Empty Mirror

I am very pleased that the online journal Empty Mirror published an essay I wrote about Darla the Adventure Dog called “Notes on the Sacred Art of Dog Walking.” It means a lot to me. An excerpt:

“Log Sitting” struck me so much at the time for reasons I didn’t realize until later. When it first crossed my attention I was in the midst of my own long, slow recovery from a tough stretch, thanks in no small measure to a canine sidekick. In my case, a quiet, scruffy, keep-to-herself Jack Russell terrier named Darla. I never took the time to realize her impact, or reflect on it, until she died.

It’s a little long, so I appreciate anyone who reads it. And check out the rest of the site. It’s a good one.

My Pen in the Air

Much talk these days about “thoughts and prayers.” What ever good are either one? I have many thoughts. The older I get, the more I choose to spend time with them than with the distracting clamor of music, conversation, or television or radio. These thoughts of mine both console and bedevil me at times. Being at terms with them more often than not will likely become my life’s work.

What about prayers? I don’t pray, really, so I don’t have much opinion, but I have little respect for most of the blowhards who go on and on about keeping me, or anyone else, in theirs. It seems like a copout to me. “You’ll be in my prayers.” Thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather you keep me and people I care about in your mind when you go to the voting booth.

Mary Oliver wonders about prayers, too, like in this beautiful poem….


The Garden in Winter

Back in January my mom and I drove up to visit the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas in Arlee. It is a wonderful place. I’ve been there several times, but never in winter. The experience did not disappoint. From its website, this is the purpose the garden attempts to serve:

Dedicated as an International Peace Center, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas supports people in cultivating inner peace and in preserving the ancient culture of Tibet. The mission of the Garden is to provide visitors of all faiths with an opportunity to generate profound merit, to reduce global negativities, and to bring about lasting peace. Through the use of the ancient symbols of Buddhism, the Garden awakens one’s natural inner qualities of joy, wisdom, and compassion.

I don’t consider myself to be of any particular faith, but there is no denying that there is a palpable sense of peacefulness that exists in this space. I enjoy visiting very much, and intend to make more trips this year than ever before, no matter the weather.

One-Sentence Journal, January 2018

Changing things up a bit for how I post these, but it’s the same old thing.

  1. 01/01/2018:  Opening the curtains on the first morning of the new year, a northern flicker eyes me from the bush outside my window as if to say, “Good morning, thanks for breakfast.”
  2. 01/02/2018:  The yoke rests lighter on the laboring neck after a day or two of rest and recuperation.
  3. 01/03/2018:  A writer who strives not to “alienate” any readers isn’t making art, but merely chasing commerce.
  4. 01/04/2018:  A room crammed with people slain masterfully by the legendary James Lee Burke show.
  5. 01/05/2018:  Social anxiety, that craftiest of devils, pounced from the shadows and bloodily tore the best of me clean out.
  6. 01/06/2018:  Productivity is a useful salve for many existential sores.
  7. 01/07/2018:  The fallacy of this entire self image of being some hard, weathered, cold-defying throwback Man of the North is no more apparent than when I am sprawled in a warm, cozy bed, surly at the notion of needing to unwrap from the flannel sheets and face the day.
  8. 01/08/2018:  The relentless push-pull between getting up and doing what I know is good for me versus staying in bed for two more hours.
  9. 01/09/2018:  In the dark gray light of a dim morning, I stand on my front porch tracking the whistle of duck wings from a passing flock, but the birds remain invisible.
  10. 01/10/2018:  I made the best of time spent indoors, but the day still pales in comparison to those spent out under the unimpeded sky and sunlight.
  11. 01/11/2018:  Downsizing the singular obnoxious feline’s litter box, a local feral child, from her perch atop a heap of plowed snow, observes me en route to the garbage can with the old plastic tray and asks if she and her friend may have it to use as a sled, and I, glancing at the foul, crusty, unscraped innards, suggest it’s probably not a good idea.
  12. 01/12/2018:  Snow, clouds, and the company of 1000 Buddhas.
  13. 01/13/2018:  Daylight starting to hang on a little longer, a great horned owl calls through the trees at an hour that two weeks ago would have been in complete darkness.
  14. 01/14/2018:  A downright balmy afternoon saunter, post-holing through crusty snow, following the tracks of deer and game birds.
  15. 01/15/2018:  Night driving, a great horned owl in the road that I’m alert enough to avoid hitting, and my universe breathes a heavy sigh of relief at the closeness of the call.
  16. 01/16/2018:  A submission, mostly poetry, in the wind.
  17. 01/17/2018:  It’s a Russell Rodeo when the 6mo pup slips the front door.
  18. 01/18/2018:  Light rain coating every surface in a thin layer of ice, birds twittering and fluttering their wings, the whirr of warm air forced through the furnace ducts, and the scraping scissor of a set of Fiskars marched through silk across a tabletop in the next room.
  19. 01/19/2018:  If I had failed so magnificently and, most importantly, with such a high degree of dishonesty as our representatives in Washington D.C. do, at any job I’ve held at any point in my life, I would likely either be homeless or still living off the generosity of disappointed parents.
  20. 01/20/2018:  I was in a hoodie and boxer shorts all day today, never left the house except to feed the birds, and accomplished little more than a welcome reboot.
  21. 01/21/2018:  I think smashing the patriarchy is going to require more than just politely keeping to the sidewalks because it’s “against the rules” to take six blocks and thirty minutes downtown and march right down the middle of the fucking street, disrupting traffic, cops or no cops.
  22. 01/22/2018:  The cool I lost was quickly found, though not without the lingering shame of regret.
  23. 01/23/2018:  Tales on the radio of bureaucracy amok makes me crazy, when a solution can be as simple as someone taking a short walk down a hallway with a set of keys, paperwork or not, to free a man held unjustly.
  24. 01/24/2018:  Serving the task sometimes comes with a fair amount of exercise.
  25. 01/25/2018:  I thought a decal in the back window of a pickup was the silhouette of a bird of some kind until, after puzzling over the details for several moments I realized it was not a bird, but a skull wearing an army helmet.
  26. 01/26/2018:  A drunken birthday reveler is forcibly removed from the movie theater and, even an hour later, the hallways outside buzz with excitement once the auditorium lets out.
  27. 01/27/2018:  Contained in the confines of a fenced-in baseball diamond,  snow drifting in the air to cover a crust hard enough to walk on, I found a lot of joy in playing chase and keep-away with Bucky and Cheeto via a hard roll of rawhide.
  28. 01/28/2018:  The snowstorm abated before my walk and left me to my disappointment.
  29. 01/29/2018:  The curtain is closing all too quickly on the day, but an evening workout got the blood pumping and renewed my vigor for getting at least a couple things done.
  30. 01/30/2018:  A sore throat and sniffle arrive just in time for a long awaited multi-day road trip.
  31. 01/31/2018:  Two years since the last time I packed for a trip that involved air travel, something which at that time was old routine, and I can’t help but fret over that critical thing I’m surely forgetting to put in my bag.


