A Few Small Stones
Poet Mary Oliver says praying, writing, creating, living your life in a meaningful, courageous, and as with most writers, a public way-- we stick our hearts out-- doesn't have to be the "blue iris" and that "a few small stones" will do. As a gatherer of rocks and pebbles, heart shaped mostly, but lately I've been drawn to the round dark shale stones with a circle of quartz that looks as if someone drew them on with chalk, I love that line: a few small stones. I could do worse than rub a few pebbles together as "a doorway into thanks" for the privledge of having you read what I write.
Gratitude is a full circle as well.
I've been thinking about my mom lately, since we celebrated All Souls' Day last Sunday, and my middle sister's birthday was yesterday, and that always sends me back to childhood when my parents, and two little sisters, and Grandma and Grandpa and the dogs, and my dad telling stories at the dinner table, was what the words home and family meant. Those words became my own children and husband, and our household and pets, and now my daughters use those same words to mean their children and spouses. (My son is still homeless, sort of. Happily so. He's surfing near Bali after a summer commercial fishing in AK.)
My mother, who was a teacher and a principal, has a granddaughter who is. Which is another full circle. No one has followed my grandfather's footsteps into war. Time, as we sang in church last Sunday, is an ever rolling-stream. (And that's good.Otherwise I'd still be wearing saddle shoes and fair isle sweaters.)
And then there's the new editor and owner of the Chilkat Valley News, Kyle. He's a young veteran, a combat medic, and is the fresh face in the annual veteran's appreciation photo spread in this week's paper. I like him more for plopping down next to the old guys and smiling for the camera. I admire his courage and humility. Tom, the previous editor, and I used to have enough disagreements over obituaries that I didn't put my name on them. He would sometimes change them in embarrassing and disastrous ways on late deadline nights. Kyle's been gentler on my copy, and has put my by-line back. So yesterday when he called to apologize about the paper, I figured he was talking about one of the stories on the assembly. I'm in the thick of it, with so many controversial meetings, from the troopers leaving to a timber sale at Mud Bay, to drones and the cigarette tax.
Turns out it was for his headline on Ed Beitner's obituary: "Hard Man Lived Rugged Life Alone With Few Friends." I knew Ed pretty well. He and Chip hunted together.
Five years ago I would have pitched a fit at Tom for that.
Writing is brave. Editing a newspaper anywhere is braver, and in a small-town more so. As Kyle explained, he didn't see the headline as negative. He thought Ed was interesting, and praised the obituary for telling the truth. I said I probably would have written, " Hunter and Outdoorsman Loved High Country" and left readers to ponder Ed's quirks for themselves. As a columnist and an obit writer, I've never written headlines, they are an editorial decision. We talked some more, in a friendly way. It's human nature to obsess on one critical comment, and allow that to ruin thirty positive ones. I have to remind myself that about four or five times a week in the meetings I'm in. (Easier said than done.)I'd hate to inflict that pain on anyone else. I told him it was okay, live and learn, and I meant it. Then I said I hoped people would still read it. "Are you kidding me? With a headline like that I'm sure they will."
Which made me laugh--
And reminded me of Tom, whose courage on the assembly we are both now on, I admire, and so here we are, full circle. And still just trying to "patch a few words together" to tell a story worth sharing.