Reading “Prairie Fires”

January 13th, 2018

“I don’t believe in burning books,” Jon said,  “but you should throw that book in the fire.”

Strangely, without knowing Jon’s reaction, during our weekly lunch, Mandy and Athena also said I should “burn it” when they saw the effect the book was having on me.

None of them were being literal, of course,   they were  just encouraging me to stop reading it.

But I how could I?  It was obsessively feeding my depression.  And,  how could I let Laura Ingalls Wilder suffer alone.  I needed to do the good work of suffering along with her, at least until I finished reading the book.

A day later, even before I got to the part where Laura begins writing the Little House on the Prairie books, I put down Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, by Caroline Fraser  and started reading Priestdaddy , by Patricia Lockwood, as Jon recommended.  (It’s great writing, you’ll be able to relate to it and it will make you laugh, he told me.)

I have to say, I loved reading Prairie Fires.  I read and collected the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid.  But Fraser’s telling of the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s  life, in all the real and painful details, that Laura left out of her children’s books, is fascinating.   Because Fraser also includes the politics  and  history  of the many places where Laura lived at the time she was there.

Pa (Charles) Ingalls is more of a scoundrel than Laura let on.  Squatting on Native American Land, (Little House in the Big Woods) avoiding enlisting in the army during  the Civil War, and  moving his family again and again, till the elusive Ma (Caroline) Ingalls finally put her foot down and said she wouldn’t move again.

The hardships of farming are eerily similar in many ways of those today’s farmers face.  And most of the land the pioneers left the east coast to settle  had such poor soil and such an inhospitable climate,   they never could have made a living on it even if the locust didn’t swarm and  the egg-sized hail and  prairie fires didn’t ruin the crops year after year.

But I could handle all that, found it endlessly fascinating.  Like I was getting to peer back in time  into the life of someone I knew and cared about, and finally got to  understand their whole story, objectively told,  in context of the time and place.

It was during the second part of the book, when I got to see just how messed up the relationship between Laura and her grown daughter Rose was, that I started to flag.

It was a co-dependent, love-hate relationship.  Rose traveled the world writing fake biographies of famous people like Charlie Chaplain and Jack London then crashed at home when she ran out of money.  Living with her parents she edited and rewrote Laura’s magazine articles and Laura plagiarized some of Rose previously written newspaper articles.  Rose built her parents a house they didn’t ask for, then borrowed money from them to pay for it.

This is where I stopped.

I think what happened is reality set in.  All the romance of the Little House books crashed down on me, not in the physical  hardships they endured, but in the psychological impact  the life of the pioneers had on the relationship of mother and daughter.

Maybe it just hit too close to home.  Reminding me too much of my relationship with my own mother.  Not in the details, but in the co-dependence, in the wanting more and  wanting nothing, at the same time.

It was just too sad for me to see that it turned out this way.

Rose was a baby the last time I read anything about her and Laura.   For me, the story ended at the hopeful beginning of Rose’s life.

Now, Prairie Fires sits on the pile of books on my night table, the bookmark, still in its place where I left off.  I believe  I’ll get back to it sometime, but I don’t know if that’s true.  I’d like to read about when Laura writes the Little House books.  How she becomes famous in her lifetime and finally has enough money to live  comfortably.

I guess I want the happy ending.

So maybe I’ll just skip to that part in the book.  Then put it in our Little Library for someone else to read.  Because even though the people who love me told me  I should “burn it”, I’d still recommend  Prairie Fires.   It obviously had a profound effect on me and   I’m glad I read as much as I did, even if I never do finish it.  I feel like it filled in some pieces of a puzzle that I didn’t even know were missing.

“Keeping Warm”, A Quilt For Sale

January 12th, 2018

“Keeping Warm”  For sale $425 + shipping

It makes sense that I would have finished my quilt “Keeping Warm” and be putting it up for sale today.

Last nights rain melted most of the snow and ice and it’s continuing this morning with temperatures in the high 50’s.  It’s windy too, warm and windy like a spring day.

Days like today always feel like a starting over for me.  The wind coming through, doing natures pruning as the trees drop their dead branches.

