September 2009

He’s a belly warmer, that’s what Jerry calls him. Sometimes we get the gender mixed up because he looks fragile and he’s been fixed but he comes when we call his nick name, CiCi (short for Caesar. ) He arrived knowing his name or I might have called him Admiral Byrd because he explores and explores and doesn’t let the size of the steers deter him from going into their pen before I can catch him; nor does he let the expanse of the alfalfa field look daunting. Though Bo is many times his size, they play well together though Bo’s look in this photograph has been labeled: “Puleeze! Do I have to be in the photograph with this creature?”

He is a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. A belly warmer, a lap dog. It’s the first small dog that I’ve had and I have to say it’s not bad at all. When I watch the news and worry about what’s happened to civility; when the fires rage in California and I remember our own fires and how we were spared the losses of so many; when Jerry’s health puts question marks in our day and we struggle to find answers, that little dog is comfort. Bo is too, of course, but Bo on a belly would not be calming. He weighs 80 pounds now.

We added to our four paws family after returning from a vacation into British Columbia. Several people asked if it was truly a vacation and it was! Oh, we did a little business, visited bookstores, of course; but mostly we relaxed. We visited the glass museum in Tacoma then took the ferry to Victoria, BC where we visited the Butchart Gardens and the butterfly garden next door. Then on to Vancouver for opening ceremonies of the World Police and Fire Games held there. A drive to Whistler followed, site of the winter Olympics and four days of supporting our policeman friend’s golfing competition in the games. Terrible fires burned in the region so our views were hampered some but if you can go to Whistler for the Olympics, do! Throughout Canada whenever we asked for anything people would say “No problem.” It was like that. No problems except for a couple of episodes for Jerry that laid him up with severe stomach pains, reasons for which we’re still discussing with his doctors.

We ended our time at Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Quaint and lovely; and the local bookstore had a copy of one of my books!

We delivered our two friends to Salem (Jerry did the driving with three women and a GPS female voice telling him how. Could this be why his stomach ached? )where we picked up our new recruit. CiCi is a brother to a dog our friend in Salem has who has brought such joy to her life. There was one left in that litter so we fell in love, too.

This past week on the ranch I’ve been on a deadline but also helping move irrigation pipe as Matt had dental work done that got complicated and he’s been laid up for nearly two weeks. We have wheel lines and big guns, but one wheel line is short so hand pipe is added to its end. That has to be moved as the wheel line moves to a new setting on the field. CiCi loves racing in the field and Bo loves jumping in the river then racing back to play.

It’s been good for me to get outside, especially when I’m on a deadline because getting up at 4:00 a.m. and staying at the computer for long hours can numb a mind. I confess I have a little trepidation with the dogs in the field because of the snakes but so far, so good. I haven’t seen a single rattler this year.

I’m also not worrying about the eagles that nest in the rocks because I figure Bo will scare them off if they try to swoop down to have a Caesar salad.

A ride in the six-wheeler holding CiCi, watching red tail hawks dance with wind, gripping pipes and walking across the field with Jerry carrying the other end of the pipe remind me of worthy work and all we did to clear the fields. Twenty-five years and two fires ago, the sage brush used to stand so tall we had to ride Deere John to make a path to reach the river.

Opening lines of books have originated from that field. I broke an arm beside the water trough that sits at its edge – or used to. I confiscated the water troughs for my trough garden that’s yielded yummy tomatoes, lettuce and two egg plants that are coming on firm! Watermelons flourished in this field.

The landscape as it always does tells me stories. A pine tree planted 22 years now soars up into my second story view. It offsets the rock to my left that slopes steep as a cow’s face. Deer often skip up over the edge of that rock when I let Bo and CiCi out in the morning. I see them against the pale horizon. The neighbor across the river makes hay at night when there’s moisture in the air. The light from his tractor pricks the morning. Sometimes his wife will call us to see if we see evidence that he’s all right, still working. It’s what neighbor’s do.

Perhaps I’m ready for fall.

I’ve met my deadlines. I’ve sent off my “children.” An Absence so Great will see the light of a bookstore in March of 2010. It’s the sequel to A Flickering Light. I hope you’ll like it. I’m including more photographs.

Then there’s the Oprah book. No, not one that Oprah picked but a book about a writer trying to get Oprah to pick her book. It’s called Oprah Doesn’t Know My Name and some of you who have heard me speak know I say that sometimes, that it isn’t my job as a writer to get Oprah to know my name. It’s my job to show up and tell the story I’ve been given. Zondervan asked to see this book and if accepted, it’ll come out perhaps around this time next year. Meanwhile I’m working on the next historical novel and of course, writing my words of encouragement to you.

I hope you’ll note my schedule. Despite the flames in LA, I’m flying there for the Women Writing the West conference (see the latest newsletter at ) where I get to pick up Aurora’s finalist plaque for the WILLA Literary Award for best creative nonfiction. On the 17th, I’ll help Warner Pacific College inaugurate its new President, Dr. Andrea Cook. Some venues are open to the public. An Eco-Justice gathering in Trout Lake Washington occurs on September 19th and on Sunday, a final Communal Humanities panel featuring the literature of communal societies such as Aurora takes place at Lewis and Clark. An exhibit at the Watze Library Aurora to Rajnesshpuram features Dr. Jim Kopp’s book Eden Within Eden and mine about Aurora and the Young Life ranch among others. The event is free! There’ll be food! Join us.

All that ought to keep me busy as I also prepare for retreats I’m leading: Morning song Acres, the Nature of Words in November and getting geared up for Beachside Writers with Bob Welch, an annual event on the Oregon Coast next February. Registration will begin soon.

Still, I’m looking for a less frenzied pace this fall. Jerry and I think of slowing down, taking more vacations. That means we may not make hay next year at all, just keep a few stupid cows, I mean steers like the six he bought back this year we fed and took to the sale last week. Well, we kept two. So along with Stan the goat and the dogs, those are the only livestock we have.

It’s enough. A Medieval literary English Professor gave a lovely lecture last month I got to hear that revolved around a phrase of the period “enough is as good as a feast.” That’s how I’m feeling this September. I have enough right where I am. And truly, it is as good as a feast.

I hope you’re feasting wherever you are. Thank you for your part in making my life enough.

Warmly, Jane