Tag Archives: gratitude

Gratitude on Ice: A Montana Lesson (ode to a crampon)

I’m going to bullet-point the last hour of my life, just for shits and giggles. Mostly the former.

• 10:00 Depart house to drive teenaged daughter to bus for state-wide speaking competition. Discuss adrenaline and how you can utilize it when on stage.

• 10:02 Experience how adrenaline can help you if your truck doesn’t want to go right when encountering Zamboni-ready vertical driveway, decides to continue toward cliff, inspires you to consider yelling, “Bail!”

• 10:03 Experience gratitude for icy snow bank.

• 10:05 Console freaking-out daughter who doesn’t want to miss bus, never mind what almost just happened to truck, mother, and said teen.

• 10:06 Call neighbor and beg for ride to town. Begin descent.

• 10:06-10:16 Slide, fall, slide, fall. Decide to take the rest on ass. Hope truck won’t disengage with snow bank and careen down on top of you. Slide to side of driveway. Try to walk in snow bank where there’s traction. Punch through snow and almost knock knee cap off. Go back to ice on ass. Slide. Yell at dogs who think it’s a game. Try to stand up. Fall. Yell at daughter who is yelling “hurry up!” as you’re sitting on ice, crying like a baby. (Daughter has somehow navigated the whole thing in Converse sneakers with a roller bag behind her, all whilst on cell phone.) Rue the fact that you failed to put crampons on your boots.

• 10:16 Arrive at base camp and flat terrain. Decide to pick up pace past .01 miles per hour.

• 10:17 Fall and hurt wrist. Daughter yells, “Hurry up! We’re gonna miss the bus!” (She’s usually a peach, I swear.)

• 10:20 Neighbors within view.

• 10:21 Wave at them and fall. Hurt other wrist. Cry. Get yelled at again.

• 10:22 Scramble to get to neighbor’s van so to give daughter kiss and hug, look her in the eye and say, “You’re going to do great. Just remember, people want you to do well. They’re on your side.” And hear in return, “I know. You’ve told me that about a thousand times.” Reveal soaking wet backside to neighbors. Get looks of pity.

• 10:22 Watch as they drive off on icy roads with your daughter. Cry some more because you will miss her and plus you’re scared for her life because she’ll be on a school bus navigating brutally icy roads for the next five hours. Pray the driver has been screened.

• 10:23 Sigh, let go, and realize that you are totally screwed. There’s no going back up that driveway. There’s no cutting up the ridge—the snow is too punchy and impossible. You’re going to have to walk to the end of the road—at least it’s flat, and hope that your neighbor’s road is better, and that there is hard packed snow up in the woods with decent deer trails to follow home.

• 10:24 Stop and soak up the sun, so rare this time of year. Try to find humor in all this. Wonder why you don’t have Triple A anymore. Berate yourself for being irresponsible.

• 10:27 Road gains altitude. Fall.

• 10:28 Call golden retriever. He comes. Grab his collar and say “Let’s go.” He gets behind you, as if he thinks you’re going to pull him. Curse the fact that you don’t have claws, never mind crampons.

• 10:30 Stop and realize: it might be a long time before you get home. Even though, as the crow flies, you’re only about a hundred yards away from it. Try to be open to the lesson. Ya gotta be honest—you’re not. Realize your back is tweaked and your butt is ice and your left knee is bruised.

• 10:30-10:40 Decide to take it step by step. Get five feet forward, lose traction, slide backward. You look like you are learning how to surf– hands way out in front of you– butt hanging way out behind you. You are glad you live in rural America.

• 10:40 A crow dive bombs and you see a very recent deer kill up ahead—right in the middle of your neighbor’s driveway. There are blood and guts everywhere. And iced paw prints like those ceramic hand prints you did as a kid in art class. They are feline. And big. You realize that this is a mountain lion kill. And now there’s that to think about. Funny though—seems like the least of your worries.

• 10:42 Slip and fall…on top of entrail pile. Now you’re too freaked out to cry. You call your dog who is even freaked out now. You hold on to his collar and get up and make for the snow bank which has flattened out in this section of road and looks like something you could safely navigate.

