What would you do if you were in your early twenties and were told you didn’t have long to live? How would you respond to that hard slap up the side of the head? That’s the story I tell in my memoir, Walking Nature Home, released this month from University of Texas Press.
Here’s how the book begins:
She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, then replaced the lenses carefully before explaining that she had sent my test results to specialists. They concurred with her diagnosis: the way the disease was progressing, they thought, my life would not last long.
It was February of 1980. I was twenty-three years old, attending graduate school while working for the U.S. Forest Service, married to my college sweetheart, and at the beginning of what seemed like a promising career.
I shifted on the slippery vinyl seat of the chair, picked up my mechanical pencil and recorded her words in tidy script in a ruled notebook. I wanted to remember the facts, so I took notes. I am a scientist. I observe and record from a careful distance. It’s what we do, how we make sense of the world.
Here’s what I did with the terrifying news the doctor delivered: pretended it wasn’t happening, did a lot of research on the illness, went crazy for a while, divorced my husband, moved, found a new career, ran off to the wilderness…. When none of that vanquished the illness for which no cure is known, I settled in and began learning how to live with my health. I’m still doing that, and that’s what the memoir is about.
Walking Nature Home is a love story on several levels: love for my husband and family, love for nature and its community of species, and a very basic love of life itself. It traces a journey of redemption, an arc passing through bewilderment, despair, anger, and loneliness to the wisdom gained from studying my illness through the lens of science and what it has taught me about the nature of life. That journey taught me how to construct a rich life from what I have, not what I wish I had.
Walking Nature Home illustrates the seemingly simple–but difficult to practice–lessons applicable to all our lives: the healing power of love, the importance of listening to your inner voice, the necessity of silence and spirituality, and the blessing of being at home wherever you live and finding joy in the everyday miracle of simply being. It’s about remembering what really matters, and finding a way to make those things the focus of your life. It’s about living in a generous and thoughtful way that honors the spirit implicit in all of life.
Today I kick off my blog book tour, with visits to a dozen blogs–plus an interview via a free national tele-seminar–over almost three weeks, all events I’ll do on the virtual plane, most while at home sitting on my couch with my feet up. (Yes, that’s where I am now.) At each stop, I’ll talk about different aspects of the story, including how I figured out what my life meant and how to tell it, what I learned about myself and writing in the process, the nature of homesickness, how memoir relates to knitting, and an interview with Sherrie York, the illustrator of the book.
Come along and join in the discussion!
- 3/25: Women Writing the West‘s blog
- 3/27: Janet Riehl’s “Riehllife” village wisdom newsmagazine blog
- 3/29: Deb Robson’s “Independent Stitch” blog on fiber arts, life, and publishing
- 3/31: Sharman Apt Russell and friends’ “Love of Place” blog
- 4/2 Knitting wizard and author Donna Druchunas’ “Sheep to Shawl” blog
- 4/4 “Brush and Baren,” the blog of artist and nature journal publisher Sherrie York, who also is the illustrator of Walking Nature Home. (That’s Sherrie’s watercolor of the Milky Way above.)
- 4/6 Artist, writer, gardener, and college professor Susan Tomlinson’s “The Bicycle Garden” blog
- 4/7 “Women’s Memoirs,” the web site of memoir authors and coaches Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett
- 4/8 Sculptor Susan Gallacher-Turner’s blog
- 4/9 Teleseminar with Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett, 6 p.m. RMT. This is a free 20-30 minute interview where I’ll be answering questions from readers around the country. Anyone can listen in by calling 1-712-432-0600 and using the access code 998458#
- 4/10 “Telling HerStories: The Broad View,” the group blog of Story Circle Network
- 4/12 Back home to this blog with a wrap-up of the tour, plus a surprise!