Category: place

I’d Rather Forget the Whole Thing

It’s Easier That Way, Right?

We’ve all said it. I’d rather forget the whole thing. And it’s true. Given the choice, we’d rather leave behind the unfortunate twists, the impulsive decisions, and the sad endings. We’d toss the old newspapers, Photoshop the mugshots, and rip those ambiguous, embarrassing relatives from the family album.

We tell ourselves, let it go. Nobody wants to see that side of who we are. That might be Too Much Information. Worse, people will gossip, laugh or judge. It’s tempting to retouch or select our pictures, maybe even our entire history, to show only our best, public selves. All ballet and balance, no banana-peel slips or pratfalls. No driving off the bridge. But nobody can hold that pose or balance for long.

The truth is, everybody falls.

Individuals. Families. Cultures. Nations. Although painful, a fall can be more telling, more significant in forming character, than the bounce that preceded it. As individuals, as neighbors, as citizens and as cultures, we have fallen and will continue to fall. Sometimes we lie to cover what we’ve done, to avoid consequences, or to look better than we are. Sometimes we twist things around, bragging about our shameful actions. We record them and put them on Facebook or Twitter (those places where nothing is forgotten). We lose our capacity to see ourselves honestly, in our broken, hilarious, fragile, destructive humanity.

At our worst, we’ve also lied, blotted records, torn out pages, violated others and cultivated ongoing disasters that might yet be averted. A false self-esteem that insists it’s never fallen, has never done wrong, and then blames the victim is the core of narcissism.

How to Be a Real Hero (not that guy)

When seen through a lens of humility, the history of our falls becomes the essence of our heroic journeys. We fall, but we can get up conscientiously. We can ask what happened. We can show remorse, learn from errors, listen to others, acknowledge harm, resolve to do better, and ultimately, initiate durable reconciliation. Maybe even build a better world.

But It’s So . . . Embarrassing.

Falls and failures are by nature unpleasant things we’d rather forget. We are (knowingly or unknowingly) guilty of ongoing indifference, racism, unjustified violence, even acts of terrorism and racial extermination. These are not mere incidents, but ingrained habits. We’d rather omit the ugliness, but if we find and acknowledge our place in our (his)tory, we claim the power to write a new chapter and a better ending. We earn a shot at being truly great.

Let’s remember together, doing the research to fill in the blanks. Let’s read and write stories that bring overshadowed facts into the light. There are funny parts we can remember, too, and golden, everyday moments we should cherish.

Durable, Everyday Things

Remember our ancestors and how they lived. Let their voices and ongoing presence inspire us. Admire the toughness and sacrifices of those who came before. Celebrate the myths, question their origins and open up history to diverse narratives and voices. Let’s examine our stories with humility and courage, and then resolve to make amends. Let’s earn a truly heroic tale to tell our children.

Sometimes You Need to Go Home Again

Find your place in a story. It’s my mantra, my trademark, my storytelling obsession, to lead readers into history to find something new, something worth keeping, and better yet, something worth changing. Remember How It Rained, River Saga Book Two will take my readers back to the American Great Plains in a time of economic depression and drought, the 1930s. It was a desperate, dirty, thirsty, hungry time that shaped our families and our nation. Bootleggers, sharecroppers, gangsters, wayward women, abandoned children, stingy relatives, child labor, bare-knuckle fights and time served . . . and that’s just my family. In ways your family may not even be ready to admit, the Great Depression probably shaped you, too.

In Remember How It Rained, Maggie, Jack and Kuruk are still reeling from what they suffered as children. They must decide to either keep running or dare to return and remember. Facing the truth of the past and taking action can be terrifying, but remembering is where justice begins.

So, dear readers, Remember How it Rained is coming January 27, 2017. If you’d be so kind as to share this post, I’d greatly appreciate it.

I’ll be celebrating the novel’s release with a book club that’s grown near and dear to my heart, The Book Babes of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. People talking about books . . . what a great way to remember who we are.

What better way to find your place in a story™?

 

(Thanks to http://publicdomainarchive.com/public-domain-images-1920′s-vintage-mugshots-nswpd-special-photographs/ for images in this post.)

 

 

Get Ready to Remember How It Rained

It’s Almost Time to Remember How It Rained

January is coming and it’s almost time to . . . Remember How It Rained.