• 10:42 Take two steps and punch through up to your thigh and grab the wooden fence and feel a bolt of lightning go through you and realize you’ve just grabbed hot wire. “Are you freaking KIDDING ME?” you shout.

• 10:42-11:00 Step, slide, fall, punch your way home. In the woods, you are grateful for packed snow and deer trails and chickadees in the trees and the warm Chinook wind on your face and the sun in your eyes. When you jump across the ice on your front porch step, and your bloody hand wraps itself around the door knob, you want to kiss it you are so grateful to be home. Funny how that door knob will just be a door knob again in a few hours, or however long this gratitude lasts. For now, it’s the loveliest thing you’ve seen in your entire life.

  • 11:01 Call tow truck with smile on face.

9 Comments

Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts

A Nest in the Hand…

Every year we go to this Christmas tree farm and cut down a Frasier fir. We make a day out of it. We listen to Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra singing old Christmas tunes in the car on the way there. We laugh. The adults act like children and the children act like smaller children. We bring hot cider in a thermos and peppermint bark candy and sometimes a little whiskey for my husband and me.  We are easy on each other.

It took us a while to get our tradition right. One year, the year our first child was born, we were frazzled enough to go to a Christmas tree yard in town. We spent $90.00 on the most gorgeous Frasier fir. That sounded about right. We’d recently moved to Montana from the city. That’s about what a Frasier fir ran. I asked the cashier where the tree was from, assuming that it was at least from some little corner of Montana. “Wisconsin,” she said, smiling. Probably cut down in September, sprayed with green preservative, and shipped out here in a truck. We agreed would would NOT tell anyone where our tree was from that year.

Then for a few years, we used to go out in the woods and cut down a tree, but we didn’t like how we went from environmentalists to opportunists, stalking the perfect tree, looking suddenly at the forest like a decorator’s showroom, considering taking the full tops off 30 foot trees just for our living room pleasure. The Charlie Brown trees that needed to be thinned were not enough for our years of inherited and collected ornaments. No that had to stop. A farmed tree was always meant for one purpose, and it usually had been loved and nurtured by someone who needed the extra cash come Christmas time.

So every year we go to this farm, and every year I feel a wash of newness and simplicity. We are kind to each other on this day. We know to take it slowly, marching around in the snow, shaking hands with trees to make sure we don’t end up with a dread prickly spruce. We have fake arguments about who picked the keeper last year, who will find the prize this year. We pretend we hear its call. We let our kids carry saws when they were too young, the punchy snow so forgiving. We take turns with the cut. We giggle and clap our hands when it finally falls over in a little timber that couldn’t really hurt anyone if it tried. We love watching my husband drag it through the snow like he’s just bagged a buck that will feed our family for the winter. Like it’s a hundred years ago. And it is like it’s a hundred years ago. No one pushes any buttons. No one has anything pressed to their ear except for maybe a wet mitten. I love this day.  We all love this day.

And maybe for this reason, the last two years, something really beautiful has occured. As we erect the tree getting ready to proudly mount it atop the truck, my husband, with his dirty XL manly work gloves deep in its branches, stops and sighs and says, “A nest!” And we all peer in and sure enough, there’s a nest. “That’s pro,” my ten year old son said this year. “Of course it’s pro,” said my fourteen year old daughter. “It’s a bird nest. All birds are pros.” And that big work glove carefully extracts a tight, dried mud nest, woven with horse hair, and full of flaxen larch needles. I have last year’s nest on my windowsill in my office, and will put this year’s next to it as a reminder of what it is to receive life’s little gifts, especially at Christmas time. I like to think that nature showers those who are open to its gifts.

Icelandic lore says that a bird nest in a Christmas tree means a year of health and fortune for the whole family. I wish health and fortune to the family that meets at THESE HERE HILLS. Happy 2011 to you all from Montana.

