Archive for December, 2008

Winter Count

Friday, December 19th, 2008

What better day for a Winter Count than a day we are snowed in? All around us snow on snow, snow on snow — and yet another snow cloud moving in across the Sound. 

Winter Count is the Plains Indians practice of recording each year’s memorable events in a spiral of symbols drawn on an animal hide, sometimes on the sides of teepees. These drawings were added to each year at winter camp, commemorating, for instance, the year of the one horned buffalo, the year of the comet, or the year of the flood.

It is something to think about. What significant event would you record for 2008 in your own Winter Count?

For me, it is Mom’s death. February 16, 2008. 

Were I to mark a symbol on the side of the teepee that is this new blog, I would paint my mom with wings — because she spent some of her happiest hours piloting her Piper Commanche. After more or less raising five kids, she turned her considerable intellect to air racing across the United States. In one of her rambly conversations near the end, when her mind was loosely tethered, she told me she and Dad had flown their little plane around the world, though she wasn’t quite sure what route they had taken over the Himalayas to get to China. Even when she could no longer get out, she was still flying. 

Into the void left by Mom’s absence has flooded the love and energy of my sisters Susan, Nancy and Kate, and my brother, Tim. We are closer than ever. I think Mom and Dad must look down on us and be glad for that.


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Q: How do you begin writing?
A: I sit down with my laptop and start moving my fingers over the keyboard. I can’t wait to see where my writing will take me. Wendell Berry says it better in this poem:

Traveling at Home

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.
– Wendell Berry

What “tree or stone or bird” will be the bud of my new direction? Will I make it back before dark?

Today I join the league of writers who blog on the Internet. My journal here is a new beginning and beginnings are my favorite part of any writing project. With beginnings, all the promise, all the possibilities, are still out there in front. Shining. I relish finding those first words or images that belong to a story and seeing where they lead.

I wonder if my dad felt like this when he sat down to write his Sierra Lookout column for the Sonora Union Democrat? Year after year, column after column. I expect that for him, too, writing was a way to figure out what he thought. His topics veered from early spring in the foothills (exquisite) to the shenanigans of Tuolumne Water District No. Two (frustrating).

In the months to follow I expect I will write about our dogs and the garden and writing and books and kindnesses and things that make me laugh, friends and family, growing old, bicycling, marriage, the kids, playing the ukulele, Yosemite, how to purchase athlete’s foot cream in Florence, Italy, and – hard to avoid in the Northwest – the rain.

But for this first one, I think I will begin with thanks. Thanks to the talented Max Waugh and his able assistant Jenn Hixson for creating and developing my new website.

Thanks for this new beginning.

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