October 2008

I think I know where the idea for a crazy quilt came from. The idea came to me while we drove with friends in Alberta, Canada, north toward the Columbia Ice fields, that place in the north that gives birth to three rivers: the Columbia, the Athabasca and the Saskatchewan. The Columbia flows into the Pacific and miles south, not too far from our rattlesnake and rock ranch. The Saskatchewan flows to the Atlantic out through the great Hudson’s Bay. And the Athabasca flows north into the Arctic Sea. Imagine, all from that single ice cap glacier!

But about the crazy quilt.

As we drove north in Jasper National Park, with yellow aspens lining the gray highway, I looked up and saw this granite mountain with glacier-made striations up-thrust across our path. Clusters of pine trees rose high against it in places leaving gray valleys in between. Sky as blue as Crater Lake (you North westerners will know exactly what I mean) met mountain edges as sharp as scissor cuts. The variety of material in that landscape made me think of the velvets and shirting and pieces of calico that make up a Crazy quilt. We were the stitches holding it all together as we drove along, admiring lakes and being amazed at the weather so warm it was as though we drove into a quilt that would comfort for a life-time.

The memories will.

Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner speaks of up-thrust moments, those times when the distance between God and man seems thin as aging skin, when our minds while never being able to fully grasp Divinity, allows us a glimpse into the grandeur, the peace and joy that is God who allows us to be here,, on this earth, with friends, with those we love, sharing a landscape of magnificence and humbled to our core. Who could ask for more?

Yet more is given.

We had a grand time at the InScribe writer’s conference in Edmonton where I made new friends and discovered fans from across the border. At a poetry class I treated myself to, I wrote a poem about my grandmother that just might appear one day in one of my books about her. Who knows, maybe even in a future monthly memo! Then it was off for several days with the Webbs, a family introduced to us through books and one woman’s willingness to write to me nearly 10 years ago, a letter that began a relationships but this was the first actual meeting of Loris and her husband Gary. Grand people they are who demonstrated to us the meaning of both Christian charity and grace. It was as though we’d been spending time together for a lifetime. Another up-thrust in a September day. We heard elk bugling, watch mountain sheep cluster, saw a pink sunrise against snow peaks reflecting in Edith lake where our friends have a family cabin. It was a luscious time of relaxation and we will be forever grateful.

Earlier in the month we celebrated a family wedding in Florida (where the summer storms stayed aloft for this lovely outdoor wedding) and before that it was research in Minnesota where my brother and his family and my two aunts and an uncle took over a little back room in a restaurant in Minnesota to look at glass negatives taken by either my grandmother or grandfather. We told stories, gathered up three generations and later located a photographer in Red Wing who could put those lovely images onto disks I'll use for the second book in the series that I'm writing now.

We also toured Winona, MN (site of A Flickering Light) to be sure I had directions clear (the Mississippi River flows east and west there) and another up-thrust: the director of the Winona County Historical Museum turns out to have been one of the first directors of the Aurora Colony Museum in Oregon, a place that has consumed my life these past three years. A small world indeed and one my brother and sister-in-law enjoyed as we imagined our grandparents wandering the streets of that old river town.

In Wisconsin, I connected with quilt show enthusiasts, presented my PowerPoint on Aurora (to appreciative audiences) shared a meal with WWW president and friend Kathleen Ernst, spent time with my Wisconsin cousins and my 91 year old aunt (who is a writer, too); then home a day then to Florida and grandkids; home a day to say hi to Bo and Matt and Melissa who minded the ranch; then on to Canada.

Here it is, October 4th and today I get to drive to a baby shower near Warm Springs to help celebrate the soon-to-be baby of a young woman I once shared an office with on the reservation. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and feel privileged that my name was on the invitation list. The soon to be mom is Shilo, the young woman we visited the Oklahoma Western Heritage Museum with where I missed seeing Kareem Abdul Jabar (“How could you miss seeing him?” my husband asked. "He's seven feet tall!" “I was looking at art,” I defended. “He is art,” Shilo said…another memory in my crazy quilt).

Jerry has declined to come to the shower – it’s deer season!. Jerry instead stayed at home. Last year he hunted with his cane, remember? (a rifle too, of course) and ended up later in the hospital having surgery for his burst colon. I went out with him this morning but we saw only fat does and fawns we startled from their comfort holes deep within the grasses beneath a hackberry tree or two. A couple of pheasants flew up and walking back we picked apples from our tree and shared one withBo. Tasty indeed.

On Monday we’ll finalize the details for the quilt book and I must say that while this project has consumed more time than I ever imagined it might, I believe it will be a treasure of images, of stories told through vibrant quilts and sheets of music written in blackberry juice ink and peppered with old photographs that often included dogs of every shape and size who helped tell the the story of the only successful utopian community to survive in the American West. Publication date: December 16. Please mark your calendars. You can pre-order through your local bookstore and of course, on line.

We have several events this month: in Prineville celebrating 100 years of the Shumia Book Club. Prineville sports the opening scene of A Land of Sheltered Promise. We’ll be at the Newell House in French Prairie (it’s all sold out) a part of theTender Ties connection; I’ll be in Bend to support my friend Blair’s PEO, an organization that provides scholarships to women so they can go on to school.

At the end of the month, we fly to San Antonio where A Tendering in the Storm will receive a lovely WILLA Literary Award. Jerry’s flying with me and my agent will be there too!

So perhaps I’ve come full circle this month, with images of past, present and future, searching artifacts and mixing them with family and friends, combining stories with my writing life and seeing how blessed I am to have followed my heart and started writing things that others might choose to read. From that has come these memories that fit like fabric pieces against the landscape of my life. I don’t take the time often enough to appreciate those up-thrusts. But today I am and I encourage you to consider yours, those very moments when (to paraphrase Mary Oliver) we let ourselves be brides “married to amazement; bridegrooms who took the world into our arms.”

I’ll post additional photographs on my blog. For those reading this, you can find my blog in the menu on the left and simply click on blog and there I’ll be. At least virtually. In truth, I’ll be writing, remembering, imagining and being grateful that so many of you keep tuning in and caring for the stories. Please, celebrate your own!
Warmly, Jane