13 Comments

Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts

Thanksgiving, The TSA, and Two Cabbies

A Thanksgiving story for you. You all are a blessing to me and I am grateful for you. Thank you for your stunning support this year. I hope this finds you loving your moment. yrs. Laura

(Excerpt from my blog on The Huffington Post.)

Talking about your travel debacles is about as appealing as talking about your dreams. So I’ll be brief. I missed my flight the night before last, a late-night flight from Salt Lake City, after two prior flights, en route to Montana where I live. They shut the door in my face. There was crying and swearing involved. One of the lovely things about living in a town with a small airport: they hold the last plane of the evening. They know their passengers have paid their dues in high prices and multiple flights to get to that last leg over the Rockies, which will certainly go bumptey bump in the night. And they’re decent human beings about it. Usually.

This was the day before the busiest travel day in the United States. This was after a week of being gone from my family on a business trip in Miami, which is a great place for a business trip, so I’m not complaining. Put it this way: I’m just glad that the biggest Book Fair in the country isn’t in Fargo. But if it had been, I likely wouldn’t have been wearing sandals to lunch earlier that day, and I wouldn’t have forgotten to change into shoes, which I wouldn’t have packed in my roller bag and checked.

Read more here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Huffington Post Blog Pieces, Motherhood, My Posts

Summer Lost (or Summer Gained): It's how you slice it.


I didn’t have a summer this year, and I feel sorry for myself. Maybe you can relate. Here’s what I didn’t do that I usually do:
Visit family
Go anywhere beachy
Garden
Ride my horse in the woods (cardinal sin)
Go to the County Fair
Camp
Go to the gym
Hike in Glacier National Park (a .6 mile walk to a waterfall and back does not count)
Spend more than a half an hour picking huckleberries
Finish the Bear puzzle on the dining room table with the kids
Read a novel or two ot ten
Watch the meteor shower
Take a night walk with the dogs, or any substantial walk with the dogs for that matter
Go to Canada, which is 60 miles north
Make homemade ice cream
Have long leisurely dinners outside on the patio
Eat lobster

Here’s what I DID do on my summer vacation:
I compiled this list yesterday because I was sick of beating myself up for all the things I DIDN’T do, and it reminded me that when you are launching your life’s dream and starting a business, you might suffer in the “Life in Balance” category. And so what? Sometimes that’s just the way things fly. So yesterday, I took my mind off my NO list and set it on my YES list, and I went to bed by the full moon last night feeling sated.

The below is not shameless self-promotion, it’s just a good exercise. If you feel that you too didn’t have a summer, you might want to write down what you DID do. And that includes just sitting in a room breathing and gazing out the window, if you didn’t have a high performance last few months. Let’s live in YES instead of NO. Let’s live in the SOLUTION, not the PROBLEM. For what it’s worth, feel free to skim the below:

Played tennis with my kids
Started a puzzle with my kids
Took a romantic getaway with my husband to see Michael Franti and Spearhead in Missoula, MT and had a total blast
Went to a three day horse clinic about centered riding and learned so much about how tight I am on a horse when I’m scared
Swam in the lake a lot

…and the following:
Social Media:
Took a hard core stab at understanding Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, Shewrites, and Blogher which is all mildly terrifying for this techno peasant.

Started “Daily Tips for Writers” on Twitter which I hope to make into a book one day, or use in a memoir about writing.

Regular Blog Contributor:
Became a regular contributer to:
Huffington Post
Parelli Natural Horesmanship Blog

Live Chats:

Awesome Women’s Hub.com on Facebook with Robin Rice

Penguin Watercooler

http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/publishersoffice/subcontent/watercoolerarchive/lauramunson.html

My Haven Newsletter live blog chat with Life Coach, Rossell Weinstein

http://lauramunson.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/haven-newsletter-2/

Contest:“Think Outside the Barn”– did a photo essay of barns, and their “real life” personae– followed by the “Name This Barn” contest and book giveaway. Winner to be announced Sept 12. People are having a lot of fun with this and so am I.

