When I was a child, I listened to the words of Big Wicked Bill and cried for the dog.
Now my heart knows why Stuart Hamblen sang, “Sometimes in the hush of an evening when the winds have grown tired and are stilled, By the fire, I sit dozing and dreaming letting memory bring back what she will…
Trying to write about myself, back through time, my mind wanders; I smell high-bush cranberries ripening in Alaska autumn, creosote bushes after a summer cloudburst, my horse loping through the Arizona desert. The silken feel of a newborn baby nursing at my breast. Sorrow, burying yet another furry friend under a tree. Now, here I am living in Texas, which surprises me, too.
Memories dance like shadows around a campfire. Which ones to share?
I don’t own a house or a retirement fund, but neither do I have a Bucket List, a job I hate, or all the answers.
Yep, I can be stubborn, messy, disorganized, and bossy. There’s no sense disputing the obvious. But finally, I’ve learned to believe both myself and you when we say, “Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now. Damn it; I’m baby-steppin’.”
Life has its own way of sorting itself out into what we value the most. I’ve been lucky to spend nearly all my life with dogs, books, children, horses, and nature with incredible family and friends. Actually, the dogs, books, horses, and kids were, too.
I blame my inability to settle down on my parents.
They hauled my three siblings and me from the suburbs of Los Angeles to homestead in Alaska when I just turned four. Their decision shaped my life. The outdoors was my refuge, an escape from my mother’s mental illness. Even in Alaska, a place full of freethinkers, my sisters, brothers, and I never fit in. A bit too raggedy, socially awkward, always moving from school to school. I never lived in the same house for a year until I got married.
When I was sixteen, I envied my tanned California cousin, hair bleached by the sun, driving her red convertible down Highway 101. It was the Summer of Love, and I wanted to be in San Francisco, wearing flowers in my hair. Instead, I lived tangled in the chaos of my parents’ lives before ending up in Tucson, Arizona, where I met my husband, a hippie like me.
Yet, ever after, I still yearned for the silence of the mountains. My nerves rebel against the sound of traffic. The years spent outdoors, the physicality of life, created a restlessness in me not well-suited for city life. Nature teaches me that some questions have no answers and that all of life is connected. Caring for the environment and all its inhabitants is my privilege and honor.
I raised hogs in Arizona, dogs in Texas, children in New Mexico.
After teaching five children at home so they could grow up as freethinking autodidacts.
I opened a used bookstore in New Mexico, owned another in Washington, and sold books for over twenty years. At night, alone in the store, I inhaled the stories rising like steam from 150,000 books and marveled that I had more books than I could ever read.
Adventures followed, with dogs, family, and more, filling my life with laughter and sometimes tears.
Finally, with one of my sons, I spent ten years farming organic vegetables, the best job of my life. I’m a fanatic gardener and cook of delicious plant-based foods.
The muse nudged me; wouldn’t it be fun to write a book?
Awed by the words of authors who inspired, entertained, and educated me, I would avoid my own occasional nudge; hey, wouldn’t it be incredible to write a book?
Of course, I’d answer. But I’m no John McPhee, James Lee Burke, or Annie Proulx. Their words soar and swoop like eagles over Alaskan beaches. Catching my breath, I pause and savor their prose as I read and know I can’t be a writer. Not like that.
But I had some time, and at least, I thought to myself, I can share what I know about homeschooling or gardening, owning a business, or making a cake. So I write articles, website content, and I attempt to share the journey that’s been my life in a memoir in progress.
Writing a Memoir Hurts.
Childhood monsters of loss, sadness, and pain might hide under the bed.
What if Robert Service, J. R. R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle had never tried to write? Who would have given me hope, befriended me when I was lonely, comforted me when my heart broke? Writers have been my greatest mentors, friends, and teachers — and so I attempt to share my words with you, my invisible friends.
Storytelling is part of being human.
Technology allows us to connect ideas and people worldwide. When the internet came home, I thrilled, “The Library of Congress is now on my desk.” Curiosity knows no limits, and Alexa and Siri have the answers. I’m uncertain if I’d like to live long enough to see if we reach the singularity, but I’m sure enjoying the ride.
Whatever happens, let’s tell our tales, read books to children, support writers and libraries. We all have things to say, explanations to offer, laughs to share. As I write, I come to know myself better, and as I read your words, I understand you. Words can hurt, and words can heal; may we wisely choose.
Let’s use the power of storytelling for good. I’d love to meet you so get in touch.
Cindy grew up on a homestead in Alaska, where she developed a profound appreciation for nature and a passion for life. Join the conversation.