I’ve been hard at work to bring back Margaret Rose, Jack Hollingwood and Kuruk Sky Seeing to my readers, who have been so supportive and enthusiastic about Seven Kinds of Rain.

As a result, Seven Kinds of Rain‘s sequel is coming down the tracks, to be available for purchase January 27, 2017. Mark your calendar, please, for

Remember How It Rained, River Saga Book Two.

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Remembering, where justice begins

Divided in childhood but children no more, Margaret Rose, Jack and Kuruk answer the echoes of childhood loves, memories and voices. Power is shifting in Darkwater Creek, old crimes cry out for justice and Nebraska’s deadliest floodwaters gather in the west.

Book Two of the River Saga, Remember How It Rained continues Seven Kinds of Rain’s voices of innocence, corruption, courage and justice on the Great Plains.

It sings of running away and coming home to find love, truth and justice in the places and people who won’t let you go.

If you haven’t yet read Seven Kinds of Rain, look for it here. At the time of this writing, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are offering crazy-good prices to set you up for the next book, if you or a friend aren’t ready. At these prices, Seven Kinds of Rain is a great Christmas gift, and with the sequel coming on so fast, the timing is right!

 

Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story

Welcome to Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story by Carmen Peone

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing a Women Writing the West® member and author friend, Carmen Peone, and her novel Delbert’s Weir, a great YA survival story. I read this novel last week and found it not only an intriguing survival tale, but also a believable and engaging coming-of-age story.

Clearly Carmen has history parenting, teaching or otherwise guiding teenaged boys! She captures the language and nuances of growing friendship, emerging Christian faith and everyday conflict among 16-year-olds. She’s also done her historical and cultural research, which I respect immensely. This historical novel comes alive in her well-crafted words.

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Summary: In a time when the west was still untamed, sixteen-year-old Delbert Gardner leads two friends into the backcountry for a three-day adventure. Little did they know three days of hunting and fishing would turn into eight days of near starvation, injury and illness. When hope of returning home seems out of reach, Delbert recalls watching his Native American friends construct a fishing weir and sets out to build one himself. To him, it is the only way out.

A Story that Begins with Family

Carmen Peone has family history among the Colville Tribes and spent a great deal of time gathering information from tribal members and history about something I’d never heard of . . . a fishing weir, a fencing and net apparatus used to capture fish in rivers and streams.

Native Fishing Weirs and the Columbia River

Carmen shared with me these insights to fishing and weirs in Native life along the Columbia River:

“For the Plateau Natives, salmon was the main staple. That is until Grand Coulee Dam was built in 1942. In the final draft of the plans for the dam, a fish ladder was omitted. Since then, salmon have ceased the 700-mile migration to the Kettle Falls to spawn.

“Elders talk of young warriors standing out over the falls on wooden platforms with large nets catching those salmon that were too weak to jump the 50-foot falls prior to the dam’s construction.

“Legends, including how Coyote brought salmon to the people from the mouth of the Columbia River to the Arrow Lakes band of the Colville Tribes, have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries in an oral tradition. Those legends have now been recorded and can be found on the tribe’s website: colvilletribes.com. Sons and daughters of elders are currently recording legends so the flames that keep culture brightly burning in the hearts of the people remain alive.  Tradition and culture are fading as young people’s interests have turned to technology and the future.

weir-1“The Colville Tribe is sinking its hooks into the past, dragging tradition along, breathing new life into an almost forgotten slice of culture–fence-style weir fishing. I have managed to dredge this custom from the bottom of the river, helping the tribes bring it into the forefront with a new young adult fiction book titled Delbert’s Weir.

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“Four years ago, Tribal Fish and Wildlife erected an aluminum fence style fishing weir and stretched it across the Okanogan River near Omak, WA. They now catch thousands of salmon each summer, filleting and freezing the meat for tribal members and their families. It may not be wind dried like the old days, but it is a way of providing traditional food to the people. The fishing weir is the inspiration of my book Delbert’s Weir. The weir in my book is actually made of cottonwood, the traditional wood used in this area. My character uses horsehair to tie the poles together. Indian hemp or the inner fibers of cattail stock or tule were used as well. Both fibers were also used to make fish nets.”

I appreciate Carmen’s presence  on my blog, and I highly recommend Delbert’s Weir to those adults and young adults interested in Pacific Northwest Native histories and traditions. It’s a great read for deepening historical understanding of the Colville Tribes and insight to their relationships with the earth and water. It also could be used to prompt discussion about how environmental changes and government water management policies deeply affect diverse communities’ traditions and food resources. All in all, Delbert’s Weir is a well-told story of finding one’s courage to survive, with a can’t-put-it-down opportunity for deep learning across cultures.

