New York Times "Lives" Column

On my side of the Rockies: (looking east)

This is a dream come true for me. I’ve been dreaming about getting in the back page of the NYT Mag since I was just out of college. I’m currently in a part of Montana which has never seen a NYT, and probably doesn’t care or know the difference, but I will be driving over this same “ribbon of a highway” depicted in my essay this Sunday publication day, and will be privately smiling…and so will provide some visuals. I took these on my way over. Lewis and Clark and me. yrs. Laura

On the other side of the Rockies:

This is what they saw in the distance looking west…can you imagine? And I just drive my Suburban over it, home in time for dinner?

Lots of squashed bugs. Lots of wonder beyond.


Filed under City Hits, Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts

43 Responses to New York Times "Lives" Column

  1. Brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful. Good for you having this dream come true. Thank you for your graciousness to your fans. Now I’m out to do chores after five inches of rain, a day after five inches of rain. It’s very welcome here, watering acres of corn and beans just as they are ripening, watering our hayfield for our second cutting.

    • lauramunson

      Katie, where do you live? My great-grandparents home-steaded land in central Illinois and we still have that land today– it’s a corn and soybean farm. Sounds like you have a love for this exact sort of land. Thanks for being a fan. Good luck with your chores. Those are the “good” kind of chores of you ask me. Being a steward of land. yrs. Laura

      • Joie

        Munson is a very familiar name for anyone in west central IL… say Monmouth/Little York…are you one of those Munsons? The longer I am away from there, the more beautiful it is with each visit.

  2. Congratulations Laura. Your story (not just this particular one in Lives) is so inspiring. I live in NYC and reading your piece makes me question where the wonder is hiding. I prefer not to go down dark alleyways looking for it….

    • lauramunson

      Good morning and thanks for your response to my piece in the Times. I wish I could wake up tomorrow and walk down the street, grab a bagel and some coffee and the Sunday paper and indulge my ego. I’ll instead be driving over the Divide again, looking for wonder with said teen. Who knows what we’ll find. I don’t think we have to go down the dark alleys. Though I used to think that as a twenty year old. I think there’s wonder at the corner deli. Yes? Have you seen the Piano installation in the City? A bunch of upright pianos strewn about in different locations and people just pass by and play?
      I would think there would be some serious wonder sitting on a park bench and watching those pianos for an hour or two.
      yrs. Laura

  3. Laura, thank you for your lovely comment on my marriage post. I just read the times piece and I can see why your daughter cried. Reading your book and posts and articles makes me fantasize about moving to Montana. Wanna trade houses for a vacation? We live in a cute bungalow near San Francisco.

    • lauramunson

      That just might be an option!

    • lauramunson

      A cute bungalow near San Francisco sounds heavenly. You wouldn’t want to swap houses with me though. It’s full of mice at the moment and has a low grade smell of mold. Trying to figure it out. Had a very wet spring… If you come to Montana, let me know and I’ll be your travel agent! yrs. Laura

      • I’ll let you know when we’re serious about going. When’s the best time of year to visit Montana? I like cool (or even cold) weather more than hot. Martin is a downhill skier, pretty expert, but I like cross country or snow shoeing. It doesn’t have to be a Winter trip as we can visit Winter in Tahoe. I really love your photos.

        • lauramunson

          I love September. The passes are still open in Glacier, and the tourists are gone. Still warm. Cool nights. Gorgeous.

  4. I’m really happy and proud of you Laura. :)


  5. Your NY times piece made me cry for many reasons:
    1. I am a person whose emotions are always available to me( lucky me).
    2. I LOVE to see people’s dreams come true. I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE that this dream came true for you. I know that long term longing. As an adolescent I used to cut out articles from Vogue magazine that was written by a journalist that shared my name. Ever since seeing her name in print I knew that my name had to be. I am so ridiculously happy for you. Congratulations, Laura!!!
    3. I cried because this is a gorgeous piece of writing and I felt like I was in the car with the two of you. I felt as if I was standing just a step away as you watched your daughter mourn the mountain lion.
    4. I cried because your daughter’s heart touched mine.
    5. Finally, I cried for the mountain lion.

