stories in the world

Much gratitude to JuxtaProse for including “Shelter in Place” in a recent issue. They were amazing to work with, and I’m thrilled to be invited to the party of authors they assembled. You can read that piece here.

Volume-4-Cover-Stretch

If you’re not sick of me after that, you can check the most recent book review of Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Water Knife here.

TheWaterKnife-PaoloBacigalupi-201x300

Thanks, always, for checking in to this space. I aim to end the year writing, the same as I began it, and to make a dent in the pile of books I can’t wait to get lost in. Here’s to stories of all kinds and the way they shore us up in hard times, plant the seeds of change, and inspire us to be better humans.

 

 

Categories: book review, books, fiction, short story | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

tiny farm notebook

www.lauramgibson.com

Snow’s on its way. I’ve closed up the garden and turned my attention to indoor pursuits. It feels good.

In the last two seasons I’ve learned a few things about tending a tiny farm. It’s a ton of work, for starters, which I knew. But also didn’t. Just as I knew, but also didn’t, how raising a high school senior and keeping a garden bigger than the house would invade writing time.

Still, I’ve managed to harvest some bits of wisdom along the way:

Two roosters fight. Constantly. If you try and give one of your men to a gal pal with more land and a bigger flock, she will lecture you about why you should be made of tougher stuff. Real farmers suck it up. They do what’s necessary.

So, you research what to do.

No one else you know wants, or is allowed to raise, a rooster. If you list your FREE rooster on craigslist, he will be used as cockfighting bait for champion roosters to practice on.

You let your two fellas range in the pasture, hoping nature will decide. The red-tailed hawk that hunts on your land looks hungry for fresh chicken, but the boys are better than you thought at avoiding danger. This is the only activity during which they create an alliance in order to survive.

Weeks pass. Every time you feed the birds, you get assaulted by the big rooster Carson (formerly named Custer), who shows his irritation that you’re near his harem by flying at you sideways with his spurs out.

In the interest of taking care of your own business and being merciful, you have to kill him. Then you explain to your kids how not all living things on our farm are pets.

 Even though this is a lie.

www.lauramgibson.com

Bees sometimes swarm. When your bees flee, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It’s not like 20,000 kids ran away because you neglected them. This just happens, according to experts who know. If your bees only get as far as the plum tree twenty feet from the hive, and you catch them after watching seven videos on YouTube about how to do it, count that as success! The dog, who tries to “help” and gets stung twenty-seven times, will be okay once the swelling goes down.

Try not to congratulate yourself too much. The next day, your bees will get attacked and killed by someone else’s robbing swarm, and that will be the end of that. Utter colony collapse.

There’s always next year. You have all the equipment now.

www.lauramgibson.com

Gardens get big. When, in your spring zeal to GROW a GARDEN, you plant three times more tomato, pepper, zucchini, and bean plants than your family can possibly handle, remember to preserve, can, freeze, salsa, red sauce, bruschetta, and chili your way through harvest. Once the shelves and freezer are full, you can SHARE the wealth. It’s important to hear poorly at this time. For example, when friends in August try to tell you they’ve got all the zucchini they can handle, it really IS okay to insist they take more. It’s their civic duty.

Also, you can leave presents on the porch when they’re not home which, let’s face it, is better than a visit from Santa.

www.lauramgibson.com

Labradors like birds. If a friend’s dog attacks your remaining rooster Willy (formerly named Napoleon), think carefully before you use your home as the infirmary. Chickens really do prefer to be outside. Once the injured fella is inside the house, there’s no helping the way the whole of your living space will smell like a barnyard. Several websites will suggest giving injured chickens Epsom salt baths and syringe-feeding them electrolytes, and you can employ these methods if you want.

However, it will likely make tending Willy’s psychic and physical well-being very heartbreaking. Your friend’s dog gave him a sound thrashing, and his legs are clearly broken.

Try not to be relieved when he dies on his own. You won’t have to subject your children to another round of murder, which, as they keep reminding you, will be the reason they’re in therapy later.

www.lauramgibson.com

Woodstoves are a hassle. If you have a tantrum about the inefficient woodstove in the living room that leaks and covers the furniture with ash and takes up too much space and MUST COME OUT, and if, then, you watch more YouTube videos about extracting the beast from your world, be careful. These videos are not nearly as entertaining as the ones you watched about bees. You might discover that woodstoves are quite heavy, and awkward to move, and you can’t do it alone. So you enlist your spouse, the foul-mouthed pirate, who helps you while he cusses the thing out the door. When it’s over, he’ll tell you that this activity does NOT qualify as an emergency, and that it would be nice if you could learn the difference between what is acute and what can wait for someone who knows what the hell they’re doing to help you out.

