For the Love Books and Writing

I don’t remember ever being read to as a child. I don’t remember any children’s books around our house. Ask me my favorite book as a child, I don’t know. I do remember a few books stacked on tables for decoration and Mama sometimes reading a mass paperback book.

The first experience I remember with a book was in 3rd grade. Our teacher, Miss Aden, read aloud each day from the Secret Garden. I was transported into the mysterious world of the sick child, the discovery of the neglected garden and the miracle of transformation.

During high school, my older sisters read Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove and passed them down to me. They called them crotch burners, as when the character, Heather Simmons, seeks refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

It took me leaving my Southern home and culture to discover my love of books. My first couple of years at the University of Mississippi had been a social endeavor. I was to join a sorority and assure I would have a husband. I don’t remember my parents discussing what I’d like to major in, but I do remember that my mama didn’t speak to me for weeks when I dropped out of sorority rush.

My brother, eleven years older, became a professor at the University of Montana. After a visit, and falling in love with the rivers he took me on and the mountains we hiked, I decided to finish at U of M in 1981. I studied, became interested in books and learning. I discovered writers such as Tom McGuane, Richard Hugo, Ivan Doig and started reading Southern writers, Eudora Welty and Faulkner. I couldn’t get enough of this newly discovered pleasure.

No wonder when reading Welty’s One Writer’s Beginning, I wished I had grown up in her house:
“I learned from age two or three that any room in the house, at any time of day, was there to read in or to be read to. My mother read to me. She’d read to me in the big bedroom in the mornings, when we were in her rocker together, which ticked in rhythm as we rocked, as though we had a cricket accompanying the story. She’d read to me in the dining room on winter afternoons in front of the coal fire, with our cuckoo clock ending the story with “Cuckoo,” and at night when I’d go in my own bed.” Eudora Welty

Welty lived in the same town I grew up in, Jackson, MS. My parents never spoke of her. They were more concerned with our appearances and place in society. Once I had discovered Eudora Welty I remember though getting chills of excitement when Ms Welty and I were both buying underwear at McRaes department store.

In the 90’s, I moved back to Mississippi after a divorce, to be close to family. As fate would have it, Tom McGuane came to Lemuria Bookstore for a reading of Keep the Change. A little piece of Montana in Mississippi. After the signing, I said my hello’s to John, the bookstore owner. We knew each other from earlier years. Our reconnection landed me a job at his beautiful bookstore. John had recently moved his tiny bookstore into a brand new space with room for each genre, a children’s section that felt like its own store and a first editions room where John kept his office. He ran a smooth operation for author signings, promoting them, assuring we had plenty of their books and a special booth for them to sit, converse with readers and sign their books.

I was in heaven, surrounded by books, talking to customers about books, buying and reading so many books. (For the first time, I had to get prescription eye glasses) Meeting the personalities behind the writing was also a treat. I was struck by the kindness of writers I met such as Kaye Gibbons, Lori Moore, John Grisham, Mark Childress, Ellen Gilchrist, Rick Bass, Tim O’Brien, Jim Harrison, Jimmy Buffett and Willie Morris (I loved Willie, what a character) to name a few. If I were working there today, I’d be meeting Jesymn Ward, Kiese Laymon, Angie Thomas, Natasha Trethewey and Ralph Eubanks.

Books are what I spend my “extra” money on. Often buying more than I have time to read. I’m not a fast reader nor do I devour several books every few weeks, but I read consistently. I find delight in the craft of writing and the talent, along with hard work of writers.

I don’t know about God, but what about the miracle of making strokes on paper that become letters, then words, then paragraphs, an entire page, then a book, a story.

A writer has crafted the words and sentences in a way that makes a reader cry, laugh, empathize, feel connected and understood. Or one is taken on a journey, can feel the air, smell the scents, see the sky and all the surroundings described. They are educated about things they would have never know of before reading the book. Their eyes are opened. They see things differently now.

It is nothing short of a miracle.

As always, thanks for reading.