An Excerpt from Delbert’s Weir:

He watched the leaves of the quaking aspen ripple in the breeze as if to encourage him. “Get up. Keep going,” is what they seemed to say. His mind flashed images of him watching Pekam. He and some other men walked up a stream and pushed fish toward traps. The same traps he’d made.

Delbert jumped to his feet and sprinted to camp. He shook each tent, even his own in the wake of excitement and yelled, “Get up!”

Jed popped his head out first, a grumpy frown on his face.

Ross attempted to open his blinking eyes.

“Come on. Get dressed. Daylights a burnin’. We’ve got work to do.”

Ross rolled over on his back and groaned. “What’re you babbling about?”

“The traps are empty, but I have a plan.” Delbert shook the tents until the boys crawled out. “Pekam spoke to me. No, God did, through Pekam.”

Jed’s sleepy eyes strained to focus. “What?”

“This better be worth it,” Ross sneered.

“I was sure there would be fish in at least one of them. But listen, when I was young, I saw Pekam and his pals walk up a creek toward different types of fish traps filling ‘em pretty fast. I think we should try it. It’s like herding cattle, but with fish. In water.”

“Now?” Jed complained. “Can’t we at least give the horses a drink first?”

Delbert turned his attention to Jed. “When did you start caring about the horses’ well-being?” Delbert felt hair on the back of his neck spike outward, so he spoke in a calm, slow tone, “Did you hear me?”

“Yes, I heard you. Did you hear me? It’s early. I wanna finish sleepin’.”

“Sure ya do.” Ross walked off.

“Hey, we can water the horses. Then how ‘bout trying to catch some breakfast.  How’d ya like worms for breakfast?  If you’re really fast, maybe you can snatch a grasshopper or two with a flick of your tongue.  I’ll start callin’ ya frog, or does toad suit ya?  Or would ya like to go on a Sunday afternoon stroll?” Delbert felt his patience leave his body as quickly as his last meal disappeared from his fish-oiled fingers.

Ross glared at him.

Delbert held out his hands. “You got a better idea? We’re outta of food. You think it’s gonna magically drop on our plates, cooked and all?” His tone sounded as impatient as a hungry wolf.

“Well, no…” Ross slouched and rubbed his eyes.

“Well, let’s get goin’.” Delbert marched toward the beach. He sat on the cool, damp sand, tore off his boots, and rolled up his pants. He slid the tip of his toe in and shivered.

Jed grunted and followed. He sat beside Delbert and peeled off his socks.

Ross straggled behind. He sat a spell before he yanked off his boots and rolled up his pants, grumbling about the injustice. “Maybe we need to cut off the legs of our britches. I have a feeling we may be in there–a lot.” He tilted his head toward the creek.

Delbert stared at his bare feet. No need to stir those two up any more than they already are. “Okay. Let’s walk downstream a ways, check things out, and meander back up.”

“Yep.” Ross’s eyebrow twitched. “Whatever you say, boss.”

Ross’ll be eatin’ his words soon enough.

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Author Bio:

Carmen Peone has lived in Northeast Washington, on the Colville Confederated Indian Reservation since 1988 gleaning knowledge from family and friends.  She had worked with tribal elder, Marguerite Ensminger, for three years learning the Arrow Lakes-Sinyekst- Language and various cultural traditions and legends. She has owned and trained her horses for thirteen years and competed in local Extreme Challenge Competitions for three years.  She lives with her husband and tribal member Joe.  They have four grown sons who are also tribal members and seven grandchildren.  With a degree in psychology, the thought of writing never entered her mind, until she married her husband and they moved to the reservation after college. She came to love the people and their heritage and wanted to create a legacy for her sons.

Buy Links for Delbert’s Weir:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=carmen+peone

Barns and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/carmen+peone?_requestid=709814

Carmen Peone’s Links to Social Media:

Website and blog: http://carmenpeone.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862063.Carmen_Peone

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarmenEPeone/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carmenpeone

About me: http://carmenpeone.com/about/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Carmen-Peone/e/B00A92O4R4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1451363711&sr=8-1

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=AAIAAAc0cLgBl2D1zC4yDzz9aHb0cyvqDneZFA0&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/carmenpeone/

 

 

 

 

Consider a Holy Day

Consider a holy day,

the present full of grace,

born and broken for you.