I feel like it does the same for me.

I face the wind with my arms outstretched and let it  shake loose the dust from my mind. I feel it whistle between my ribs and whip around my pelvis.  It rushes over my bones, like a spring river, carrying all the winter debris with it.

Making “Keeping Warm“, which took me a week longer to make than most of my quilts, kept me warm during those days when the temperature hovered around zero.

It’s made up a mix of fabrics.  Silky embroidered swatches, and cotton calico, the sleeve from a blouse, corduroy pants, Belinda’s scraps (some already sewed together) and an elephant, from India,  that seemed to walk right onto the quilt.

Keeping Warm is 74″ x 80″ and is $425 + $20 shipping.

If you’d like it to help keep you warm, you can email me here at [email protected].  I take checks or PayPal.

The elephant

The Women

The Cupola



Thirty Second Meditation

January 12th, 2018

Every morning and afternoon, after Gus eats, I sit him on my lap and hold him upright so his food will go more easily down his esophagus.  This is one of the treatments that we’re doing with Gus for his Megaesophagus.

We sit for 10 or 15 minutes and I’ve come to see these times as meditations.  I’ve noticed, when I’m calm, Gus is calm and we sit comfortably together.

As we sat on the couch this morning, I could hear the constant knock against the house  of a string of Christmas lights, in the warm wind.  It was soothing, like a ticking clock can be.

I thought it was as visually appealing as it sounded.



A Reminder To Be Grateful….

January 11th, 2018

Mawlidi’s carved bird in its new home.

I haven’t written about Mawulidi and the beautiful carved birds he makes, but Jon and  I have been helping him sell his carvings.

Jon posts them on his blog and I handle the emails, money and shipping.

We know Mawulidi through RISSE, the Refugee and Immigrant center in Albany.  Originally from the Congo, Mawulidi spent 22 years in a refugee camp and only recently came to the United State with his family.  He’s been working in a bakery, but when Jon found out he was a carver, he got Mawulidi carving tools and wood.

I now have a long list of people who want his work.

Jenifer was one of those people on the list and she bought one of Mawulidi’s blue birds.  Now that bird sits in her office in New Orleans.  She sent me this picture of it and wrote:

“She will remind me every day, to be grateful, to be graceful, and to always, always pay it forward.”

You can read more about Mawulidi  and see some of  his other carvings here. 


Warm Enough For Hens

January 11th, 2018

The temperature got up to 50 degrees today.  Warm enough to melt a lot of the snow and for the hens to come out of the coop.

Writing About Gus

January 11th, 2018

Fate and Gus in my studio

I wrote once about Gus having megaesophagus and haven’t written about it since.

Jon has written so well  about it on his blog many times since Gus was diagnosed.   He’s also done a ton of research and we’ve been trying different medications, food and feeding techniques.  Gus’ condition seems to change from day to day and we make the adjustments we think will help.

It’s a time of unknowing.

I haven’t written about it although  it’s altered the structure of my days and has been  on my mind and heart since we found out he has it.

The thing is, I still don’t feel like writing about it, I just don’t have it in me.  But I feel strange not mentioning it at all and just putting up pictures of Gus as if everything were normal.

Unlike Jon, who works things out by writing about them, I am often at a loss for words when I’m dealing with something that’s very emotional.

So if you want to know all that’s happening with Gus, you can read about it here on  Jon’s blog.

And I’ll get to writing about Gus when it feels right for me.



Sweet Fate

January 10th, 2018

When I’m tacking my quilts, I hang them from a beam in the middle of my studio. And Fate, at one point or another, does this thing where she pushes under the quilt, which drapes over her back and puts her face in mine, looking for a little affection.  I’m usually sitting on the floor when she does this.

I snuggle with her a little then tell her to “get off” and I go back to work.

Those moments with Fate are sweet.  I think she needs them as much as I do.

Tacking “Keeping Warm”

Tug of War with Gus

January 10th, 2018


January 9th, 2018

Gus always finds the best places to sleep.

Sunny Winter Back Porch

January 9th, 2018