Interviews:
The Kathleen Show (radio and blog)

http://www.thekathleenshow.com/2010/07/31/laura-munson/

SHE Magazine– UK (glossy mag, December publication)

Inspiremetoday.com with Gail Goodwin (pending publication)

NPR interview with Sally Mauk

http://www.mtpr.net/program_info/2010-06-10-132

406 Magazine (Montana)

Q&A: Montana Quarterly Magazine

Guest blogger on:

The Traveling Writer

http://alexisgrant.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/qa-with-laura-munson-a-modern-love-success-story/#comment-3336

Drinking Diaries

http://www.drinkingdiaries.com/2010/08/18/an-interview-with-laura-munson-author-of-the-memoir-this-is-not-the-story-you-think-it-is/

Adhocmom.com

http://www.adhocmom.com/2010/08/taps-by-laura-munson-2/

Huffington Post– Arielle Ford’s Blog

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/write-it-and-they-will-co_b_660034.html

Published Essays:

“Dog Fog”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/post_670_b_653067.html

“Rain Song”– Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-munson/rain-song_b_653071.html

New York Times Magazine “Lives” essay:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25lives-t.html

Author Magazine

http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/munson_laura_2010_06_14.htm

Woman’s Day (August issue)

Pending Publication:

Shewrites essay
Parelli Horsemanship blog post (will be a montly deal)
O. Magazine South Africa essay
Life By Me essay http://www.lifebyme.com/ ebook by Sophie Cliche (includes Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Maya Angelou etc.)

Submissions: (waiting to hear)
The New Yorker (fingers, toes, eyes, and nostrils crossed)
Ladies Home Journal
The Sun
NPR essay to read on air

Summer Events:Read at the Whitefish Lake Lodge
Read at three private parties: Ridgewood NY, Millbrook, NY, Short Hills, NJ
Read at the Kent Place School, Summit, NJ
Read at a book group on Flathead Lake

FALL EVENTS:
Sept:
Co-hosting (or just plain being feted at) three private parties/readings: NYC, Hartford, Chicago
Reading at two libraries: Fairfield and Simsbury, CT
Speaking at a major Chicago hospital benefit
Speaking at the kick-off to the reading series at my high school in CT
Speaking at the Winnetka Bookstall– luncheon at a great Chicago restaurant

Oct:
Fundraiser for a San Francisco school– Burke School
Festival of the Book in Missoula, where I’ll serve on a panel of memoirists and speak seperately
Nov:
Miami Book Fair

Oh, and I got a book deal in the UK, (Little Brown) which I’m so excited about. Book to be published in April.

So why is it that I feel so guilty that I haven’t been to the gym, taken night walks with my dogs, ridden my horse in the woods, etc? I think we all could learn a lot by looking at our pro list and not our con list. I’m going to work on this. I know it’s not about doing. It’s about being. But sometimes we need to give ourselves a pat on the back for what we’ve done. And who we were doing it.

14 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

Morning Light

You know when the cloud lifts and the light comes in? When things are vivid and asking you to smile and go easy and say thank you? Annie Lamott says these are her two favorite prayers, “Help me help me help me,” and “Thank you thank you thank you.” I’m not sure how it is that we shift from the first to the second, but this morning, after a month of Help me’s, there it was: Thank you.

I’ve spent the last 20 years when I’m not working or being a mother, escaping to my office to write novels. And as of a year ago yesterday, when my New York Times piece got published in Modern Love, my life utterly changed. Suddenly I have a product which brings in a pay check and pays for my kid’s soccer cleats and organic strawberry splurges, (but not quite health insurance)…and in order to perpetuate this, I don’t have time for those novels. Not now.

This blog brings me joy because in it I get to share my little moments. I get to hear from readers and know that my writing has helped them somehow and respond to them. But for the last month, as I tread through the strange new waters of social media, Twittering and Facebooking, and investigating the amazingly powerful communities like Good Reads and She Writes and Blogher, and Huffington Post, and and and…I just started to want out of those waters altogether. I wanted to make some tea and sit here and do what I know how to do and that’s write books.