Also, when you remove something attached to the house, you will be left with HOLES in the wall and in the roof. Because you were a Girl Scout, you’ll be able to insulate the holes, and also fashion a piece of tarp to prevent any water from coming in through the roof.

But it will be a sad little Band-Aid of a solution.

Remind yourself not to let too much time pass before you arrange a drywaller and roofer to clean up your mess.

Because critters WILL find this space. Word spreads fast about the easy access your tantrum has created. You’ll likely hear them in the night, scratching and squirreling away food for winter and hiding whatever they’ve found inside the walls.

Fall is windy. You might hear the chimney cap you jammed back into the hole in the roof fly away one night in the wind and land somewhere in the yard. The next day, you’ll climb up there and put it back in place and wonder how a person who’s smart in so many ways could have decided to proceed with home “improvement” in this way.

You will have to get the roof patched. You will.

Kids leave home. If you’ve raised them right. Because hasn’t this been the point all along? To plant the seeds, to build the tools, to foster independence? He’s ready. He’s got the skills to drive his own life, mostly. He’s already making plans, one eye on the door to the what next, and he’s itching to walk through it.

But he’s wistful and tender, too, about his “youth,” as he calls it, which is almost as funny as when he calls himself “a grown man.” Because neither is true today, and both squeeze your heart. The little melon-headed boy who had two speeds: awake and busy with endless questions, or asleep and sweating, breathing too loudly. The young man: articulate, curious, driven.

You hadn’t reckoned on this. The way your boy is a man and still such a child.

Maybe you’re the one who’s not ready.

You’ve got seven months left, and you’ve been telling yourself  for a couple of years that you’ll have a party when that boy leaves the house and takes his stubborn opinions, loud music, cloying cologne, disgusting bathroom habits, and bottomless hunger with him.

And you will.

But now, you’re thinking about how quiet it will be without the hum of him, and how much bigger your tiny house will be without the size 11 shoes he dismounts from and leaves in front of the door and the bags of swim gear and books you trip over. You’re thinking about how the leaving, for both of you, is the beginning of the rest of his life disconnected from you but tethered to everything that’s come before.

It’s a lot to process. This joyful sadness.

 

www.lauramgibson.com

 

 

Categories: chickens, community, family, fiction, gardening, parenting | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

theft

From time to time I’ll be reviewing books at the Kudzu Vine, the blog associated with Kudzu House Quarterly, where I’m also a reader. This month I had the pleasure of reading and writing about BK Loren’s debut novel Theft.

bkloren.com

bkloren.com

Loren’s a skillful craftsman, a thoughtful environmentalist, a damn good storyteller. She’s also published Animal, Mineral, Radical: A Flock of Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food, and she’s a frequent contributor in the pages of Orion Magazine. You can read her “Dreaming in Dirt” in those pages here.

I’m delighted to occupy the planet with a writer paying attention to the tussle between people and place in all the right ways. The publishing editor of her first book told Loren she wrote like she was “raised by wolves.” Which seems about right.

 

Categories: book review, publishing, writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

evel

Last month I took my daughter Riley to a soccer tournament in Twin Falls, the town where Evel Knievel tried to jump the Snake River in 1974. Denied the chance to attempt a leap over the Grand Canyon, Evel had learned a thing or two about bureaucracy. In order to pull off his dream in Idaho, he leased land of either side of the river and built a a ramp on one side, hoping the trajectory of this slope would propel his special steam-powered rocket with enough momentum to shoot the mile-wide gap. He was unsuccessful, poor bugger. His parachute deployed early and down he went, just missing the water, landing on the same side of the river as the jump, and breaking his nose.

Between soccer games, Riley and I hiked to what’s left of the earthen ramp. Still ramp-like in formation, it’s nonetheless a “structure” you might miss without the signs. After all the hype around town about its genesis, it’s a little underwhelming, a monument insufficient in a lot of ways to represent how Evel’s schemes riveted the country then. As a kid, I paid attention to Evel’s antics, his spangled costumes, his thousands of broken bones.

