Bill called me to the porch a few minutes ago to watch a flock of sandhills on their way to their winter home in the Rio Grande Valley. Sandhill Flyover Day is an important personal event for us every year, marking the turn of the season. Their wild, warbling call is always a reminder to me that the wilderness is all around us. But these days, their calls also ring with sadness, for the sandhills, like most life on this planet, will have to adapt to a new order of things, as human-caused climate change disrupts their environments. Sad, yes. But happy too, to see them once again. And to hear them–the loveliest sound you can imagine.
A busy few weeks this autumn. Son Michael was here (from Juneau) to spend a few days, bringing granddaughter Dorothy, great-grand Evie, and friend MJ. We got our COVID boosters and flu shots and voted–early, at our local library (no armed “monitors” in evidence). I volunteer to help with the Sarton literary competition that Story Circle sponsors every year, so that’s occupied several hours a day.
My brother and I have finished our family history and sent it off to the layout editor. We decided to make it a private printing (sorry, folks!), just for our kids and their families. I blogged earlier about our DNA adventure–quite a discovery for us, and one that wouldn’t have been possible without Ancestry.com. There are lots of complications in family searches like ours, and sometimes some difficult surprises. Our search was fun and we enjoyed it, all the way through. Plus, both of us are writers, and working together has been a delight.
I’ve been working on a couple of other projects. I have a Pecan Springs/China Bayles mystery underway (Forget Me Never) but have temporarily laid it aside to finish the work on Someone Always Nearby, about the friendship of Maria Chabot and Georgia O’Keeffe. The pub date for that is now November 2023. The manuscript goes to the copy editor and the cover artist next week. I’ve also been working on a fairly extensive Reader’s Companion. As a reader of biographical fiction, I always want to know how much the author made up and how much is “real.” Since O’Keeffe is such a famous artist and was so deliberate about creating the image of herself that she wanted us to have, I’ve felt compelled to show you how and where and why that created image doesn’t always fit the real person. The Companion, which will be published separately, is designed to make that very clear. You’ll probably think it reads too much like a dissertation and perhaps it does. But I know that some of you will appreciate a deeper look. When I have both the novel and the Companion wrapped up, I’ll go back to Forget. No pub date on that one yet–early 2024, I’m thinking.
More work in progress. Very much enjoying this Charles Wysocki cross stitch, which I started in July. After I finished a page at the upper left, I downloaded Pattern Keeper–and will never willingly go back to paper patterns. This software makes it so easy to keep track. Lots of wrinkles here and you can see the shadow of the small round hoop I’m using to do the far right edge of the work. (Also had to figure out why the flash on my camera wasn’t working. Why is it that to do one thing, you have to do a dozen other things first?)
Grateful today for the stability of our democracy and the efforts of all those who made this election cycle go forward without incident. You are very much appreciated!
Meanwhile, on Sandhill Flyover Day, a lovely poem by Mary Oliver:
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Wonderful pic of the sandhill cranes. I can almost hear them while looking at it! Must tell you that as much as I have loved reading and listening to the China Bayles series, I have also truly enjoyed many of your other books and series. I held off on some, like the Beatrix Potter and The Darling Dahlias series thinking they were for children. My mistake. But so glad I ventured on to see what they were about. Each book another gem! And then of course there is your love of cross stitch which also does my heart good! I simply say, for your grand generosity and remarkable talent, thank you!
Thank you for grounding us with books, poetry, nature and handwork.
Reading of the sandhill cranes reminds me of another member if the crane family:
whooping cranes. This is the time if year tgat thecwhooping cranes also begin flying to the Texas coast. When I was a child there were very few whoopers — only a dozen or so (this was in the late 1940s/early 1950s). Through protective measures the number increased. These cranes are still nit numerous, but perhaps there are closer to about 200 whooping cranes which winter along the Texas coast.
Sorry for the typos in my comment. I don’t see a way to make corrections..
We love the sandhills also and have traveled to Nebraska to see and hear them. They are huge and somewhat prehistoric looking. What an awesome treat to see them. Thank you for sharing yourself with your newsletter and through your books. I hope to retire some day and re-read all of them.
Broadkill Sun rising
Mist hanging in the dunes
Longing for the Cranes
(First draft thank u for the heart stirring)
We’ve done our best to chose good leaders this time. Now, we have to be sure that we be as satisfied as possible with our chosen ones and keep them to their words!
No time for letting things slide.
As for the others, we can only pray they come, willingly, to their senses.
Thank you for helping all of us read, pass the time in peace!