It seems like a LOT of writers feel this way. Especially those of us who didn’t come up in the age of the internet. Especially those of us who are used to long moments of focusing on one thing and making it as good as we can. Widening the third eye takes focus and solitude. Sometimes social media feels like there’s a swarm of mosquitoes in my office biting at me and I can’t find that focus. It’s maniac. I complained about it all month to cherished author friends. Sort of guiltily, because there’s so much to LOVE about the opportunity social media affords the writer. It means you can reach your audience without the publishing world. That is fantastic news! It’s just a new paradigm, and it has turned my writing life as I’ve known if for half my life up…side…down.

One author friend shared this quote with me:
I start a book as a poet-warrior armed with the noblest intentions, but by the end of the publishing process, I feel like a door-to-door
salesman
.” — James Sturm.

Do you think that when Longfellow wrote these sagacious words:
The heights by great men reached and kept, were not obtained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night,” he meant that we should fragment our energy into piggybacking on other people’s dreams and successes, obsessively, from our dark room by computer screen glow? Or that he meant that we should be using those upward toiling nights to mine our lives, widening that third eye until it’s sharp and keen like a hawk, putting our hearts and minds to a focus, not a series of shoulder taps.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thank you thank you thank you (and a bit of help me help me help me) in regard to social media. But this morning, I vowed that I would do like I used to. Wake up early, make some tea, and sit down to work on a new novel. And with a fresh new document that one day will become 300 or 400 pages…when the teapot screamed, I went into the kitchen and saw the cinnamon buns I’d lain on a plate for the kids, wrapped in morning light. Beautiful and basking.

There is freedom in creature comfort.

37 Comments

Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", A Place For Writers To Share, Food, My Posts

I LOVE THIS!!!

14 Comments

Filed under My Posts

Inversion

inversion
Inversion
by Laura A. Munson

It’s lonely in February with just one woodpecker and a few chickadees against the grey. They call it inversion.
Our valley is flanked by the Whitefish Range—foothills to the Rockies– what in summer looks like a towering garden wall. Then winter rolls in from the Pacific Ocean and gets caught along its jagged edges; and we are sequestered here under a low ceiling of grey, from as early as October, to as late as June.
I don’t have the mind for winter much past the end of January. I can’t sleep that long. Day after day of this grey, socking us in, pressing us down, depriving us of vitamin D. I try to work with what is left—with what is not dormant. I become fascinated by paw prints—are those snow hare prints? Mountain Lion? Fox? I go out with a field guide and a ruler. Scat becomes a symbol of communion. Even the deer start to seem exotic. Crows, prophets. The raven, a mystic holy one.
I walk in insomniac circles in the snow to prove that I am alive. Is that the actual dirt of my driveway glinting through the ice? Does the pond look like it’s opening up in the middle—just a bit?
I force bulbs in my kitchen window, missing the wildflowers that
cover the hillsides from June on to the snows—the yellow arnica, the pink roses, the purples of the columbine, wild lupine and geranium, the orange of Indian paintbrush, the blue flax, and on and on until the violet of the asters. The bulbs in my window come up so wan, knowing they are decoys.
I become good with the mawl, splitting kindling, never enough in this undying season. Sometimes I split wood just to hear the echo. Maybe the woodpecker will answer. Maybe it will be a Pileated woodpecker—maybe there will be red in the trees.
It is fashionable to complain. I do not want to complain. I remind myself that it is this precise grey that keeps our valley free from over-development, our hillsides thick with Larch and Fir, Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine– not thick with the “rustic chic” of log-accented condos and private ski chalets. These are not Colorado winters bedazzled with sapphire skies and relentless “champagne powder” days. This is still the great Northwest; fertile and wet and dense. And grey. Perhaps that which is so fertile must sleep deeper. Longer.
I slap skins on my skis and hike to the top of the mountain, above the cloud level, just to see what has been procured for pilots and high-flying birds who’ve had the guts to stay. I strap on skis and climb through the grey to remind myself—my skin, my retina– that there is a color in this world brighter than my orange down parka.
The sheen off Glacier National Park is garish. Like a confection. The sun so sovereign. The sky so blue with infinity. My heart rises then sinks: How could we be so…neglected?
And I remember the gluttony of summer. Dipping hot feet into mountain lakes turquoise with mineral-rich glacial run-off, melting lotion into golden shoulders, waking with the birds at the exact blush of dawn, little bundles of fingers purple from picking huckleberries, emerald green peas in a silver pail.
Maybe I’ve got it wrong.
Maybe we are being protected from something that only the sky knows. Maybe the inversion is a great grey net, preserving us, somehow.
It looks so quiet below. Not sinister.
Yes, I decide. We are being preserved.
I breathe into the blue and slide back down under, and for a moment, as the world vanishes into vertigo, I feel free. Floating in-between acute wakefulness and sleep again; a part of the gentle hand of ozone covering us all these months, year after year.
And then it’s the valley again, cut off at the shins. The lake, a white footprint in the middle of it all. And again, I am on my front porch, chin to the grey, but I am thanking it now.
For however else am I to remember the welcome the wildflowers deserve?

