
The main character is the scapegoat of the family. Just a day later I was in our local bookstore, Fact and Fiction, it was right there on the shelf so I bought it.

This was my introduction to Caren Beilin. I’ve put her memoir, Blackfishing the IUD on my “to read” list. As the title makes abundantly clear, the book is an argument that the copper IUD is sickening quite a lot of women — and that we listen first and foremost to women’s testimony to begin to resolve it. Some auto immune diseases stem from the IUD.
As a young woman, I got a terrible infection from an inserted IUD. My later ectopic pregnancy was a result of that infection. That was the demise of a five year relationship with the love of my life as we struggled to handle the ramifications of the pregnancy in our youthful hearts and minds. That’s another story.

I got my Montana ballot in. Dear God, I hope we can keep Zinke from being elected. Monica Tranel got my vote.

The dog I’m caring for, Jessa, and I are off to hike, probably will get wet. Late afternoon, a friend and I plan to see Downton Abbey: A New Era at the Roxy Theater and eat their delicious organic popcorn with organic butter for dinner! That’s my idea of a good way to spend Memorial Day.

Hope you are having an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.
Thanks for reading.

It was a good day until it wasn’t

It was a good day until it wasn’t.

The windy chilly weather we have been having finally broke. It was still and the sun was shining. I was headed to meet my new pet sitting client out Hwy. 200 winding along the Blackfoot river. The idea that I would have a week of pet sitting out the Blackfoot area felt like a gift. It is my favorite area, my favorite river. I want my ashes sprinkled in the river that has given me fond memories with family and friends as well as solitary restorative time.
When I drove up to the homestead situated in large meadow with views of rolling hills and woods I felt even luckier. I have it in my mind to use my week caring for a dog, writing, walking and reading.
I knew nothing about the owner. Another client of mine recommended me to her. As we chatted, I learned more about her and her deceased husband who happens to be a renowned Montana writer. “Yes, this is a writer’s home, write while you are here,” she exclaimed.
Her dog is exceptionally sweet and stayed close as we walked a half mile to the creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot. I got to hear the history of her home. The more we talked, the more connections we discovered. She and her husband have been to Jackson, MS for a signing at Lemuria bookstore where I used to work. She remembered John, my old boss and owner. We are friends with several fellow writers. I was uplifted by it all.
We toured the home, stopping to get instructions for the TV and remote. The TV turned on and there was the news of the Uvalde, TX school shooting. Then it wasn’t a good day.
24 years ago, when my daughter was in high school, our community experienced a school shooting. A fifteen year old killed two and wounded 21 of his classmates at Thurston high school. I remember it like it was yesterday, the community shock and grief, the fear of my daughter even going to school.
To think that just this past year, a law was passed in Texas: a permitless carry bill that Texas conservatives had long sought for and failed to achieve. The law allows most Texans to carry handguns openly in public without going through training or having to get permits. Long guns, like rifles and shotguns, had already been allowed to be carried without a permit.
Law makers are protecting gun laws, not people. They want to protect the unborn without protecting the already born.
It feels overwhelming to think it is out of our hands. In spite of overwhelm I will be writing letters. I will vote in the upcoming Montana election, June 7th, after careful study. Whatever else might be done, I’d appreciate hearing about it.
Meantime, I won’t take for granted that I get to “baby” sit for two of my favorite little girls tonight, a guaranteed good time.


Take care everyone. Thanks for reading.

Hard Truths

The judge did not grant me time with my grandchildren. I was prepared for that. Even so, the tears are there, as well as the need for quiet and reflection.
Bottom line:
I was not the mother my daughter needed me to be. That is my sorrow.

This thread popped up on twitter. A friend is writing about the repair of her marriage through her husband’s addiction and sobriety. It is a remarkable story. She often post thought provoking questions.
What is true for my daughter is she remembers things I did, that I don’t. She felt fear when she saw my anger. She did not have the mother she deserved. That is truth.
Yes, I am a different person today, recovered. Even with the news of the court ruling, nothing in me wanted to go get drunk. That is what I would have done in the past. I would have lashed out at someone and lost their trust and respect.
My emotions are with me today. What I do with them is what is different.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I plan to walk among the trees and find some water to sit by.

He has risen!

He has risen. Yes, Jesus did. But Robert, who owns the hotel, went through a bad bout of shingles, got hit by a car and had two cataract surgeries this past year, will turn 83 on Easter Sunday.
The second cataract surgery was this past week, so eye drops are still happening four times a day until the first of May. He refuses to do them himself. He knows his short term memory is going and could forget. Also, I know he loves all the attention, as he hears the latest of any goings on in the house, telling a joke or stories of his past (which he has begun to repeat often). I usually do the drops. When I am away pet sitting I stop by to help when I can. Otherwise, someone created a group text to organize the giving of the drops.
Robert still stays active each day. He plays cards regularly and goes for walks. He stays upbeat and positive.
One evening he said, “I am feeling discouraged.” I replied, “Oh, how so?”
His come back was “I didn’t say anything.” That was the end of that.

Sunday, someone is cooking a ham. Housemates will potluck around that. The birthday man loves mashed potatoes, they will be my contribution. Certainly, we will fill the house with flowers. Robert with his dutch heritage loves his flowers.

Just last week, I showed Robert a picture of a great horned owl, I captured on camera. He loves it and wants a print. We looked through some of my photos from other potlucks, etc at the hotel. I’ve printed those as well and will add to the photo albums of past years at the hotel. Those will be his gifts.

It will be a simple, yet sweet celebration of an 83 year old Dutch man who continues to rise.

