In early December my husband of 37 years asked "Why don't you ever wear the diamond ring I bought you?"  I was aghast. "You didn't buy me a diamond ring.  You bought me diamond earrings a few years ago, but no ring."


"Yes, I did." 


"For Christmas?"


"No, your birthday".


My wedding ring has seven Zuni turquoise stones set in silver so I couldn't understand why he'd even think of buying me a diamond ring but he persisted with details. "It had seven in-set diamonds surrounded by diamond chips. I didn't want a stone to stand up and catch on something."


"You must have bought it for one of your other wives," I said only half joking.


"No, I bought it for you. In The Dalles maybe five or six years ago."


Rack my brain - I had no recollection of such a ring. Absolutely none. But given the sad look on his face and his certainty, I said, "I'll look in my precious box. If you gave me a ring like that, it'll be there."


Off I went to the precious box.  In it are antique pins from each of my grandmothers, my mother's engagement and wedding rings and....a ring with seven diamonds surrounded by crushed stones. Stunned I was and a little frightened. Am I losing my mind?


I'd already told myself the story that he'd mistakenly bought it for one of his other wives. He was wrong; he'd forgotten. Now I had to tell myself a different story. Between story and history lies memory. It reads like a story but claims us like history and herein lies the often cause of family schisms. A sister remembers a slight made by a brother; the brother doesn't remember even being present when said slight was slung. Without an external mediator as in my case, the ring itself, there's often no way to "prove" one's claim as being right.  And being right is so important, isn't it? Sometimes we are willing to give up happiness for being right.


Sometimes a budding writer doesn't write down a story because they fear another family member will say "that never happened" or "It didn't happen that way at all." And to those would-be writers I say write your version down. Often what we remember is not the detail of an event - but the way it made us feel, how we experienced it. And each of us experiences things differently. Whatever your memory, it carries truth in it. A brother or sister may write their own story and it will be different but it will carry yet another shade of truth and history. Most importantly, when we write down the stories that won't let us go we discover things about ourselves that we otherwise never would have learned.


I'm not sure why I didn't wear that ring nor why its presence was totally erased from my memory. I'm sure Freud would have something to tell me. What matters to me now is that I've put that ring on my right hand and it hasn't been taken off since. And seeing it will remind me to be a little less righteous with my "I know for certain" moments because well, I could be wrong.

February Days

I'm buying lots of birthday cards this month. February marks the birthday of my two great nieces, my cousin, my nephew the police officer, one of my best friends, my Homestead-building friend, our god-daughter, and my birthday! My grandmother, subject of A Flickering Light was also a February child. Happy birthday to you February birthday people!


February is also Black History Month which has been on my mind given my novel A Light in the Wilderness

Artist: Alison Saar
used with permission

coming out in September that is based on the life of Letitia Carson, one of the first black women to cross the Oregon Trail. She gave birth along the way and later brought a lawsuit at a time when Oregon was teetering on becoming a slave state as it debated entrance into the union. To read more about those turbulent times in Oregon, Greg Nokes book Breaking Chains is a classic and an example of a professional's gentle way of handling descendant memories that might not always shake hands with the facts. (Reviewed in Word Whisperings, April 2013)


Letitia began her westward trek out of Missouri, a slave state. On February 16, 1847, two years after Letitia left, Missouri outlawed the education of black people in the state and banned immigration of free black people into the state. Almost every day in February is marked by some sad event on the Alabama Equal Justice Initiative  calendar sent to me by a friend. Many states banned educating people of color. Edmund Burke, the British Statesman said of education that it was the "cheap defense of a nation." Supporting education and teaching the ability to reason and sort and yes remember events and explore what we might learn from those events is one of the most patriotic actions we can take. So on Valentine's Day, hug a teacher and soak up a little more history.  

Word Whisperings

 The Bones and the Book by Jane Isenberg (Oconee Spirit Press, TN 2012).


They say on a vacation one should take as many books to read as changes in underwear. During our three weeks in Cabo I read 13 books, way more than changes of packed underdrawers (we had a washer and dryer). You'll be reading about some of those books in the months ahead beginning with The Bones and the Book by Jane Isenberg.


Set in Seattle in both the 1890s and 1965, this story begins with the discovery of an old book that turns out to be written in Yiddish and one woman's quest to find out who it belonged to and what happened to her. At the same time the contemporary (1965) protagonist Rachel Mazursky, newly widowed, is coming to terms with her own life and the secrets she discovers her husband kept from her. We learn of the 1890s woman known as Fanny through her diary. Rachel's story is also told in first person. Both these women are singular in their stories and yet they are interwoven into a fine pattern that kept me turning pages. The characters are memorable and the history - oh, it is wonderfully shared through threads of early Eastern Europe, Seattle, New York, Alaska, the Jewish experience in all those places; languages and even the act of translating language. The politics of academia are portrayed with insight and good humor, perhaps gleaned from the many years Jane taught English before retiring to Washington state. My husband doesn't read many books but I wanted him to read this one and he did. To me that's one of the signs of a great story - that it keeps having another life after we read The End and that we want those we care about to read it, too.  Ms Isenberg was the recipient of the 2013 WILLA Literary Award from  Women Writing the West. It's an honor well-deserved. Now I need to find her memoir, Going by the Book, that won the James M. Britton Prize. I expect another great story involving my apparent Story Sparks theme this month - memory.


Memory is profoundly attached to the act of forgiveness. Much of what we struggle to forgive is fed by bad memories. A bumper sticker my friend told me about reads "Forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past." With that giving up we're allowed to have an open heart and are free to move forward. I'm forgiving myself for not remembering my husband's act of kindness and pray that he'll forgive me for not remembering he gave me a wonderful gift. Twice.  During this month meant to celebrate love, I send you a wish that you might reconsider your memories and forgive yourself and each other to make room for hearts of love.






Jane Kirkpatrick
Beachside Writers

"With signature warmth, wit, and wisdom, Bob Welch and Jane Kirkpatrick share an engaging chemistry as instructors. Previous Beachside Writers Workshops clarified my goals as a writer and  gave superb advice central to my growth. Insights gleaned continue to fuel my passion for writing. Whatever your reason for writing, give yourself a gift: attend this workshop."
- Michelle Koehn, Eugene


What: Beachside Writers

When: February 28-March 2

Where:Yachats, Oregon, (2.5 hours from Portland Airport)



Register now for a great weekend of inspiration and encouragement toward taking that next step in your writing life.

Beachside Writers
Jane's Schedule

February 13 - Mississippi State Hospital 

Employee and Volunteer Award presentation, Whitfield, MS. Public is welcome. Keynote and signing. 


February 28 - March 2 Beachside Writers. Yachats, OR. For more information


March 6 -  Mary's Woods Retirement Community presentation - 3:00 PM 

Public Welcome 


March 8-  Lion's club Regional Gathering at Kahneeta - closed event 


March 31- Weston, Oregon Public Library Annual Membership event - 7:00 PM Public welcome. 


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