2 Comments

Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, Stories

Raven

Heart_Shaped_Rock

Raven
by Laura A. Munson

I know a woman who frequently finds hearts. In rocks, in the dish suds, in the shape of manure clods. She’ll say, “Laura! Come here.” And I’ll know that I am about to see some mystical arrangement of two curves, cleavage, and a point.
I know another woman who claims that whenever she begins a trip—in her car, on horseback, by foot, a hawk flies right across her path. “That’s how I know we are going to be safe,” she says.
I know a man who says that when he was a boy, his father told him that there was a magic place in the forest where there was a circle of trees. And if he could find it, and stand in the very center of the circle, he would get any wish he could dream up. So he was always walking around in the woods behind his house in northern California, in search of the Circle of Trees. He never found it. But now, as a man, in northwest Montana, he says that he cannot take a walk in the woods without coming upon a perfect circle of trees.
“Do your wishes come true?” I asked him.
“I’ve never made a wish there, actually. I just figure that the circle is, in itself, the proof that wishes can come true.”
I knew a girl when I was young, who was on the lookout for stones with perfect rings around them. “They’re good luck,” she’d say, squatting on the banks of Trout Lake in northern Wisconsin. She would pick them up faster than it took for me to imagine how a ring in a rock could have power; never mind believe in it. I wanted to believe—her bucket filling up with all that luck.
For a while it was blue sea glass. On the beaches of Lake Michigan. Green, white, and amber were abundant. Blue was hard to find. But not for me. Red was almost impossible, but I’d find red too. Then someone said, “Do you know what that is? It’s broken glass. It’s litter. Pollution. How can you find that beautiful?” So I stopped looking. Still, on beaches, I find blue sea glass. Put it in my pocket. Don’t tell anybody.
My daughter finds X’s in the sky. From airplanes. “Look, Mama. Another X. Isn’t it beeuuuuuuuuuutiful?” I don’t tell her that it’s exhaust from an airplane. She can find beauty wherever she wants.
Now, for me, it is the raven. Always a raven with audible winging, coming out of nowhere as if it is the same one, following me, flushing at my presence, performing its fly-by. It halts me. Reminds me to breathe deeply; say thanks.
My husband finds faces in coals. Usually late-night, around a campfire, when the fire has burned down and everyone else has gone to bed, and it’s just us. He is silent, staring. I know what he is doing. I leave him to his faces. I have never seen them. He says I look too hard.
I apologize to the coals. I assume I have not looked hard enough. I assume I should be the sort to see every design in all of Creation.
But I hear the winging; the raven being released into the night. So close I could reach up and let it skim my fingertips.
Breathe. Thank you.
I take a stick and poke into the coals, collapsing the faces I haven’t seen for whatever reason. I do not need to see faces, I say in my mind. I am the fire. The faces are me. I am not Narcissus of the fire ring. Nor an interpreter of Nature’s art. I do not need to see the designs as much as receive them when they come.
And still, there is the raven. And I wonder: are these things offered? Or are they beckoned.

2 Comments

Filed under Little Hymns to Montana, Motherhood, My Posts, Stories