Now, above the Snake River, base jumping’s the thing. Around the bend from Evel’s ramp, jumpers hurl themselves from the Perrine Bridge, many GoPro-ing their falls, each of them hoping no parachute malfunction will deliver certain death, which happens often enough. One guy I talked with, who’d just come back from Malaysia where he’d jumped off the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur (twice the height of the Perrine Bridge), told me the Perrine jump was dangerously short.

Riley and I watched twenty or so jumpers that day. It was terrifying to watch. I can’t imagine the terror of free falling. The week after we left town two jumpers died when their chutes failed to deploy.

Somehow, Evel survived all those stunts he performed and died instead from lung disease in 2007 at the age of 69.

For at least a decade, Evel’s been a household name at our house. It seemed right to make the time to visit one of his jump sites and talk about how what seems crazy to one person means inspiration, passion, and desire to another.

In the way the world is spectacularly weird so much of the time, while we were on this trip Flyway Journal of Writing and Environment said yes to my essay “Evel Kind of Love,” which you can read here.

Deepest gratitude to Flyway for including me in June’s issue.

 

 

Categories: family, publishing, writing | Tags: , | 8 Comments

custer versus napoleon

A look at my posts over the years indicates I’m more than a little bird obsessed. Birds creep into my fiction and essays, into the décor of our home.

Since February, I’ve been back at the chicken mama thing. I’m (mostly) thrilled to have babies again, and their presence in our lives has been a lovely diversion during a pretty strange year.

Plus, we have this tiny farm now, and farmers keep chickens.

Riley and I went to the hatchery and chose six pullets – two Wyandottes, two Auracanas, and two Bantam Golden Sebrights.

The girls have been inside our garage cozying up to each other in their heat-lit habitat. There’s nothing so thrilling as a bunch of animals living in the garage, stinking up the place, squalling as they figure out who’s in charge, and making a general ruckus that results in the shavings from their cage becoming airborne in the way of fine dust sprinkled over every single thing. The veiling silt is a pall fine as drywall dust.

It’s time for the birds to go outside to the coop we’ve assembled. Over the past few weeks, Owen – desperate for money to feed the prom monster – has led the charge on building. Our creation is more like a chicken condo, really, and built from a structure we carried from our previous urban chicken days and another we rehabbed from the new place. We focused on using what we could reclaim this time, and the result is funky and…artistic…the enclosed run will happen in Phase 2, due to begin soon.

It’ll do the job just fine.

As John says, “They’re just chickens. No need for the Taj Mahal.”

Which is true, although it’s pretty easy to get carried away.

We talked about our bird love so much, we convinced two other families to get flocks for the first time. “It’s easy,” we promised. “Think of all those eggs,” we said. “There’s hardly any chance of getting a man,” we said, our fingers crossed behind our backs.

 

The last time we had birds – Mrs. Howell, Ginger, and Marianne – we discovered that the 99% certainty in predicting the sex of chicks means the Gibsons will access the 1%. Mrs. Howell was anything but ladylike in the end. Crowing all night, telling the whole neighborhood what a stud he was. With some friends who own a farm, we traded the rooster formerly known as Mrs. Howell for a hen who was sweet, a steady productive layer, and much nicer than Mrs. Howell.

This time, I joked early and often that another rooster was in the cards for us, though every time I said it, I secretly hoped this wasn’t the case. We’re allowed to keep a rooster on our land, at least, but still. The threat of another dandy has made us reluctant to finalize names for this flock. I’m inclined to go with female characters from Pride and Prejudice or Downton Abbey, which has been met with some complaints in the group, but since I’m the one scooping the poop, feeding the birds’ relentless hunger and cleaning the garage, it seems reasonable I get to call them whatever I want.

So, Mrs. Hughes, Cora, Daisy, and Mrs. Patmore it is then. For the birds I know are hens, anyway.

By late March, one of the Wyandottes was clearly developing the most gorgeous florid comb and wattles. Bigger than the other, more aggressive. Most sources say bossiness doesn’t a cockerel make, but I’ve had my eye on him, worried. Last week, his voice-cracking teenager crow was unmistakable. John named him Custer, a name we giggle about every time we say it. We’ve decided we can handle one rooster. It’ll be good to have a bodyguard for the girls.

