December 2023 Story Sparks

I don’t remember which church I first heard it in, but I know it was a Lutheran congregation. The tune was to the Shaker hymn “’Tis a Gift to be Simple, ‘Tis a Gift to be free” but the lyrics were to a song written in 1963 titled “The Lord of the Dance.”  Maybe it was that the writer Sydney Carter, used the dance as a metaphor for the life of Jesus. Or maybe he knew that dance is a powerful message of hope and joy. Scriptural David knew as he “danced before the Lord.” Last week, the New York Times wrote about the power of dance to stay healthy and connected, even if we dance by ourselves. Baylor University, in its work with traumatized children, finds dance – and other kinds of movement like woodworking, quilting, gardening, horseback riding but dance especially –is one of the most powerful ways of helping children stay in the present moment, a critical component of treating trauma.

One of the moments of greatest joy in my life involves dance. It was on a day several months after the airplane accident that had left Jerry with two broken ankles and a broken hip and me with a shattered right foot and a stainless steel-bearing left arm. We used to like to dance, took square-dancing lessons before we were married and did ballroom dancing too. But after the accident, it hurt too much to dance, to be up on one’s toes, to shift our weight against each other But one day, while I dusted the living room with lemon Pledge while listening to Linda Ronstadt on the radio sing, “I don’t know much but I know I Love you,” Jerry said “When you finish dusting, I might like to dance to this song.”

“If I finish dusting, that song will be over,” I said.

“I was afraid you might say that.” He stood up then and in his blue coveralls, took the dust rag from my hands, took me into his arms and we began to dance. It was awkward. The dogs couldn’t figure what on earth we were up to as they cocked their heads to watch. And there was some discomfort; but we found we could adjust, hold each other just a little differently, still safely in each other’s arms. And isn’t that what life is all about, to adjust, to make the changes so necessary to live with one another?

Isn’t dance a reminder of this season when great joy was given to the world in the midst of suffering? I doubt that Mary danced the day Jesus was born,  as tired as she was. But she might have. Or perhaps the next day when the shepherds arrived or the wisemen, perhaps they danced with arms across shoulders, danced in circles, danced by herself with a babe against her shoulder. I like to think of those images

That day on our ranch, after the pain, when Jerry swirled me around the living room, I looked out through our curtainless windows to view the rows of grapes, the river and watch nesting golden eagles swoop down from the rocks. I whispered to him, “I could not be happier than I am at this moment.  And I almost passed it up.” For I almost didn’t take that leap of faith to leave everything we knew and dance to a different tune, to let myself be led to a moment of a dance of joy despite pain and disappointment.

Today as we approach this special season of great joy, I hope you’ll  find time to dance.. As the refrain from “Lord of the Dance” reads

Dance, then, wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the dance; said he

And I lead you all, wherever you may be,

And I lead you all in the dance, said he.”

View the Lord of the Dance video here.


Happy Updates to Enter into the New Year

Jerry’s latest PET scans show no evidence of cancer!  He has now – with the help of science and wonderful medical care teams in two states – conquered two cancers. We are grateful!  At 93, he is quite a trooper. My heart seems to be ticking along as it should without deciding to falter for nearly a year now. Rupert, our Cavalier, is the talk of the senior living park where we are now as well as our new neighborhood in Redmond, Oregon, where we’ll return next summer.  My screenplay with the help of a collaborator/film agent, is in the hands of a producer who expressed interest (thanks to unexpected open doors!)  Homestead is being worked on. The company has three years now before their option lapses. Maybe 2024 will be the year for film adventures!


Stories of Books

I’ve heard from a number of you who have reconnected with earlier titles. Thank you for sharing your favorites with friends (and letting me know!) Several of you have loved Love to Water My Soul and others remembered A Gathering of Finches and the Southern Oregon coast. As my current writing project is set on the northern coast – Nehalem, Cannon Beach, Astoria – it’s great to know that the 1997 book about ShoreAcres still resonates with readers today.  Actually this is a fabulous time to visit Shoreacres State Park with its thousands of Christmas lights showing off the estate that Louis Simpson built for his wife, Cassie.

On the other side of the country, Stranahan House in Fort Lauderdale is decorated, too. And fellow writer William Andrew Sydnor will sign children’s books set in South Florida ala Mystic Sweet Communion there this season. Look for his works at

I didn’t start out to write about women who were later celebrated in museums but it’s cool that it has happened now many times. Great places to visit and visitors carry on their stories.


Word Whisperings

Two books to share with you. The first is Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. This is an extraordinary book that moves through several generations and back to the 1930s. The storyline is of an Indigeneous-hispanic family, told by the storyteller, a young woman, Luz Lopez, as she comes of age and her ancestors’ stories shape her. Beautiful language. A singular voice. An earlier work of the author’s, Sabrina & Corina, was a National Book Award Finalist. Woman of Light won the WILLA Literary Award for Historical Fiction. My Beneath the Bending Skies was a finalist in that category along with sister writer Ashley E Sweeny’s Hardland. After reading Ms. Fajardo-Anstine’s book, I can easily see why she won, You will too!

The other book is Beyond Ivy Walls by Rachel Fordham. Rachel is a friend and I love everything she writes. Her most recent book I celebrated here was The Letter Tree that I felt was a great take on Romeo and Juliet set in Buffalo, NY in the 1920s. I’ll confess that I haven’t read Rachel’s latest (release date 12/14/23) but I have no hesitation in promoting it. Rachel never disappoints.(sending book cover)

In Closing

At my time working on the reservation in Oregon, I learned too about the power of dancing to heal. One of the healers told me that she would ask three questions of an ill person. The answers would tell her how far from health the person had fallen. “When was the last time you danced? When was the last time you sang? When was the last time you told your story?” May you discover – or rediscover – the dance that He is willing to lead you to this season and forever.

Have a little extra time? Enjoy Snowball, the Dancing Cockatoo.

Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas!

Warmly Jane, Jerry and Rupie,


P.S. I often get requests from those wishing a book list of my titles. Incidentally, Wikipedia has some errors. Visit my Bibliography webpage for the real scoop.