Social Media Had Nothing to Do With It

Last summer Riverfeet Press released the Awake in the World anthology, which included an essay I wrote called “A Path to the Wild.” I hoped to sell 50 copies via Fact & Fiction, and I promised a hard sell to make that happen. I didn’t follow through at all on the hard promotion . . . but the book did sell far more than 50 copies, and actually made #5 on the store’s bestseller list for the entire year. I’m thrilled that it did so well. I credit its success to crafty store placement as well as its cool cover/excellent design. It sold very well during the holiday season. If I recall it was the biggest seller in the month of December. If not, it was definitely in the top two or three. I was watching it out of curiosity, but now I don’t remember for sure.

The thing is, social media had essentially nothing to do with it. Beyond the half-dozen or so friends I have who bought it online — people I am friends with on Twitter and Instagram, or who read this blog, all of whom I am eternally thankful to for supporting my work — essentially none of my social media contacts made any difference. The one local “event” we did behind the book drew not a single familiar face, and though we sold thirteen books at that event they were all to strangers. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I had to measure its success on whether or not people I actually know, whether via social media or personally, bought it, I would have to say it was a total flop.

That may sound like sour grapes, but it isn’t. It’s just curious to me is all. It also helps me decide how I’ll go about promoting the next book which will be coming out this summer, if everything goes even remotely close to as planned. This will be a release exclusively featuring my own work; an actual book, if a short one. I can’t wait to get it out there, and I have many ideas for getting out in person to promote it. I don’t think I’ll abandon social media, much as I would like to, but I don’t think I’m cut out to be the kind of person who maximizes its potential. I’d rather be out and about than spending more time on the friggin’ computer.

I don’t think I’ll do a solo event at all in Missoula, heh. I don’t think I could face a room full of empty chairs at my own event in my hometown.

For those curious, here is the full list of books that were bestsellers. There were other books we sold large quantities of, but those were tied to special events through the schools or conferences or things like that, so they weren’t counted. I think Lee Child’s book, The Midnight Line, which we sponsored the event for, was the biggest seller, but we didn’t even see those numbers as they were run through the campus location. It was also a slow year for big books; for example the new James Lee Burke book that has been out all of two weeks has already destroyed the sales of anything that came out last year. Regardless, I’m happy to be part of something that made the list for 2017.

  1. Bold Women in Montana History — Beth Judy (nonfiction, young adult)
  2. Ballet at the Moose Lodge — Caroline Patterson (short stories, adult fiction)
  3. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse — Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen (children’s picture book)
  4. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me — Sherman Alexie (memoir)
  5. Awake in the World — Various, edited by Daniel J. Rice (anthology)
  6. Indian Creek Chronicles — Pete Fromm (memoir/nonfiction)
  7. Bad Summon — Philip Shaefer (poetry)
  8. A Fly Rod of Your Own — John Gierach (essays/nonfiction)
  9. Reservations — Gwen Florio (mystery)
  10. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — (nonfiction, young adult)