My other worried eye has been on one of the Bantam Sebrights, who is beginning to look very much like this fella:

www.cacklehatchery.com Bantam Golden Sebright Rooster

http://www.cacklehatchery.com
Bantam Golden Sebright Rooster

The other one looks very much like this hen:

http://www.cacklehatchery.com/

http://www.cacklehatchery.com Bantam Golden Sebright Hen

Over the weeks, the be-combed Sebright has become a tiny, angry specimen of a bird who struts around his habitat starting fights, flicking his tail feathers. We named him Napoleon (he does look very French), hoping we’d be wrong.

Yesterday, Napoleon, a week younger than Custer, announced HIS presence in the world. The two generals, of course, cannot stand each other and are separated, so now I have TWO filthy garage habitats to keep clean, and twice the dust.

Today they really must go outside, where there is only one living arrangement. It’s going to be ugly with too many suitors in the manor. I’ve asked around, and no one, of course, wants a rooster, even a really beautiful one. And, of course, none of the friends we convinced to get chickens got a rooster, and so they are reveling in the good fortune of their 99%-ness.

At our house, one of these boys is going to be voted off the island. There’s much heated debate about which one. And also, quite a bit of discussion about the virtues of a hearty late-spring soup, versus a chance encounter with a hawk, versus a sudden interested benefactor willing to adopt a general still in his awkward teen phase.

Categories: chickens, family, girls, outdoors, writing | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

all the birds

wyld

 

This week I stayed up too late one night to finish Evie Wyld’s novel All the Birds, Singing. After I turned out the lights, I lay awake deciphering how Wyld had stitched the thing together and how she’d managed to make every page of it wrought with terror and mystery.

Then I had a bunch of nightmares.

I don’t usually read thrillers. I’m not a great sleeper anyway – I’d hate to think what a steady diet of horror would do to my psyche. But I’m so glad I read Wyld’s novel, a delicious puzzle of a story.

About Jake Whyte, a woman who raises sheep on an island off the coast of England, Wyld’s novel toggles time: Moving forward through the present is the mystery of what’s killing Jake’s sheep – something vicious, stealthy, beastly – and the mystery of what’s chasing her from the past. Moving backward is the story of Jake’s past in Australia, also a mystery that increases in brutality as the novel careens on.

The twin haunting of Jake’s past and the current lives is flecked with leering, largely malicious characters. So much so that a reader is naturally suspicious of the mysterious stranger Lloyd, who shows up one stormy night at the ranch. Jake decides to trust him, but as we’ve seen, her life is a stew of unfortunate events and her own tragic choices. We don’t entirely trust her perspective.

Psychological and physical torment through the seen and the unseen stalk the novel’s pages. There’s the trope of gruesome scars on Jake’s back. Though we never get a really detailed bead on what, exactly, they look like, we understand them to be horrific and to appear as if she’s been ravaged by some clawed beast. More, every scene in which the scars present themselves means further menace for Jake. We come to understand the necessity of her muscular arms and legs, honed through a regimen of push-ups and sit-ups – sometimes the only aspect of her world she can control.

Plugging for Jake to occupy any kind of grace is what a reader brings to every threatening scene.

Structurally complicated and unflinching, the novel marches toward the mystery of Jake’s bleak past and what feels like her bleaker future. Along the way it’s peppered with the kindnesses of people with whom Jake attempts to heal. Greg, the boyfriend she leaves behind in Australia. Lloyd, who seems, always, to be in the right place at the right time. Don, from whom she bought the island ranch, who’s got his own set of demons to wrangle.

To all this Wyld adds the relentless rain, the wind, the isolation, and the uncertainty of what or whom is tracking her – man or supernatural force. Wyld shoves a reader along toward the inevitable intersection of past and present.

A point, this reader was certain, must be cataclysmic.  And it is.

I will say that after the heart-drumming-up-at-night-reading-nightmare-having-hope-for-grace journey with Jake, I was surprised (and disappointed) at the ending. I spent quite a bit of time thumbing back through the pages, trying to trace the road map to the place where Wyld leaves us. It’s a purposefully mysterious place, that much is clear. After spending so much time in the good hands of a really accomplished storyteller, I had to reconcile the ending as artfully open and remember that sometimes landing the plane of a story is the most difficult part.

In an interview with Courtney Collins, Wyld talks about resisting neat closures. I don’t disagree with her; endings that solve every conflict make the journey to get there much less interesting. Equally dissatisfying, though, is a kind of vague falling away – two characters staring off into the distance might be real life, but it doesn’t much work for fiction, especially fiction that for two hundred excruciating pages is a punch in the gut.