Eye drops, pet sitting and a new room

It’s been a week since I’ve had to do Robert’s eye drops four times a day. My last day of dog sitting for two very sweet Aussies is today. It has felt like a vacation, in a house on the south side of Missoula overlooking the valley, waking to springtime songbirds.
After Robert’s cataract surgery that’s been the routine, eye drops 4X/day. At his post op appointment they discovered an infection in the other eye, so more drops. Once that’s cleared up, then surgery on that eye. After two weeks of this routine, I realized I needed a break. That’s the beauty of pet sitting.
On the other hand, I’ve become somewhat attached to Robert, who I sometimes refer to as my pretend grandfather. Thankfully, our newest housemate, has the same caretaking gene I do and jumped on the eye drop routine.
Tonight when I go home, I’ll be sleeping in new room. Yep, moved again. This time into truly the best room in the hotel. The person before me moved away. Robert asked me to move in as it is above his room and he wants someone quiet, above him. You may remember me writing about the system he and the previous occupant had, if Robert had a emergency and needed help, he would bang on the pipes. The room was remodeled back when Robert’s brother moved in for a bit. It’s large, at the back of the building. There is a shower, larger closet, but no toilet.
I’ll also get back to helping with eye drops for a week before pet sitting again.
In the writing world, I’ve got a few essays submitted. I like writing essays. It’s the waiting game and very competitive. But you keep trying just as Maurice Ruffin, a now established writer did. His submission spreadsheet revealed 291 rejections and 3 acceptances.

Thanks for following and reading. Happy spring.

Reading Brian Doyle is a Spiritual Experience

The hotel smelled of perfume when I came home after a week of pet sitting. On tables, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, and window sills, purple hyacinths sat bringing the hope of spring. This same scent and color came to the hotel last year at this time. Robert is dutch. He loves flowers. Throughout the year, he brings home bouquets. We are lucky to have a farmer’s market across the street in the spring and summer. Each Saturday, he brings us fresh flowers for the community dining area. Otherwise, he picks up a bunch at the grocery store. But he goes all out with the hyacinths. Once we have enjoyed the blooms, Robert gathers all the bulbs to take to a friend who plants them in his garden.
Thankfully, I don’t have any pet sitting for a couple of weeks. Robert will have cataract surgery on Friday. Thursday I’ll make sure he gets the eye drops that have to administered four times that day, then drops each day for a week. He will be seeing the world through a new lens.
I woke up at 6:00 AM to the sound of wind pushing at my windows, the dumpster being pushed with it’s force in the alley and Brenda the cat meowing to be fed. My 3rd floor windows are practically at the mouth of the Hellgate Canyon, which is notorious for its winds that blow into Missoula from the northeast. An arctic front has blown in with temperatures in the teens. Thank goodness we have hyacinths to remind us this will pass. So Brenda and I are snuggled up under my down comforter going nowhere. At least not until 2:00 this afternoon for a physical therapy appointment.
Before I turned on my computer to write, check email and before I went to social media land for all it’s good and bad, I opened Brian Doyle‘s book of essays, One Long River of Song, Notes on Wonder. Reading his words are a spiritual experience. We lost him too soon to cancer.
I am making it a habit to not turn on my computer until I have done some reading each morning. As always I grabble with social media. Twitter has become my media of choice as of late as I follow and connect with writers. However, it can feel a bit overwhelming in the pressure to keep up with tweets.


For now I will leave you with the last paragraph of Brian Doyle’s essay,
The Greatest Nature Essay Ever:
“And finally the last paragraph. It turns out that the perfect nature essay is quite short, it’s a lean taut thing, an arrow and not a cannon, and here at the end there’s a flash of humor and hint or tone or subtext of sadness, a touch of rue, you can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s there, a dark thread in the fabric, and there’s also a shot of expresso hope, hope against all odds and sense, but riveting there’s no call to arms, no clarion brassy trumpet blast, no website to which you are directed, no hint that you, yes you, should be ashamed of how much water you use or the car you drive or the fact that you just turned the thermostat up to seventy, or that you actually have not voted in the past two elections despite what you told the kids and the goat. Nor is there a rimshot ending, a bang, a last twist of the dagger. Oddly, sweetly, the essay just ends with a feeling eerily like a warm hand brushed against your cheek, and you sit there, near tears, smiling, and then you stand up. Changed.” Brian Doyle

Something delightful

My first pet sit, a week after meniscus surgery is perfect. It’s not far from where I live, a single level small home and two dogs that do not require walks. They have a fenced in back yard. And it’s just for a couple of nights.
Physical therapy has started. I’m moving around pretty well and have visions of summer hikes. But when the dogs and I had lain down to read at 2:30 in the afternoon yesterday, they fell into a delicious nap with me for the next two hours. I still get tired.

I got the most delightful email. I want to share the highlight of it with you. A dear friend of mine, LeBrie Rich, is a felt artist. A few years ago I was lucky to pass through Portland, OR while her art show, “Groceries” was up at an art gallery. It was remarkable.
Almost twenty years ago, she and I chatted while safety pinning wool together in order to create beautiful felted scarves. Next we would sit with a bowl of warm soapy water, rubbing wool around in our hands to make colorful felted balls for an assortment of her creations; earrings, ornaments. Her craft has become fine art. She loves to share her love of felting through her workshops and felting kits. I love to share what my artist friends are up to.
Her emailed announced her as a featured artist with PBS Oregon Art Beat. It’s fascinating and up-lifting and it’s not long. You’ll be glad you watched it, Lebrie Rich on Oregon Art Beat.

I’m getting back to writing my memoir. I submitted a couple of essays, still waiting to hear back. It can take up to four months. Meantime, tomorrow I have an online memoir writing workshop I’m eager for.

Now it’s time to do my physical therapy exercises. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

Felted Balls
Strawberry basket felting kit