August 2009

We’ve had a wild summer of travel with a few glitches (I missed my class reunion because the plane was delayed and the rental car illusive for 1.5 hours and then we took a wrong turn onto a snowmobile trail instead of the road we were supposed to take). But we still found classmates at the Mondovi Inn and I visited my English teacher the next afternoon and spent lots of time staying with relatives as we traveled around the state on the Wisconsin book tour.

A highlight was watching my nephew in a play at Mankato State University and seeing old friends from Northern Wisconsin we hadn’t seen for many years. Tomorrow we leave for a needed vacation in Canada for the International Police and Firemen’s Olympics in Whistler and Victoria, BC. It’s supposed to be cool there which is good since it’s supposed to be 104 and higher here tomorrow! We’ll visit a good friend in the hospital in Bend and celebrate a birthday in Eugene and then we head north.

But I wanted to share with you how my brother and his family catch up the peacocks they sold when they got too many. They have lots of them around their Redwing, MN farm and with four new babies coming along, they decided to sell two males and a female.

Here’s how they catch them up: They put a mirror in the shed so when the peacocks walk by, they notice themselves. They’re apparently quite vain, those birds and this time, the male walked in but came right back out. A few minutes later, he brought in the exact male and female my brother planned to sell! They all came in to look at themselves and when they did, he closed the door on them.

Now they’re in a very dark place and they let them stay to calm down for a time.

A couple of hours later, my brother went inside the dark shed and as his eyes adjusted, he could see that on the far end a door had just a little sliver of light across the bottom and all three birds where there. They’d migrated toward the light. He reached down and picked each one up and put them into the boxes he’d prepared for them (with lots of ventilation) and voila! He had them.

This seems like such a wonderful metaphor to me of life. We notice ourselves, become preoccupied with our own images, visages, our own preening sometimes. We add negative comments to our preening too, how our hips are too wide or too thin; how gravity is pulling us downward. And while we’re paying attention to ourselves, the day darkens and suddenly we’re all alone in a dark world. It’s pretty scary at first but eventually we calm down and our eyes adjust and we look for…the light. Light is just so amazing. So directional, so illuminating, so warming. And the light of the world is all we really need in darkness. All we really need.

I know, the metaphor breaks down with the realization that my brother could catch the peacocks because they were hanging around the light but then, they were taken to another farm where they’ll live a happier life not being overcrowded with so many other peas and hens. So maybe it still works: we never know when we’re snatched out of the darkness just what awaits us. But as Willa Cather once wrote “some lessons are learned in calm and some in storm.”

We’ve had some troubling things of late, as have many of you. Financial worries though not so frightening as those who’ve lost their jobs or homes. Our struggle is whether to buy new equipment to replace the broken down bail wagon, the pumps etc. or maybe this is the time to cease farming all together. Our kids have dental needs and without insurance, we’ve become it. Jerry’s back continues to strain. (But my blood pressure is doing great!) These feel like dark places. But like those birds, we can’t afford to spend too much time focused on ourselves or we’ll get sucked right in to the darkness. Instead, we must keep seeking the light.

That’s part of what we hope to do while we’re traveling in Canada. We’re driving and will have two friends in the car with us (so we won’t likely kill each other over traffic questions, which happens even with a GPS though it has truly saved our marriage at times). The experience I want to have is to be nurtured, to rest, to enjoy the beauty of the great Northwest and all it has to offer and to spend some time in quiet prayer in early morning thinking not so much about me but about the lives of those I love. Jerry and I will celebrate our 33st wedding anniversary while we’re traveling, a pretty amazing feat in itself.

When we return there’ll be an event in Spokane, WA and another deadline for my Oprah Doesn’t Know My Name book and researching the next novel and awaiting copy editing queries for An Absence So Great (April, 2010). Much to do and better done in light.

I hope your August will draw you toward the light.

Thanks for sharing time with me.

Warmly, Jane