Appreciate the contrast

Sometimes we need contrast to appreciate what we have.
For 20 years, I have been a house/pet sitter. It just happened, those years ago, I cared for someone’s pets while they were away, they gave my name to someone else and so on and so on. Even when I’ve had full time jobs, I’ve house sat on the side.
It has allowed me to travel. A month in Baja caring for a dog and casa, a couple of weeks in Hawaii with a kitty. I’ve gone back to Eugene, OR, my previous home, where I have so many wonderful friends, to house sit. Now that I’m settled in Montana, my calendar stays booked. (but I’m still open to travel to care for pets!)
After an injury at a full time job that I loved, a few years ago, pet sitting in now my full time gig, with a few sidelines, cleaning airbnb, babysitting, selling my photo greeting cards. It works, I love it. It suits my care taking personality, my love of animals. There is variety, the companionship of pets, appreciative clients who if aren’t already friends often become friends, great places to care for. It’s going to be 100 degrees today and the house I’m in has air conditioning. (mine and many older homes in Montana do not)
Two corgis are at my feet as I write this. We will get out for a walk along the river before the heat sets in. There will be inside ball throwing this afternoon and of course, treats throughout the day. There will be reading and writing.
Caring for these corgis and my long time appreciative clients comes on the heals of pet sitting for a couple of dogs who’s owners treated me as if they owned me. I had only cared for these dogs once before, during the cold snowy, icy winter. They lived out from town. They required me to come the first day at 6AM, they demanded I snow shovel large areas, they asked for pictures each day (which I do anyway) but they often would take a day to reply to a question I may have about the house or pets.
I had already agreed to this last pet sit for them. But it will be the last. In a text, I asked their arrival time back home so I could meet with a client. They never responded, I twirled my thumbs all afternoon until they showed up.
I’m lucky, very lucky. I love “my” pets and their owners. I’m thankful many of them are friends. I apprecitate the contrast that keeps me in gratitude.

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.

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.”

  

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.

Bringing Generations Together

It is the eve of a court ruling. A judge will determine whether I am able to see my grandchildren or not. It could go either way. I am preparing myself for the either way. 
There are a lot needs in the world that need to be met. One is childcare. The other is for some who are aging; a sense of purpose. Our contemporary world allows folks to travel, to move to a desired place. Often, leaving parents and grandparents behind. I could begin a network of connecting the two. It could be for one-on-one childcare, or a childcare center run by “grandmothers”. Certainly, background checks would be done, applications, letters of reference, all the necessary checks. I’ve operated a childcare program before; I know how to do all that. 
However, this ruling goes, I want to continue to have a full life and yes, a sense of purpose. When I learned I would be a grandmother, my heart was so full of hope. Hope first, that my child and I would come together and heal our wounds. That she would accept my help, that we would communicate effectively, and past wrongs would be forgiven. Visions of trips to the library, hikes, bike rides, reading, driving to sports and lessons, all the while laughing, embracing and kissing the hurts away with my grandkids came into view when I first heard the news of being of a grandmother. 

However, the judge chooses to rule, I like the idea of connecting the needs of children and an older generation. I’ll run with that idea and see what I can make happen. 

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.

Questioning the Facts

I’ve read differing accounts of the long term effects of anesthesia. Some say it lingers in your body for up to a year. I’ve always been a low energy person, slow to get going in the morning. Lately after meniscus surgery three weeks ago, I want to nap in the afternoon and have pj’s on by 8:00 PM as well.
Last night I went to a friend’s house for dinner at 6 PM. Embarrassingly, my eyelids were suddenly heavy at 8:00. Of course, my body is still in healing mode. I was fast asleep in my bed (the bed where I am cat sitting) by 9:30.
But I wonder after a total of ten surgeries in my life, starting with a tonsillectomy, then appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, C-section, uterus removed, then an ovary, then the last ovary (three separate surgeries), ACL repair, ankle tendon repair, and meniscus repair if long term effects of anesthesia has any effect on my low energy.
With summer around the bend, sunshine, a healed pain free knee I may be bouncing out of bed with new found energy. How’s that for positive thinking?!
Meantime, Robert had his cataract surgery on Friday. All went well. Now we are continuing eyes drops four times a day for three weeks. Every time I’ve done them the past two days, he acts surprised when I say, “we have to do these four times a day for three weeks.”
“REALLY?”, he exclaims! As if the questioning will change the fact.
What do you question, hoping it will change the facts? Are there situations where the question will change the facts?