I’m grateful for health, but I’m sometimes hesitant to share this because so many people I know are facing deep challenges; I’m thinking of my sister and the ways MS continues to erode who she is. I know she wouldn’t wish her reality on anyone, but hers is a singular journey with many lessons, and one is: appreciate the body that we have, whatever size, shape, ability –“It’s a gift that gives to us again and again.”
I’m grateful for friendship—for the all the ways my friends sustain and inspire me, teach me how to live in the world with a more open heart.
I’m grateful for my family, for the ways we knit ourselves together despite all the fractures and the ways we’ve hurt each other.
I’m grateful for students, for their resilience and humor, for the bold and tentative ways they move into their own and each other’s writing, for the ways they teach me learning starts with listening.
I’m grateful for art, for the keenly phrased line, the evocative melody, the painting that reaches inside and re-arrange my relationship to myself and the world.
I’m grateful for the planet, with its heaving sighs and temperature drops, its piercing cold and magnificent heat. I’m grateful for the opportunity of landscape and sunset, hawk call and water way.
I’m grateful for language, for the ways it allows me to grow and connect and bury and understand.
I’m grateful for my husband and daughter, for the ways we laugh and play, the ways we learn and turn toward each other.
I am grateful.
How about you? I’d love to hear.
It’s taken me a while, but I’m reading Louis Owens work again – his novels, his scholarship, his careful observations about character and story and place. Since his death in 2002, I haven’t been willing to return to his writings because they amplified the absence brought by his sudden death. But, as a I embark on the fourth revision of One Man Reservation, the understanding comes that now is the time to return to his teachings, and in doing so, I’ve come to know that his mentorship can continue. He can still guide me to the truth yet unfolding in the work, if I pay careful attention.
Reading this line from The Sharpest Sight, “On the far rise a group of black angus were bunched like brushstrokes,” I am struck by the beauty of this image, of the way the words dance in our minds to marry art, livelihood, and landscape in a single sentence. After I make the necessary structural changes as well as deepen character, I will read One Man out loud, asking my ear and my eye to strive for the same kind of clarity that breathed life into Louis’ work.
Another line has taken a hold of my imagination and lingers as I move through my days, “He has managed to keep himself free of the worst evil by thinking in the oldest ways he knows.” In the context of The Sharpest Sight, this line has profound meaning for all of the characters, and for me, I can move my writing nearer to its fullest power by thinking in the oldest ways I know how. This means bringing a keener sense of the landscape into One Man. Hawk call and twilight hush, creek whisper and tree murmur are all part of the sensory inputs that make of the fiber of who I am and how I understand the world – these oldest ways of knowing will, I believe, take a well-meaning juvenile draft into a narrative that offers insight, precision, significance, and song.
Reading Louis’ work, I am reminded of his teachings about writing: he believed in my work most when I rendered the landscape with care and attention, when I tried to untangle the threads of family, identity, loss, and love, moving toward coherence by balancing the delicate lines that shape our world. Each day, I read more of his writing, taking notes and tuning in, moving toward the ways he believed in me.
I’d like to encourage you to consider reading: Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life by Jordan Rosenfeld and Becca Lawton. Exercises in this book helped lay the groundwork for the fundamental shift I’ve made from seeing Louis’ death as only tragic and paralyzing. Instead, I can see the gifts of his presence in my life, and now, with a return to his insights, I can find guidance and maybe even a little grace.