New Experiences Ahead

When traveling51B-QMYu45L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

across the

borderline from

the familiar to

the unknown,

an open mind

is the best travelling companion.

The line above is from my poem, “New Experiences Ahead,” which has just been published in June Cotner’s latest anthology, SOAR! Follow Your Dreams (Andrews McMeel Publishing).

It’s so beautifully fitting that June’s new book has come out as I work with my graduating senior to ready her for college and adult life.

Dress for the unpredictable,

as everything is subject to change.

Many memories have come back to me about my graduation and preparation for college, and I want her to have even better experiences than I did. My one regret is that I didn’t live at school — I missed having the kinds of close relationships that my husband has with his college friends (many are lifelong friends).

So I’m doing everything I can to make sure my daughter doesn’t miss out. Just a few days ago, she applied for housing at Hamline University, my MFA alma mater.

It will be challenging, no doubt, living away from home (even though she won’t be very far away). I know she will keep an open mind and she’s always been a far better dresser than I ever was.

I can’t wait to see the rest of the motivational quotes, inspirational wisdom, and positive thoughts throughout the rest of SOAR! It sounds like a great graduation gift (hint – hint) so there’s my one commercial message. It’s available wherever books are sold for $12.99.

The Renewing Powers of Conversation

IMG_1311Driving through the Minnesota River valley as I made my way from the Twin Cities to St. Peter – where even though the calendar says it should be spring — I saw that it was clearly not spring at all. Not yet.

Yes, it’s true that the seven plus inches of snow that fell yesterday is melting fast, and there were quite a few puddles to splash through, but nowhere are there signs of green. Even big business marketing green.

I had thought I would be able to see the Jolly Green Giant from the highway, but he was nowhere to be seen, and I learned later that the statue is 60 miles down the road from Le Sueur, (home of the Minnesota Valley Canning company and the famous “Valley”): all 55-ft of him in gorgeous pea green fiberglass can be seen in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.

I did spot the billboard with the Giant, tucked between still denuded trees at the crest of the jolly not-quite-green valley. Even in the billboard, the Giant looked more sepia than green, as if he had not yet put on his spring bloom.

Even without much spring green to cheer me on, my spirits rose. I’m a river valley girl, born and raised on the river bluffs just south of St. Paul, and there is nothing so cheerful as a winding drive in river valley country.

I had travelled to St. Peter as a guest author at a book festival sponsored by the St. Peter Library, and even though I tend to the quiet side, conversation with readers about writing and books steadily energized me in the way that spring energizes so much.

After the event, a new reader friend, an author friend, and I made our way to a new winery in the area, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. The vineyard can be seen on the hillside next to the tasting room. The photograph above is the view from the as-yet-closed terrace of the tasting room (it’s not quite warm enough for wine to be enjoyed outside).

Our new friend gave us a taste of a Minnesota rose, made from local grapes and I brought home a bottle for later. I drank a glass of cabernet sauvignon, made from Napa Valley grapes, and that brought back memories of my time last summer in San Francisco. A bottle was purchased for later. We dined on artisan pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven.

Best of all was the conversation with two friends, one who had returned to St. Peter after spending much of her life in California, another who is a writer friend published by my publisher. I almost passed on the outing and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I don’t know why it always seems surprising how enjoyable and refreshing good conversation can be. We talked about our lives as working women, wives, mothers. How we have endured struggles with health, balancing the needs of our families and communities, managing creative time (both as writers and readers).

I used to think that conversation was the first thing to jettison when I was pressed for time. There never seemed to be time for socializing, as it always seemed like I “should” be doing something else.

The fact of the matter is that good friends, having good conversation, is the juice of life.  Companionship can be ambrosia, providing a renewing, rather than a draining experience.

Maybe after all this time I am learning how to find better friends, and it is a most rewarding thing to do. Friends and good wine? Even better.