Finally. Here it is, the middle of December, and we’ve just had our first hard freeze. The last few days, we’ve been in the 80s at Meadow Knoll, and more 80s are predicted for the coming week.
But there are signs of winter. The winter birds–goldfinch, woodpeckers, blue jays, multitudinous sparrows–are showing up at the feeders, and a very late flight of sandhills flew over last week, their wild, warbling calls falling like a blessing. The cypress trees have dropped their bright orange needles, carpeting the banks of Pecan Creek, and the sun has almost reached the farthest point in its annual arc, where it slants through the west window of my writing studio late in the workday–so dazzling that I must close the blind. It’s my favorite time of the year, although I could wish for a more seasonal cold.
Summing up. 2021 was a good year here, in spite of the ongoing pandemic and the national political distress created by the former president’s compulsion to stay in power. We rolled up our sleeves for our first vaccinations and our booster as soon as they were available, so we’ve stayed healthy. I have new eyes, thanks to the summer’s cataract surgeries. I retired from out-of-state book travel several years ago, so 2021 was another stay-at-home year for me–frankly, a great pleasure. A chronic back ailment makes travel difficult. And anyway, there’s nowhere else I would rather be. I am grateful that I can say that.
Family matters. Earlier this year, I wrote about the family mystery that has plagued my brother and me for decades: the identity of our real grandfather. Hoping to find an answer, John and I both subscribed to Ancestry and quickly saw that while there were plenty of DNA matches on our paternal grandmother’s side of the family, there were none at all from her husband. The man we knew as Granddad Fred was definitely not our grandfather. With some detective work that would have pleased China Bayles, we discovered the identity of our real grandfather and have been rewarded with an interesting (and more accurate) family tree and a growing list of distant cousins. DNA can be incredibly revealing.
From the writing desk. 2021 and the pandemic have brought many adjustments to the book world. I’m very happy to be publishing my own work, rather than being caught in what has become an increasingly difficult vortex. I published two books this year–The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily and Hemlock, a Pecan Springs mystery–and completed another Dahlias mystery, The DDs and the Red Hot Poker (coming in May 2022).
I’m working now on a book about Georgia O’Keeffe, her fascinating friend Maria Chabot, and the life they shared in the 1940s. It’s been an exciting, revealing research project, with a deep dig into Maria’s unpublished letters and papers. Thanks to Paula Yost, my friend and research assistant, for her help with this project, and to the wonderful archive team at the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. After the first of the year, I’ll be posting a series of background pieces on this blog, so watch for that.
For our friends who experienced the weekend’s tornadoes, for those in the West who lived through the fires, and for those in the South, who braved the third most active hurricane season on record, we’re sending courage and strength. For all those who are living with the terrible aftermath of Covid-19, please know you are held in our hearts. For the rest of us, let’s be grateful for a good year, in spite of pandemic, the political chaos, and climate change–the difficult times in which we live. There is this, always:
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.
Update: Thank you for your many stories–I love to read them and even though I can’t comment on all, I’m delighted that you’re willing to share. To those who tell me that you don’t want to hear about my politics, I’ll repeat here what I wrote in reply to one comment below: “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I insert my politics into everything I write. I write from a strongly liberal/progressive point of view, encourage my characters to voice their beliefs, and trust my readers to choose what they want to read.” Uncivil and profane comments have been deleted; they do not contribute to the conversation.