Blog


Some of you have asked how the hermit crab breeding attempt is going. Well, it’s over—for now. I’ll try again in the future if my girls gift me with more eggs, but I doubt that will happen again before next summer. So here’s a link to the page where I have documented the process of trying to get hermit crab zoeae from the “ocean” (aka a tiny saltwater tank) to land. If you’re trying this, I’d love to hear from you. We’ll only get there if we work together to figure out the best...

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During my trip west, I gave a lot of star-gazing and wide-sky thought to what I want the shape of the rest of my life to look like. I’ve now passed the halfway point and I feel as if I’ve been trying too hard for too long to be The Author and not simply just ME. So I’m going to include some of my other interests on my website, because, you know, that’s who I AM, yo? I mean, I don’t have anything to prove and my last two novels have yet to get picked up, and I just can’t make my world all about the writing anymore. Not if I want to live a happy life. Don’t get me wrong, I will still write. I love to write. But I’m going to make it about the joy of the work and not try so hard to self-promote as someone I think the world wants to see. Instead, as I said, I’ll just be me. And a big part of me, ever since I had my first good earthy whiff of clay in my twenties, enjoys pottery. Specifically functional pottery. There’s something about the communion between the hand of the potter and the hand of the user that really speaks to me. It’s similar to the communion I feel between writer and reader. I write to commune with the world of readers and I create usable clay art to commune with the world—one coffee drinker and soup eater at a time. And now that I’m an empty-nester, I’m getting back into this first love of mine and thoroughly enjoying it. This week, I’ve been thinking about bowls and their many “attitudes.” I tend to anthropomorphize pots and bowls are no exception. A bowl can be wide open at the top, and all about showing you its inside. Or a bowl can curve inward, be more secretive and/or protective of its contents. A bowl can have my favorite kind of attitude: a little bit of both, with a lovely open rim, but also a curved belly that holds its secrets until you take the time look inside. I’m working with earthenware now, and I’ve recently been wanting to experiment with more pre-glazing decorative options. I like slips, but only seriously painted with them in college when I worked as a potter at Historic Jamestown Island making reproduction white stoneware with a heavy Italian-style painting done wet, on freshly-thrown pots for the public’s enjoyment and for piece-work pay. I’ve always been intrigued by slip trailing, though. For those who don’t know, slip trailing is a little bit like cake decorating or...

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“And you know, when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” ~Billy Joel July 6—Happy birthday, Rob! We left Sage Creek Campground (aka Woodstock) and hit the road for Albert Lea, Minnesota. On the drive out of the park, we saw a TON of wild bison, including a huge male that suddenly appeared ten feet from my vehicle window as it crested a rise next to the road. That was a rush. After the early excitement, though, I slept for a lot of the day’s driving. The road often completely mesmerizes my brain: highway hypnosis. I have to fight it when driving, but when I’m a passenger it takes over and stupefies me. I was sad watching the hills turn to flatlands: the day after Christmas, when all the presents are opened. In Minnesota, I thought about my grandmother Lavinia growing up in Lakefield. She got the nickname “Minnow” because she could swim in the coldest lakes for hours without getting chilled or tired. Her grandparents owned a dairy farm (she loved buttermilk all her life) and her parents owned  the town pharmacy (her father was the pharmacist) which included a lunch counter/soda fountain (run by my great-grandmother who also taught piano lessons). She took great pride in the fact that her father got shunned by the local Episcopal church crowd when he applied for the first liquor license in the county. She also remembered a crowd hanging a stuffed strawman of Kaiser Wilhelm between the pharmacy and the shop next door and burning him in effigy at the start of WWI. At 6pm (Day 29) we crossed the 5,000 mile mark—and Len has driven every single one of them, except for that fifty feet or so that I drove so he could listen to the bearing/brakes squeal in the Rawlins Tractor Guys parking lot. This 5,000-mile mark is also roughly when he began a slow tailspin of quiet rage (the male version of a meltdown). Suddenly everything became frustrating, difficult, awkward, painful, and rage-inducing. The trailer didn’t want to park correctly, his favorite flashlight went missing, he barked his shins on the hitch, and the road, in other words, just generally sucked. The fact that we are headed home, back to reality, was surely part of it, but there really is a point at which it gets OLD living like a refugee, carrying everything with you, picking up stakes and moving every day, trying to keep track of where you are, where you’re going, and what you need to do in order to get there. No matter how...

