Reporting From Along the Way

I’ve been so focused on narrating the audiobook version of my memoir, Walking Nature Home, that I’ve gotten behind on everything else. Keeping up with what I consider my intentions to family, work, self, and the larger community is a continuing struggle for me in this journey with Richard’s brain cancer, and right now the sense of having way too much to try to fit into every day is more overwhelming than ever. I think it’s time to let go of some expectations that I hold for myself. But more on that later.

First, a report from the ranch, as in The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch in northwest Colorado, where Richard and I spent another short but fruitful sojourn earlier this week. We scheduled our visit around the meeting of the Hayden Garden Club, an group of passionate plantswomen and gardeners, keepers of heritage gardening and food-growing traditions of the Yampa River Valley. We talked about our “re-storying” project, and they in turn gifted us with stories and promises of plant starts, seeds, and help along the way. We felt honored to be welcomed into such a deeply rooted community (pun intended!).

Another gift came in the form of an antique hand garden cultivator donated to the garden project by Craig city councilor and longtime Valley resident Terry Carwile in memory of his late wife, Downtown Bookstore owner, teacher, writer, and gardener Carol Jacobson. The cultivator, which will likely become part of a sculptural entrance to the new kitchen that Richard will design, reminds me of Carol’s ability to find beauty in the life’s discards. She was the kind of person who believed anything was possible, and saw life as one huge and humorous gift. Thanks, Terry, for the gift of the cultivator and this beautiful way to honor Carol’s life. (That’s Terry and the cultivator in the photo above.)

Our stay coincided with peak fall color in the valley, so we took in the gift of that transient and transitional beauty too: the ribbons of burnt gold cottonwoods lining the river, and hillsides draped with a tapestry of rust-colored oaks and scarlet chokecherry, lit by sunshiney aspen.


Still, it’s a four-hour drive each way to Carpenter Ranch, and by the time we got home Tuesday afternoon, I was tired, cranky and feeling overwhelmed.

Wednesday morning I re-recorded part of Chapter Five of Walking Nature Home because a section of the audio track had inexplicably disappeared. (My fault, I’m sure, but I still can’t figure out how I did it.) Thursday I re-recorded all of Chapter One because upon listening to it, I decided it didn’t sound as good as the rest of the book. By the time I got that re-recorded (1.5 hours), did the rough edits (3 hours), took it to my patient sound engineer, musician Dave Tipton, got the newly smoothed audiofile back, transferred all nine files (one chapter per audio file, each file totaling about 420 megabytes) to nine CDs (another 1.5 hours) and Richard walked with me to the Post Office to put them in the mail on Friday morning, I was too exhausted to really feel celebratory. I spent the rest of the day tidying my virtual desk, including responding to emails that have languished in my inbox for a month or more, making a start on a project that’s been in my head for at least as long, and arranging some things I promised to do for my parents.

This morning I woke feeling lighter, and I realized why: it’s not just finishing the audiobook project, though that’s a huge accomplishment in itself. During my wakeful-hour in the night when I sort through what I didn’t have time to digest during the day, I let go of some of my expectations for myself and remembered all over again that I don’t have to be perfect.

So I’m not going to stress about the fact that I haven’t finished cutting the kitchen garden back for fall. Or that I haven’t yet cleared the courtyard-to-be off our bedroom so we can lay a flagstone patio there. Or that I haven’t yet convinced my born-in-the-Depression father that he needs help to deal with my mother and her Alzheimer’s. Nor have I cleaned the guest cottage in anticipation of the vacation renters arriving next week. Not to mention that I haven’t achieved world peace…

Here’s the truth: None of that is what’s really important. (Well, except the guest apartment, which Richard and I will work on after lunch, and world peace, which isn’t in my power anyway.) Right now in this moment I have all I need: the sun has come out through a hole in the clouds and shines on peaks newly dusted with snow, Richard is laughing after demonstrating his juggling skills, and I’m cozy on the couch. The rest can wait.


COMING ATTRACTIONS: Mystery writer Kathleen Ernst visits next Tuesday, 10/26, with a blog post on how the prairie inspires her creativity and heals her fictional protagonist. Kathleen’s visit to Walking Nature Home is part of her virtual tour for her first mystery for adults, Old World Murder, just out from Midnight Ink. Join me to welcome her!