Bear witness to

the flickering incarnation in a newborn squint and

the longing for resurrection

that huddles in the chair beside death’s mattress.

 

This is our day to love the forsaken earth,

not pretend to rise above it.

A day to smile at the sun and sleet that burn our eyes.

To numb our hands in glacier-fed rivers,

taste ocean salt, trudge deserts and mountains and

watch cloud-shadows race across the corn.

To bless this damaged place that holds us,

taking up our shovels and buckets of water,

replanting what green flourished

before we trampled here.

 

Our day to put down the flashing,

trilling toys of self-importance and

look into a child’s eyes until she shines and then

cuddle her while she

rhymes her way into being.

 

This is our day to accept the hard truth we can’t bear and then

dare to change our minds enough

to turn back

to refill the well we pumped dry.

To be content, unnoticed and unpraised.

 

This is my day to start the race I can’t win

and may not be strong enough to finish.

Then, falling short, to enfold myself with

all weary runners

in mercy’s blanket wool.

 

My day to offer the first hot serving and the last cookie.

To lose and applaud the winner until my hands sting

and her cheeks flush with joy.

As if I have all the time in the world,

to listen and sing someone else’s favorite song

in his hearing.

 

My day, set apart

to restore the window glass

or culture

or person I broke,

to learn to swing softly,

to trace and honor the curves next time.

 

A day for us to shatter the hinges, springs

and teeth on every trap,

to set the bones, staunch the blood and release.

 

This is our sacred opportunity

to soften our sharp,

hard-bordered countries into one sanctuary,

to fill the bowl, raise the rafters and

clasp the stranger.

To sanctify our here

and make eternal our today.

 

—  K. Lyn Wurth, December 16, 2015

Sacred Bundles Our Children Carry

With permission, I drew this sketch of a sacred bundle on display at the Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic, Kansas. Because of the bundle’s ongoing sanctity to the Pawnee people, on-site photographs are prohibited. The bundle appears to be made of some sort of hide, and tied with ribbon-like bands. A long smoking pipe, fragments of arrows, a fork tipped with bone and small American flags adorn the outside. The pipe appears to be carved of stone, with a stem of wood. A Kansas Historical web site reports that this particular bundle was once x-rayed, and contains stuffed bird bundles, hawk bells, counting sticks and a leather strip decorated with glass beads.

Sacred bundles like this were integral to Pawnee medicine ceremonies. Only a woman could possess a bundle, which usually hung on the west wall of a home or above an altar, while only men could utilize it in ceremonies.

A sign near this bundle reports that it originated near Loup, Nebraska. A young Pawnee girl named Sadie carried it away on horseback from the famous battle at Massacre Canyon near Trenton, Nebraska, in 1873. On that day, a thousand Sioux surprised 350 Pawnee men, women and children on their summer buffalo hunt, and approximately seventy Pawnee were killed. This is recorded as the last major battle between two Indian tribes in U.S. history. Sadie’s father entrusted the bundle to her at the battle, binding it to her back. He died that day, without having an opportunity to explain its ritual use. Sadie kept it safe as her family’s spiritual legacy, and her daughter entrusted it to the Kansas State Historical Society.

As I consider this object, I think about the manual labor and arts of preparing the skins and the pipe. I consider the meaning, now obscure, assigned to the arrows, the fork and the pipe. Who decorated that leather strip with beads? What are its colors and designs? How did the men handle the counting sticks in their rituals? The bones in those bird bundles once bore feathers high above the earth, with bright eyes looking down on prairie grasses, earth lodges and the twisting Republican River.

Time and memory. Meaning and mystery. Tragedy and hope. So much human experience, rolled up in leather and tied with ribbons and flags. The hope of a family, a legacy caught up in a crisis. A sign of enduring faith for a struggling people, suspended behind glass for this writer to sketch and ponder. Among all of my questions, one endures.

If I had to send my child running for survival today, with only seconds to decide, what bundle of meaning would I thrust into those young hands, to inspire my future generations?

Kent Haruf, a Benediction

Readers lost a great novelist, and Great Plains and Western writers like myself lost a mentor, on Sunday.