Donna in Ohio
I see or hear sandhill cranes here in Melbourne, FL. while walking my dog every morning and sometimes see them along embankments along ponds or ditches. Really fun when they have little ones. But I will never forget seeing the hundreds at the Bosque del Apache south of Albuquerque where I lived for many years.
We live in that Rio Grande Valley! We enjoy the cranes every year. A friend who is recovering from cancer read a poem in a celebration of their return yesterday, wearing a red cap I knitted for her when she didn’t have any hair! I was so honored! In other breaking news, I have been cleaning out the refrigerator as directed by your almanac every year for the last several years (rarely before that, and this is much, much better, believe me) and I jumped the gun this year because next Tuesday is busy. Every time I open the door of my sparkling refrigerator, cleaned yesterday, I bless you. Thank you for the beloved books and the almanac.
We don’t have an equivalent event here, but we do have a massive roost nightly (after nesting and fledgling season is over). A river of crows of 10,000 to 15,000 crows rook together in a small forested area between a freeway (with lights) and a college campus also with lights. Evidently this is a safe spot for them. I wonder what they talk about at night. Crows have a vocabulary of 100 sounds, even mimicking cat meows.
A very big murder of crows.
Wonderful photo of the cranes. My husband and I both grew up in Western Nebraska along the Platte River. (I think Nebraska is the only state where hunting/shooting the cranes is illegal). Sandhill cranes were part of our lives and now, in Texas, we always recognize their calls. Thanks for the memories!
I often ask myself why is it that to do one thing, you have to do a dozen other things first? I used to like the challenge I felt like an archelogist, but not so much any more. She glad I found you years ago in Herb Companion. Love your China book and the non-fiction books, too.
You’re the second friend to quote Mary Oliver this week and both for very different reasons; it’s so amazing how her words belong. Really looking forward to O’Keeffe book, but I’m missing my annual China!
I hear sandhills here in Indiana sometimes and sometimes they are low enough to really see well. And really hear them well. I always send a prayer after them to speed them on their way. I am an old woman now and hope I do not live to see the environmental disaster I see coming. Thank you for all your books. I own most of them and after China I love the Potter series the most. But then I love them all. Keep writing as long as you can. Your books are a bright spot in an otherwise very dismal world.>
So Glad you had visit with family❤️ Lookin forward to new Book about Georgia 💯Awesome Pic👍Am Very Satisfied With The Elections and hoping to get Georgia Too💯Beautiful Poem👏Your Stitching is Lovely 🆒Love to you Both
Ever a fan and devotee of your published work and these online newsletters. Since you conducted a women writers’ workshop in Houston in 1990, just before I entered my first Master’s Degree program, the early days of Story Circle, I have bought and read all your titles. Thank heaven for your shared gift, dear Susan. God bless you and Bill. Your ancestry adventure is truly inspiring.
I’ve really enjoyed your books! Have a great day!
Your cross stitch project is beautiful. I hope to start one soon – it’s been years since I did that. I love the China Bayles series, and always look forward eagerly to the next one. Here in Denver, CO, we don’t have the sandhill cranes (although I have occasionally watched and listened to them on explore.org, and it is one of my favorite sites) but Canada geese will sometimes fly their V overhead, and I love to hear them.
I cannot tell you strongly enough how much I love what you write! keep doing what you are doing……and I loved the photo of the cranes! the world is so beautiful…and Mary Oliver illustrates that, as do you. oh, thank you for your fiction and…everything else you write. you are so talented!.
Thank you for sharing the Mary Oliver poem; I love her work. You have inspired me to take on a more intensive cross stitch project. I have never worked one that essentially covers the background fabric but found a small (8 x 8.5”) one of a winter scene at The Stitchery that I am looking forward to stitching. Cross stitch projects offer a lot of satisfaction, don’t they?
On the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound, I hear the wild geese instead of the sandhill cranes, over a longer period — and I look up every time, and wish them well.
Hello Susan, I don’t know if you will remember me but we served on the Freshman English Committee when I was a graduate student and you were a new professor at UT Austin in the 70s. We spent one summer reading Freshman English texts and writing evaluations of each one to submit to the English Department. Ii have read all of the China Baylee books and always look forward to a new one. I also have your nonfiction works as part of my now large collection of your works. You have made quite a contribution to Women Mystery Writers. I also follow you here and just enjoyed your account of seeing the sandhill cranes and the Mary Oliver poem. I am retired from Clemson University where I was hired upon receiving my PHD in 1975. I have been wanting to get in touch with you directly and finally was inspired to do so today. My name back then was Joan Bobbitt. It is now Joan B McLaughlin.
Please stop procrastinating on the China books! Many of us love them and miss them.