I don’t think Wyld’s ending works, but I take her point: tidy endings stink; the world is full of mystery we can hardly imagine; our own hearts are sometimes cloaked in darkness. Ultimately, I recognize in the final scene a reconciliation for Jake, and for that, I’ll be able to sleep easier at night.

She won some impressive awards for All the Birds, Singing, her second novel: the Miles Franklin Award, the Encore Award, and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize. She was short and long listed for a heap of others, and among The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014.

I can’t wait to see what dark tales Evie Wyld’s got waiting in the wings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: book review, writing | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

saltfront

 

saltfront cover - Issue 3

saltfront cover – Issue 3

Deepest gratitude to the editors at saltfront for including me in Issue 3. It’s hot off the presses and gorgeous.

Out of Salt Lake, ecological storytelling is this journal’s jam. I’m thrilled they said yes to my story “The Leaving Half.” About a Japanese-American girl working at a gas station mini-mart across the street from a pulp mill, the story’s also about loss and love, destruction and preservation.

Sorry online readers, to read Issue 3 means buying these pages and treating yourself to some really lovely poetry, art, and fiction. I promise supporting this small band of literary soldiers will be worth it.

Here’s a teaser:

More than this, there was his art sprung from the skins of what he purchased at the Timber Mart.  The plastic triangular casings from pre-made refrigerated sandwiches. Little Debbies or gum or hamburger wrappers.  Unsettling at first, the found objects that boomeranged back to her, origamied as fish or birds, others cut and collaged into tiny landscapes.  Most she carried to her apartment and staged on the bookshelf opposite her futon couch, where she could sit and examine his puzzling presence.  On tender days when she felt most alone, she’d rearrange the tableau of his art.  Tug gently on the folded wings of the birds, willing them to fledge and soar above her, their flight a glorious transformation, weightless.

 

 

 

Categories: fiction, publishing, short story, writing | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

fog

This winter, a relentless inverted fog has shrouded our valley. We are weeks into this trend; I’ve stopped paying much attention to the forecast which, according to our weather folk, is simply: “Gray.”

From the table where I write, the black relief of deciduous trees against a white surround looks like the smoky aftermath of war.

To find sun I could drive up out of the inversion to four or five thousand feet.  Many people do this. Above the white sea of our valley cars line the shoulder, their drivers standing next to the road with faces turned to the light.  Up there I’ve seen picnickers on the hoods of cars, games of hacky sack, lawn chairs with umbrellas. On weekends, a driver bound for the very top of the mountain must aim, not unlike Tour de France riders in the mountain stages, through this carnival gauntlet of parked sun-seekers.

But I don’t much seek the sun. Truthfully, I’m delighted about the inversion. With little temptation to go outside, it’s easier to keep my butt in the chair and work. Soon, it’ll be gardening season, a hard set of months on fiction.

It’s not for wimps, this writing life.  Solitary. Time-consuming. Hard emotional work.  Craziness. Spending so much time with magical people sometimes makes me feel less adept at communicating with the real ones. Recently I left the house (late, always late) wearing two different shoes and only noticed once I stood waiting in line at the post office. There is never enough time. I struggle to reconcile the insistent knocking to create against the inherent selfishness of world-making.

Today, my house is filthy. The refrigerator is beginning to look like an artifact from a college dorm.  Plenty of condiments, some moldy cheese, and something in a Tupperware container no one can identify. There’s a pile of laundry – neglected, growing. My daughter has no pants that fit and can’t drive herself to the store to get ones that do, she reminds me. We discussed her clothing quandary long enough to make her late to school this morning. Also, there was nothing to put in her lunch, she told me as she got out of the car.  Can’t you please go to the market before you work?

She’s on to me.

On the way home from school I scratched out a list of life chores.  If I raced through them first, I’d have time to write and then everyone would win, at least for today.