    I would write more….but I have to go get a Kleenex.xo

    • lauramunson

      Emotions always available. Me too. ox

    • lauramunson

      You know I was reading it this morning again and I was thinking that it’s pretty amazing that a teenager can practice empathy with a creature who is above her on the food chain. Maybe that’s the exact sort of creature which can bring back the wonder. I love when life stuns us back into awareness. ox

  6. Congratulations! I second what Katie says about “being gracious with your fans”. Thank you for that!
    Once again, great pics! I am an amateur photographer moving towards becoming a professional one. Visual aids appeal to my mind’s eye (

  7. Laura-
    Can’t wait to read it! I bought the NYT last week thinking it was last week and am glad to hear I didn’t miss is.
    Love the pictures,

  8. lauramunson

    Yes– We’re from Morris originally. And Tolono. But I think most of those Munsons you’re referring to are Scandanavian. We’re from England, mostly. I have a photo of my homesteading great-grandmothers on my writing wall. I look at them every day. What bravery. What surrender. yrs. Laura

  9. Graham

    Hi Laura – I read your NYT magazine piece on the subway today (I live in NYC). What a beautiful piece of writing. I love knowing that I’m in the hands of a good writer and I knew this by the time I’d gotten to the end of the second sentence. I read it slowly because I wanted to savour every word.

    The last line (“Infinite points for this, I thought”) pierced and opened my heart like a Mary Oliver poem. That’s the highest praise I can give a writer, I guess.



    I want to cross the Continental Divide now.

    Thank you.


    • lauramunson

      Graham– “Every morning the world is created. Under the orange sticks of the sun…” I love Mary Oliver too. And I LOVE that my essay was read on the subway today in NYC. I’m out here in MT sort of wishing I was in NYC today. So I could pick up a paper and sit on a bench and have a cup of coffee and come full circle to a 20year old dream to be on the last page of the NYT mag. Here’s more about my writing, since you gave me such a high compliment.
      Have a really wonderful Sunday eveing and thanks for reaching out. Meant a lot.
      yrs. Laura

      • Graham

        “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
        with your one wild and precious life?”

        is one of my favourite lines from Mary Oliver. And I was reminded of it when I got to the end of your piece today.

        I’d give anything for a little piece of Montana tonight – have had my fill of this New York City summer. The grass is always greener on the other side of the Continental Divide.

        Thanks for the link to your site; I found that first when I Googled “Laura Munson Writer Montana” and am now planning to read your memoir.


        • lauramunson

          Oh I love that! Thank you! thank you thank you thank you. Are you a writer? You seem to have a writer’s heart. You have really given me a gift in this last hour. I’m going to take it into a MT lake now. yrs. Laura

  10. Graham

    Hey Laura – I just posted a comment in which I praised your piece in the NYT Magazine today. On reflection I shouldn’t have quoted your last line – it’s so powerful and someone reading my comment who hasn’t read the piece should be able to read the line in context, not in my dumb post.

    I am perfectly happy if you don’t post my comment or edit it to remove the line.



    • lauramunson

      G– no apologies! Thank you for your post. It’s “all good” as they say….

      • Graham Coppin

        Somehow can’t reply to my other posting. I’m a closeted writer. I am hoping to one day spread my wings and fly. I’ve been wishing-dreaming-scheming-wanting-hoping to write something for the Modern Love column for about a year now. I could do it, I know I could. But it would mean I have to write and I tend not to do it. For all sorts of reasons, mostly Radio KFKD (do you know that reference, from Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird)?

        Anyhoodle — I am a mathematician by training and now I teach Yoga. But one day one day one day I will write.

        And when I read a piece like yours in the NYT Mag today I am inspired to write sooner rather than later.

        I hope you enjoyed your swim in the lake. It sounds lovely!


  11. Joanne

    Your writing resonates on so many levels. You have found the beauty and the suffering in what could have been a mundane drive to a sporting event (OK, maybe not mundane in this particular landscape, but you know what I mean). Your message is also instructive: we need to patiently guide and trust our children without attempting to control them — and it’s hard! Thank you for giving me something to think about regarding my own son. I also look forward to reading your book. Thank you.