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“I been a long time leavin’, but I’m going to be a long time gone.” ~Willie Nelson We left Sheridan (and Buffalo, boo-hoo) early on the morning of the 5th with our compass (okay, GPS) set toward Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Our last sight of Buffalo and the Bighorns was from a scenic knoll on the Interstate with a meadowlark perched on a nearby fencepost, larking for all he was worth. Seemed fitting, being escorted out of the Bighorn Basin by the warbles and rolling trills of a yellow-throated songster. I stared into the distant snow-capped Bighorns and my throat swelled,too, already missing the friendly people, abundant wildlife, and epic scenery. I almost never take photographs of informational signs. It seems silly—do people really go back and read those? Is the sign the important thing to capture? Or the sight that the sign is about? At Fort Kearny I watched a woman move from sign to sign taking pictures and never once moving the camera from her eye to actually take in what she was photographing. But on this day, on this departure, on this sign, I wanted to preserve every detail. We planned to camp at the Sage Creek remote campground area in Badlands National Park. This is one of the National Park areas where you can camp for free but the sites are limited and there’s no way to reserve them ahead of time. We’d had good luck with the BLM sites that use the same model and the National Park website said the site was “rarely full” so we ventured forth with great hopes for a remote, scenic, and peaceful spot. The fact that it involved about 20 miles of dirt roads to get to the site seemed especially promising for weeding out the less  serious campers and the big-rig folks. En route, we stopped in Sturgis, South Dakota, the site of the huge motorcycle rally every summer and a gathering spot the rest of the year, as well. We wanted to take in some local flavor and walked around the town a bit (the temperature was right at 100 degrees, so we walked slowly) then got lunch at The Knuckle Saloon and headed out again. When we rolled in to the Sage Creek area at 3pm, six of the ten sites were occupied and our best option appeared to be the area normally set aside for horse trailers. At that time of day, with 103-degree heat in the shade, it seemed a pretty good bet that there wouldn’t be many horse riders needing to use the area before nightfall so we pulled in...

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“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman Happy Fourth of July! We rose early and took a quick tour of the Sheridan coffee shops looking (in vain) for Internet service so I could post (and schedule) my recent updates. It seemed the entire town was having connectivity issues so, once again, I calmly closed my laptop and looked forward to the day. I’ve had quite enough meltdowns already, thank you very much. (Wait. Does that many meltdowns make me a snowflake? Hmmm, I guess it does. But a reasonably badass snowflake, if I do say so myself. Plus, gather enough snowflakes in one place and you end up with … an avalanche.) We toured Fort Phil Kearny (an old fort that only operated from 1866 to 1868) but was an important stop on the Bozeman Trail and housed not only soldiers but lots of civilian family members, too. It was abandoned in 1868 after a decisive military defeat for the US (second only to Custer’s  battle at Little Big Horn which would take place ten years later). It was also one of the few battles in which the Indian tribes came together (Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho warriors) and using the standard US response to an Indian attack to craft a plan and trick the US soldiers into an ambush. Crazy Horse and other warriors acted as decoys and taunted the soldiers into coming down over the ridgeline (an action the acting Captain had been expressly forbidden to take by his CO) where two thousand Indians waited in ambush. All eighty-one men were killed in thirty minutes and marked a decisive victory for the Plains Indians. Then into Buffalo. Shopped a bit (needed to replace a favorite piece of clothing that has gone mysteriously missing—I will not meltdown, I will not meltdown). A few doors down we found the “campaign headquarters” for Walt Longmire, Absaroka County Sheriff. (Hint: there is no Absaroka County in Wyoming and the author of the Longmire series, Craig Johnson, actually lives in Ucross. I love it when fictional characters become so real that their lives start to bleed over into real life.) We lingered in the store and spent a fair amount of money. I bought a Red Pony T-shirt (with the words “continual soiree” on the sleeve and the first book in the series (signed). Len bought a LONGMIRE T-shirt and a few other must-haves. We found a great pottery shop on Main Street and browsed for about 45 minutes. I found a simple...

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A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. ~Chinese Proverb Aside from the massive blanket of pollen over everything we owned, we were sad to leave Prune Creek—especially knowing it would be our last wilderness camping spot on this trip. We’ve got two more days at a KOA in Sheridan and then we start the long trip home. On our way to Sheridan, we had planned a stopped in Ucross so I could show Len the awesome space where I was awarded a writing residency last April. Just as we were at the crossroads before Ucross, a white Bronco pulled up alongside us. It had an Absaroka County Sheriff decal on the side and the license plate said WALT. The young guy driving it rolled down his window to talk to us at the stop sign (we’re learning this is a SUPER common occurrence in Wyoming—apparently the majority of conversations happen through vehicle driver-side windows). He pointed to the trailer and said, “Where’d you get that??” I want one!” So we pulled over and gave him a tour and a TC Teardrop card. He was totally into it. Then we told him we were big Longmire fans and asked about the Bronco he was driving. He said it was the author’s personal vehicle and he was busily helping him preparing for the coming weekend which is Longmire Days in Buffalo, Wyoming. He told us to come to the shop in town the next day around noon and he’d show us around, so we set our watches. At Ucross, we went to the gallery and saw an amazing show: The Universal language of Birds by Christina Baal, a young artist and avid birder who plans to depict all 10,000 species of the world’s birds as her artist’s mission. I was really, really into the artwork. So good. My favorites were the large paintings with gestural wings (including paint drips that rocked) and super detailed pen and ink heads. She’s really into the idea of the artist / citizen scientist being engaged and making a difference in conservation. Check out the website if you get a chance—or make your own art to add to it. I love her approach. It seems to be a very millennial way of effecting change in the world. From there, we had cheese sticks at a picnic table on the grounds and went by the Ucross Schoolhouse to see a bit of the renovations there (mostly to the kitchen, which I’m sure will please Cindy, the fabulous gourmet chef who spends her days there). We had hoped...

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