I started a load of laundry, hauled out the vacuum cleaner, and then got distracted by a text from a friend who’d shared a clip of Bill Moyers interviewing Louise Erdrich in April of 2010. Here ’tis:

Lovely and humble as ever, Erdrich steps around being compared to Faulkner, Hemingway, and Camus (clever woman-what possible answer to this question could there be?). Instead, she speaks about how she’s managed to write so prolifically while also being a mother, how she’s given herself permission to let the small things fall away.  To answer Moyers, Erdrich reads her poem “Advice to Myself”  (from Original Fire, 2003. Thumbs up to Garrison Keillor for making it Monday, November 19th, 2012’s The Writer’s Almanac piece). Here ’tis:

Leave the dishes. Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

One hand on the vacuum handle, I considered the way of the universe’s mysterious gifts. Into my confusion descended the fierce creative mind of Louis Erdrich via my tiny, fierce community of writer friends.

Fierceness, the order of the day.

Outside, rain fell through the white ceiling of fog. After school, after solitude, there’d be time enough to find pants the right size, to visit the market. Vacuuming could wait.

I settled into my writing chair.

 

 

 

 

 

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warrior

Every year, standing at the threshold between years feels bittersweet.  The year in rear view a tangle of experiences powerful and ordinary, some regrettable. The year ahead brimming with possibility.

The new year will deliver another birthday, hopefully, and an age I’ll be surprised about. I don’t feel nearly as old as the data indicates. I’m beginning to understand how my ninety-three-year-old grandmother, even at the end when she insisted she was only sixty-four, couldn’t reconcile how fast her life had gone by.

In 2014 some dear friends spent the better part of the year ill, others navigated divorce, joblessness, financial ruin. Deaths of loved ones meant wrangling fresh grief. I hope wherever those souls are they are at peace.  Raising kids continues to be hard work, so often a befuddling puzzle difficult to decode with any sort of clarity. Looking back, I spent too much of the year wishing I had better tools for living, wishing I was braver.

In 2014 one of my favorite writers, Kent Haruf, passed away.  I considered him a friend, though I never met him. More, I considered him a mentor.  Reading Haruf’s novels helped me understand the fierce tenderness a person ought to strive for and inspired me to take my writing seriously.  His Plainsong – that spare, gentle tale of regular folk who learn to rely on and love each other like family – is the kind of story I hope to write someday. Until his death at the end of November, he wrote, talked about writing and also about getting ready to pass over to another place.  Six days before he died, he even gave one final interview.

I miss his presence in the world.  Though he left his readers with one last book, Our Souls at Night, due out in May, I miss already whatever future stories he might’ve created that won’t be told.  Wherever he is, I wish peace for him, too.

I’m hopeful a new year means my loved ones and I will be healthy and wise, kind and forgiving, productive and successful.  But I know a new year will have its share of struggles, ones I’ll hope to meet with grace and dignity.

In line for bagels this morning I listened to folks chatting over coffee, reflecting, planning how they would celebrate the end of this year.  On the magnetic board above the deli counter, some words by Pema Chodron reminded me to rejoice in the ordinary:

“Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.”

I didn’t know who she was, so back at home I asked Uncle Google about her – the first American woman to become a fully ordained Buddhist nun, an author, a teacher, a spiritual leader, a mother.  She has her own foundation.  She’s a bit of a rockstar. These words are from her work titled The Places That Scare You:  A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, a title that made me chuckle for its timeliness. A little barb to prod me in the direction of courage.

Waiting for my turn in the bagel line, I read her words again and again, comforted by the notion of being a warrior fierce and insistent in celebrating the fact of existence and the daily-ness of it.  It occurs to me that Kent Haruf would’ve agreed with Chodron, that his stories are about opening oneself to the grace of fully, purposefully inhabiting life with all its imperfections.  He seemed to do that himself until the end.

Onward to 2015, then, a year during which I’ll take experiences as they come, and work to be a warrior for gratitude.

 

 

Categories: books, family, fiction, writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

humdinger

ShenandoahWashington and Lee University’s literary magazine whose contributing authors often appear among winners of prizes like the Pushcart and O. Henry, has done two things right this year:  publishing Heather E. Goodman’s story “Humdinger” in the spring, and then selecting her as the co-winner of their annual Shenandoah Fiction Prize.

A story of two friends, Beth and “Henry,” the sort of women I want to be when I’m much older – gritty, outdoorsy, fierce – “Humdinger” is also about love and loss, the complicated tangle of the human heart’s desires, human restraint and recklessness.  And ice fishing, which is fantastic.

Here’s hoping this story will go on to reach a wider audience and win other prizes.

Meanwhile, read Goodman’s story here.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: fiction, publishing, short story, writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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