February, 2010

My work in progress has taken me back to fur trapping. I find that fascinating. The story I’m working on was inspired by a book written by Linda L. Hunt in 2003 about a mother and daughter who in 1896 accepted a wager from an apparel company in New York City to receive $10,000 if they could walk across the country from Spokane in seven months taking no rides and earning their way by working to arrived unescorted by a man. Linda’s book was called Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America.

It’s a fascinating story and part of what intrigued me was the mostly untold story of the daughter Clara. After their return (and I won’t give away all the things that happened in between) Clara changed her name and something happened that separated her from the family for many years.

During that separation, she either went into business with or was befriended by two Norwegian women. Clara made a lot of money, bought sections of land and owned homes in Spokane and I was curious about how that might have happened to a young single woman in the west. I learned last week in my research, that the two women (whose names I gleaned from property records and a census in Coulee City) were furriers in New York City before they moved to Spokane at the turn of the century. Ah, could that be how Clara earned her money?

Spokane would have been a prime place for wild pelts and closer to the Asian markets than those in the East.

So that’s why I’m checking out the fur industry and how it all worked in the 1900’s. It’s been fascinating and so many people have been helpful in gathering details. What’s so amazing to me is that I spent all those years researching Marie Dorion’s story as an Indian woman involved in the fur trade in the early 1800s. I never expected that research to help inform this story that up until last week I didn’t know had anything to do with fashion and furs. So perhaps I’m following in Marie Dorion’s footsteps again. The book will be out next year, the same year as the bi-centennial celebration of the Astor expedition and Marie’s trip west.

These are story weavings, that’s how I think of them. I’m working on one thing and along comes a thread from another book or another person and I’m thinking that in ways, that’s how God weaves our stories together, with the threads of different people who move in to new places in our lives. I meet a woman talking about Homestead and several years later she’s my contact for A Land of Sheltered Promise; I participate in a quilt retreat and discover the story of Emma Giesy there.

But these weavings go beyond my books and research. Take for example a few of the people involved with my website and social media renovation. Leah worked for my publisher until the downturn and she began a new business to support authors. Her sister is my editor. (I’m so glad!) Carol is the wife of Jerry’s cousin and she’s my assistant at retreats and handles events requests (I’m so glad!). Judy invited me to speak at her church one year back in Wisconsin and I stayed with her and her husband Paul while on another book tour. She helps with advertising through her agency (remember the flickering light candles? This year, it’s mugs!). Her husband Paul has been redoing my website (I’m so glad!).

Then there’s my prayer team who were people I’d met at a retreat or whose letters about how my books touched them brought our relationship deeper or my former publicist who closed her business (and now works for Historic Fort Vancouver, an early fur trapping site!). These people didn’t come into my life in the way they’re woven in now and I can’t help but believe that they are answers to prayers I didn’t know I was praying.

So today I’ll encourage you to notice those threads in your life and celebrate them. Who knows what those threads of people you just happen to meet or a group you volunteer for or someone you sit next to at church one Sunday can become a part of the weave of your life. We just have to notice and let the threads appear where they may to create the most beautiful fabric.

Jerry and I are traveling with friends for a vacation for a couple of weeks so if you send me a note via my website I might not get back to you very quickly. I’ll miss Bo and Caesar: they can’t come along on this trip to Cabo san Jose. I’m going to try parasailing! Prayers welcome.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll spend a little time on my website, check out the schedule and see the new features and the new way of getting around on the site. One new feature is signing up for my newsletters. They’ll likely be quarterly and will come to your email automatically if you sign up for them. And be sure to send a note to the webmaster with any compliments. And yes, he accepts concerns, too. I’ve also formed a fan page through Facebook and I hope in time to be a little more active there but I confess, it’s writing that fills my day, writing for people I hope will be encouraged by the stories I weave together.

Have a happy heart day! Warmly, Jane