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Showing posts from 2014

Beauty, Mystery and Community - Gary Ferguson's "Carry Home" Bridge

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When my sister and I told our beautiful Hungarian stepmother that we would honor her request to wait to scatter our father's ashes until she also passed away, we didn't realize "Dad" would be sitting on the bookshelf for 17 years.We also didn't realize that when she passed, the sense of grief would be twofold.

Over the years I consoled myself, joking that Dad wouldn't mind being nestled between the books he had written, and his presence had surely comforted our bereft and beloved stepmother.And now, on the wake of casting both their ashes into the salty sea air of San Francisco, I think back to scattering our mother's ashes among the Ponderosa pines nine years ago.
A few weeks ago, Gary Ferguson and his wife, consultant Mary Clare, stayed with us while Gary was on book tour for his new book The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness. The book is about Gary's remote journeys into the wilderness to honor a promise to his wife Jane before sh…

Contemplating the Dark and the Sweet with Chickasaw Writer Linda Hogan

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Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan gives us both these things in her essays and poetry and novels—the dark and the sweet.  Today is a good day to honor the gift of Linda’s words—the insight that enables us to take that which is bitter and find sweetness.  
Send white lightning prayers of gratitude shooting through the heavens to her today, and tomorrow, and yesterday, and each day that you feel her presence, each day that you count your blessings as you read her words.
Today is a good day to buy at least one of Linda’s books.  Perhaps Dark. Sweet. filled with "forty years of life." Or People of the Whale.  Or The Woman Who Watches Over the World.  Or Power or Dwellingsor Solar Storms.  Or Rounding the Human Corners.  
And then do just that—round any sharp edges from the words that find their way from your tongue, to the world.  Begin again to dwell in that place where you are the best you can be - for Linda, for her great-granddaughter Jayla, bring a deeper way of knowing into all …

At the Heart of Place with Dawn Wink, Julene Bair, Susan Tweit and Page Lambert

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PLACE was the topic that brought Julene Bair, Susan Tweit (Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey), Dawn Wink (Meadowlark: A Novel), and me, together for a "standing room only" panel at the recent Women Writing the West conference in Golden, Colorado.  Each of us talked about the power of a particular place in our writing.  
For Julene, it was the west Kansas farm of her childhood that drew her as her nostalgia shape-shifted over the years into guilt as she realized her family’s culpability in the draining of the Ogallala aquifer that had, for millennium, given life to the prairie.  “When I arrived at the Little Beaver, I discovered that the creek was now nothing more than a depression. Runoff from all the newly farmed pastureland had filled it with silt…there had once been sand, vacant and pinkish tan. In my childhood, the sand had poured sensuously through my hands, each granule having its own color, shape, size, sheen.”
I could almost feel the sand sifting through my own …

LOVE + LUST, and Other Profound Desires

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Once, I listened to a man tell of how he bandaged a topless dancer’s bleeding finger after she cut it while stroking the edge of a mirror during a performance.  Listening, I felt sick to my stomach.  I had that same feeling once when walking down the sidewalk in Las Vegas, trying to avoid stepping on the dozens of tossed-aside postcards that littered the streets, lascivious photographs of young women staring up at me. For a good time call.

I didn't want to walk on their faces. She’s someone’s daughter, I thought. Someone’s niece. Someone’s mother. I found a restaurant with an outdoor bar shaded by palm trees, green ferns and flowers.  I sat on a stool and ordered a ginger ale. The land beneath the city felt dead, suffocated by cement, devoid of spirit, even as fountains sprayed a river of water a hundred feet into the desert air and glittering neon lights dwarfed the sun.  I took deep breaths and focused my attention on two birds flittering among the branches. 
Later, I wrote a…

The Small Heart of Things

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I love what the title and subtitle of Julian Hoffman's collection of essays, being at home in a beckoning world, imply: 
It is the small heart of nature’s wonders as much as the grand vistas that we should seek. 
In his chapter on Karst country, Julian Hoffman writes, “No streams silver the valleys, no pools or ponds collect snapshots of the sky…I’m alone, and waiting for birds. When they come – singing in the near dark of fledging from the meadows – I record their names and details … The songs always reach me before their forms darken the sky.” 
We humans talk too much and listen too seldom.  I remember standing in a crowd at the edge of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii in a drenching mist that obscured the glowing red embers spewing into the sky.  Loud, complaining voices made it impossible to hear the volcano. We moved to a far corner of the observation deck and straining, could hear the deep and powerful rumbling.  I closed my eyes and listened – Kilauea was speaking.  Every cell in…

All Fishermen Are Liars: John Gierach and the Soul of Simplicity

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“We seem to have a real affection for a beautiful insect that only lives for a single day," John Gierach writes about the mayfly in the opening of his book Sex, Death and Fly-fishing, "and whose only mission is to make love just once.”My father, a romantic and a fisherman, would have applauded the mayfly's life mission (except for the just once part).

When Gierach’s new book All Fishermen Are Liarsbrought him to Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore, I wanted to meet him.I tucked my worn copy of Sex, Death and Fly-fishing into my purse and we headed down the mountain.Listening to Gierach’s stories would no doubt rekindle memories of fishing the channels of Montana’s Madison River with my father.  One of my father’s greatest thrills was the day he snagged three trout in a single cast after tying on three flies. No lie.

Usually, though, my father fished like he wrote—with simple equipment.A Big Chief yellow pad and a pencil, an old bamboo rod, an old fishing vest with the same…

Growing Paradise and the Process of Life

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Today, paradise lost seems suddenly found—not so much a place as a process.Green blades of spring grass thrust themselves through a foot of mountain snow and I fall back in love, all over again, with the process of life.

Only a few days ago I held my first grandchild in my arms.  Later, I watched my son cradle her in his arms for hours, enraptured, lost in the fleeting twitch of each newly found and endearing expression. Carly's newborn sleep seemed ripe with discovery.What’s this? A smile? How pleasurable!Newborns, the breath of heaven.

Paradise—not a place but a process—the intricate regeneration of hope and desire.How carefully Carly’s mother grew her, each morsel eaten nourishing the soil in which Carly’s life took root, one eyelash at a time.Nature makes this growing seem effortless.Green grass sprouts beneath a blanket of snow and we hurry past, rarely awed.We read a poem so fine it takes our breath away, yet we rarely contemplate the effort expended for each word to find i…