Colorado should be proud of, and surely grieves for, Kent Haruf, a resident of Salida, Colorado, who wrote about a fictional Colorado Eastern plains community in Plain Song, Eventide and Benediction. Just prior to his death, he finished the copy edits for his upcoming novel, scheduled for release next year.

His fiction resounds with thoughtful observations of ordinary people, the bonds and limitations of community life and a special appreciation for the sugar beet farming country of eastern Colorado. His characters run from infants to the aged, from unwed mothers to bachelor farmers. In portraying all, he shows the grace of compassion and an exquisite mercy. His language is simple and strong.

After first reading his novels this year, I’d hoped someday to meet this national treasure and warm human being. An acquaintance from the Women Writing the West Conference, Susan Tweit, wrote an engaging post about her relationship with Haruf, her neighbor. Her words make me even more sorry I’ll never have the chance to know him, but his work inspires me to write clear, heartfelt stories about the Great Plains and West, focusing as he did on broken, yet redeemable, hearts and relationships.

I encourage you to feed your hearts and minds on Kent Haruf’s fiction. You may soon share my gratitude that his words live on. May he rest in the peace he shared in writing with all of us.

Learning Happened Here

Nine years ago this winter, newlyweds Dave and I stood in the middle of a relative’s field and decided to build a sort of nest here, a home on some land outside of town. Farmers in this area generally alternate between soybean and corn crops, and 2005 was a corn year on this particular Wurth property, so we stood in the softening brown rows of recently-harvested stubble and imagined a home. I still have an ear of corn that the combine missed that season. It’s propped in a corner of a downstairs windowsill, to remind me of what was here before me.

We weren’t the first builders on this site. A local historian, also a Wurth relative, told us that in the early Twentieth Century,  a one-room country school stood on this very corner. Constructed on every southeast square-mile corner down this main road, Amherst Township country schools, like most, had to be accessible for walking children.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m thankful for many things. One of them is that education has always been one of the first priorities for settlers on the Great Plains and the West, a legacy of which I am a happy beneficiary. In most homesteading communities, once shelter was erected for people and animals and crops were planted, even far-flung neighbors gathered to discuss their children’s education. Even before it was compulsory, education was a dream American settlers claimed for their children.

So, learning happened here, long before we built our dreams. Down in this ground, there may be chips of slate, rusting nails or broken toys. Maybe crumbling bits of a schoolhouse foundation and broken glass. Around where I sit at my desk, children gathered when a school bell rang, for study and play, reciting lessons, expanding their thoughts and becoming citizens of the wider world. A coal stove belched smoke and glowed to keep out the winter chill. Chalk dust hovered in the air and a water bucket with a dipper probably stood in the corner.  Books fell on the floor. Inkwells spilled. Feet scraped on hardwood floors. I wonder where the outhouse stood? There’s a thought. No wonder this soil is so fertile, and my flowers so bright every summer!

Considering the old school that stood on these corner acres, I’m even more grateful to live in this place. Thank you, children, for being an invisible but real part of my history. Thank you, teachers, for all you gave. You still provide joy, as I remember.

For those of us who take comfortable, well-equipped schools, computers and information for granted in this digital age, let’s put our energies into teaching our children what’s most important. Let’s teach them to be grateful for the people who were first in their places, and the richness of history that surrounds them.

Let’s teach them how to think and how to learn, before they leave our nest.

In This Place

Wherever you are, so much has happened in this place.

Page Lambert said at the Women Writing the West conference in October, “For each of us, and with each new story, Place will be different. At its heart will be everything that has ever been born, lived in, or died in that place, everything in the past, everything in the present, all energy— every sound, smell, ray of sun, every shadow, every sorrow, every joy.”

I considered these words deeply during my return to Colorado, where I grew up. As I sat on a boulder beside the St. Vrain River, I listened to the river rushing and delighted in the golden aspen leaves overhead. I considered the many times I’d been there as a child, with various friends and family, some now deceased. I thought, too, about the flood rearranged much of the valley’s beauty in September of 2013, and how that place must have seemed very different during those disastrous days. I could see the marks of that flood in the road repair signs, as well as the sand deposits and detritus lining the river

Personal, geographic and climate events are just a few dimensions of the place where you find yourself, right now.

Picture the changes that cycle through your current location. Remember or imagine, too, the people who lived, loved and died there. Recall the conquerors and the conquered who fought over and for the territory you occupy, who longed for the place you call home.

Imagine their sounds and shadows, their sorrows and joys. Imagine the richness of your place.