Sunday, July 29, 2018

Family Reunion

Last Saturday afternoon I had the special pleasure of enjoying what had to be the world’s shortest-ever family reunion. It occurred in the middle of a Frontier Days rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My four children, Kristin, Kurt, Jeff and Jeni, watched some pretty spectacular bronc riding and steer wrestling while spending a little more than an hour in the same spot together. Kristin orchestrates a week-long gathering for every rodeo performance for her employer, Century Link, who sponsors a box each year. Kurt recently left a 10 year stint in Tokyo and moved to the wilds of Cheyenne. Jeff came from Florida to facilitate a Disney Institute program at Colorado State University on Monday, and Jeni, on her way to an Ag Task Force meeting in Los Angeles that very day, left Fort Collins and took a quick detour to Cheyenne on her way to the airport in order to make the family gathering complete.

Brief and chaotic as it was, there was something special, something touching and memorable, about our coming together for me. These kids of mine are all in their fifties now, all deeply involved in their work and in encouraging and supporting their collective dozen children as they mature and make their own ways in the world.

I felt incredibly lucky to be present with them all as a background of blasting music and shouts of spectators did their best to drown out our words. No matter. What was important was knowing that we were all there together.

Kristin Lee, Jeni Arndt, Libby James, Jeff James, Kurt James

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lookin' on the bright side

The other day I was looking through Bill Moyers “A World of Ideas,” published in 1989. It is billed as conversations with thoughtful men and women about American life today and the ideas shaping our future.

In the course of talking with historian Barbara Tuchman in the Watergate era, Moyers said to her, “You said that the American presidency has become a greater risk than it is worth. You said, “It’s no longer my country right or wrong, but it’s my president, right or wrong, so that the loyalty has been transferred from the country to the man, from the institution to the incumbent.”

And Tuchman responds, “No man can support that now. The only person whoever did was George Washington, who’s my example of a true hero… She went on to say that an earlier revolutionary hero, William the Silent of the Netherlands, is supposed to have said, “It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere.” She thinks that is a wonderful sentiment and notes that the Dutch revolt against the most powerful empire of Europe took 80 years.

Washington had faith in Providence, Tuchman says. He believed that no matter what we’ve suffered and what is going wrong, Providence will bring it right, as it so often has before.

It is comforting that while we tend to despair over these times, they aren’t new, times have been worse, and if we are to believe George Washington, Providence will prevail.

Meanwhile, it is glorious summertime. Make the best of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Filling a need: writers groups

Writing is a lonely business. And it can be scary. It requires confronting a blank screen or sheet of paper in hopes of filling it up with little black marks that will have some value and contribute to a whole that floats elusively around in your head insisting on coming to life.

Sometimes it seems like a disease or an addiction or a time-consuming hobby that makes you sit still and think—and thinking is hard work. Well, so is sitting still.

That’s why people who write tend to gather together to form little groups to help each other. Over time these groups become a place to find friends, confidantes, mentors and sources of encouragement.

The writing/critique group that I belong to has been meeting every other Friday morning for well over a decade. There’s food and drink and chit chat before we get down to business, sharing our work with each other and offering suggestions from little nitpicks to bigger issues such as plot, dialogue and creation of scenes.

I feel fortunate to be part of this group that helped me to turn a non-fiction account into something resembling a novel. It wasn’t easy, for them or for me, a journalist at heart.

Our group has formed Penstemon Publications to bring our writings to life. We are celebrating with an “authors potpourri” event at a unique and charming bookstore in Loveland, Colorado in a couple of weeks.

It’s going to be great fun to be together to share our work with visitors in a readerly location. Is readerly a word?  I’ll have to ask my writers group.

My new book, Still Running, will be available as well. I'm excited to share it!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

An incentive to head for the hills

It’s a long way from Manchester, UK to Fort Collins, Colorado, especially if you’ve never been to the USA before and you aren’t exactly sure what you are in for. John Waterhouse, a friendly fellow from Manchester who joined our group a year ago as we walked the Coast to Coast path across England, decided sometime this winter that he’d like to cross the pond and check out the Colorado mountains.

Despite never being in the U.S., John is a well-travelled hiker and mountain climber and has seen much of the world pursuing his love of the outdoors. A couple of days after his arrival, we headed for the Indian Peaks area near Boulder to climb up to Blue Lake. After a 90-minute drive into remote back country, we arrived at a nearly-full parking lot. We were not the only ones with this idea, even though it was a weekday.

It took about two hours of hiking on a trail sometimes rocky, sometimes soggy with spring runoff and with a log crossing over a swiftly running stream before we arrived at a small lake, nestled into a depression among the surrounding hills, rapidly filling up as streams of melted snow cascaded down the hillsides. The sky was blue, blue, there was a breeze blowing and huge chunks of melting ice in several shades of blue floated in the icy waters.

I was thankful to John for coming to these parts. It had been way too long since I’d been up in these hills, and if it weren’t for him, I’d no doubt have been pulling weeds in my sorry-looking garden.  The weeds will never go away for good, but these amazing summer days and the spectacular nature of the Rocky Mountains is only accessible for a few months every year. And we have only so many years to do these things.

Today we are off to show John some Wyoming rock formations and the next day we’ll hike again, closer to home this time and with as many of our Coast to Coast walking group that we can round up to go with us.

Thanks again, John. Come back soon.