    • lauramunson

      Thanks, Joanne. I’m finding that the lessons are everywhere. I’m learning and learning and learning. I love the Rilke quote about it all being about the questions. (LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET) yrs. Laura

  12. I don’t know how I was led to your beautiful writing, but I am now officially a fan. Thank you for the words that so touch me.

    • lauramunson

      Helen– so glad you’re here. It makes it all worthwhile when my work touches people. I’ll look forward to reading your blog. yrs. Laura

  13. Miriam

    Another nice piece Laura! So proud of your accomplishments and for attaining your dream. Love reading bits like this about our home and our kids – it speaks to me.

  14. Shirlee Sherkow

    Laura: I just read your piece called, “Lives: The Middle of Somewhere,” and it really resonated with me. My daughter is 18 and I can’t remember the last time we had “fun” in the car or elsewhere, like we used to when she was 8-10 or so. I could really relate! I’m glad you got to experience that, again, with your 14-year old. Those times are so scarce and you want to just hold on to them again. I really miss my daughter of 10, but know that she is doing what 18-year olds all do when they separate from their Moms, but it sure is hard. Your piece made me nostalgic and thankful for all of the fun times we had and games we made up and chatter we had about everything. Your piece helped me to remember some of those great times together and for that, a big dose of gratitude. Thank you!

    • lauramunson

      Oh Shirlee, I’m so scared of losing my little 10 year old to teen hood. Even though, like you, I know they have to fledge. Thank you for relating and for your kind words. I’ve been told they “come back.” yrs. Laura

  15. Graham and Laura — Because you both love Mary Oliver’s work, I know that you will appreciate John O’Donohue. I recently “discovered” him, and look forward to reading his writings and teachings. Here’s an excerpt, with a link to his essay, “The Question Holds the Lantern.”

    “If you could imagine the most incredible story ever, it would be less incredible than the story of being here. And the ironic thing is that story is not a story, it is true. It takes us so long to see where we are. It takes us even longer to see who we are. This is why the greatest gift you could ever dream is a gift that you can only receive from one person. And that person is you yourself. Therefore, the most subversive invitation you could ever accept is the invitation to awaken to who you are and where you have landed.”

    (And it gets even better.)


    • lauramunson

      THANKS, Michael! You’ve just made my day richer for John Donohue. I was immediately engrossed. “The greatest friend of the soul is the unknown.” I think I’ve always known this instinctively as I’ve always been sniffing down the dark alleys, wondering what will present itself. Daring myself to step into the unknown bravely. I’ve made some stupid choices as a result, but believe that the acceptance of the unknown as teacher/friend/guide and even steward of my soul has helped me to live my life abundantly. Have a great day! yrs. Laura

  16. Great NYT Mag piece. And wow. Montana road kill is way more exciting than what you get here in Brooklyn. Squashed roach, dead pigeon. Why do I live here?

  17. Kate Woolsey

    My good morning began with NYTimes backpage. Prepping for return to a classroom of teens, your delicious reminder of the importance 0f the quiet talk and heart listening which illumines and grows our consciousness and understanding of our everchanging and miraculous world, is met with gleeful Gratitude! A giggle and affirmation too as I had decided to cover the Lewis & Clark travels as a lens to the west…ah the mini-degrees of separation. Thank you for your soulful writing. It lifts me up!

    • lauramunson

      Kate– I have more visuals if you need them for class! Lewis and Clark are good teachers. Thanks for your kind words, and for your good work changing the world, one kid at a time. yrs. Laura

  18. Shirley

    Dear Laura,

    I just finished your wonderful book, “This Is Not the Story You Think It Is” – it was so inspiring! It should be required reading for every couple contemplating divorce. I had some crushing moments in my marriage, and I finally came to the same conclusion that you did. I can’t depend on someone else for my happiness – only I am responsible for that. We will celebrate our 63rd anniversary on September 6, 2010.

    All the best – and write me another book!


    • lauramunson

      Congratulations, Shirley! 63 years! I’m inspired. Thanks for reading my book and for your high compliments. And don’t you worry– I am writing you that book as we speak. You make me smile. Have a great day! yrs. Laura

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