The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

The rare warm day

1 RiverFriendlyRiverWildOur family moved to North Dakota in January, not the month when you really want to move to North Dakota.  By the time the front and back doors had stood open for an entire day–so the movers could lug our furniture and books and other things inside–the poor furnace couldn’t possibly keep up and the house was completely chilly.  Not long after that, we met a couple who had moved from Nashville.  “It’s not how cold it gets here that bothers me,” our new friend said.  “What bothers me is how long winter lasts.”  That was never more true than the year of the big flood.  By April when the river overflowed the dikes, we were seeing no green.

Many years, May found snow on the tulips.

Here in Portland, though, we just had a gorgeous sunny warm day in February.  I loved poking around the garden to see what had survived the wet and chill of winter.  Would such a day feel so good if we hadn’t looked out on the puddles for so long?

???????????????????????????????This moss was so nice and bright when I put it in the garden.  Now it looks pretty scraggly and awful.  I can’t wait to see what more sun will do for it.  Meanwhile, I’m prying up pieces of true moss (this is sun moss) and putting them into this spot.  Some people spend a lot of time trying to get rid of moss, while I’m trying to get it to grow.

In Ethiopia, we had rainy season and dry season.  February here is a gorgeous time there–perhaps getting a bit crispy in spots, but in the southwest, where I grew up, we had green most of the year.  I remember running out into mist, thick and mysterious, trying to figure out what was happening to the plants and rocks and trees I felt so connected to.

GondarmistYears later, my breath caught as I looked down over the misty city of Gondar, the ancient capital, looking just as mysterious and fascinating as my childhood world.

Japan 027

Here in Portland, the newscasters have been talking this week about the fleeting thrill of cherry blossoms.  When I did an author visit in Japan, the people who showed us the blossoms always made the point that they stand for beauty especially poignant and heartbreaking because it’s so brief, such a flicker here and gone.

Norway 039This time several years ago, I was speaking in Norway.  The stark rocky landscape doesn’t strike anyone as a here-and-gone kind of place.  But of course rocks shift.  The earth splits and heaves here, too.

Oh for the words that rumble and stir our blood, that shake us and soothe us, that remind us of what’s here and what’s to come.

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