June 2023 Story Sparks

“I use baby shampoo. It has that no tears thing and works just as well. It’s cheaper, too.”

The stranger had stopped his shopping cart behind me as I reached for dog shampoo. I’d left Rupie’s shampoo in California and couldn’t find any I’d had in storage.

“That’s a good idea.” I put the dog shampoo back.

“Of course, it’s nice for me too because I give my dog his bath in the shower.”

I must have a label on my forehead that says Tell me your intimate daily details. This happens to me on airplanes, in waiting rooms.

“And I see you have a new brush.”

“My dog doesn’t like to have his ears brushed but he needs it. I thought a different one might help.”

“I put peanut butter on the wall and let my dog lick it while I mess with his ears. He doesn’t seem to even notice.”

“Well, thank you for that.”

“Sure. No problem.” And he rolled his cart away.

I trotted to the baby section and bought baby shampoo; kept my brush and picked up some pastry for Jerry. Got my prescription. All 6 minutes from our new home shopping in our new neighborhood.

The gentlemen with the dog insights is just one of the many new neighbors who have been so gracious to us as we’ve settled in. “Anything you need,” said the electrician with the bird dog who lives two houses down. “Anything you need” said the mom waiting with her son at the school bus stop with her Chihuahua. “Anything you need” said our immediate neighbors with the three big dogs whom Rupie has befriended as though he’s just as large.

My friend Karen came to show me some of the great walking trails and to my surprise one morning I recognized my beautician getting her morning paper as I walked by. I shouted her name and Rupie and I got invited in for coffee. Two people stopped their cars to ask if I was Jane Kirkpatrick. Who knew I was recognizable? And Jerry had his last CT scan (his cancer is still in remission, PTL) at a clinic just 6 minutes from the house. I still have to use the GPS to find my way home but I’m learning. As you can tell, I’m a Redmond, Oregon booster.

Add to that the house itself. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be king of his hill, right? Rupert has made his claim on our home chosen by our real estate agents from Windermere Diana Barker and Caitlin Ducsik and our friends of Homestead Dennis and Sherrie Gant. Along with our niece Arlene and Alan Haugen, that crew made sure that we arrived to beds made, dishes in the cupboard, rugs on the floor, a welcome mat and a rug for Rupie’s dishes. It has truly been the gift of a lifetime and the house? It’s perfect for us! We are “at home.”

Being at home reminds me of a discovery I made while researching the meaning of the word focus. I thought it meant clarity as in a camera lens brought into focus. Or an idea or concept that finally made sense. But it is an ancient word from the first century and it comes from a word that means “Hearth” as in the center of the home. That makes sense. The hearth is where everything happened. It was where people gathered, where they were fed, where they exchanged news, received encouragement or grieved. Most importantly, it’s where the heat was. And the farther one moved from the heat, the colder it got. To keep one’s focus, one needed to stay close to the center, the hearth.

My focus, brought to the forefront by the concept of hearth, has been establishing home this past month. And with the help of friends and family, this has been made so much easier. It’s helped me return to the heat of caring for Jerry, to the heat of writing. I’m almost finished with my first screen play draft for The Healing of Natalie Curtis. It’ll need tons of rewriting, but I find the early morning hours of living again with Natalie has brought a focus for the rest of the day, a focus I have truly needed.

Yes, there are still many boxes to empty. Yes, I say a dozen times a day “I wonder where that is? Did we give it away? Is it in a drawer I haven’t looked in yet?” But most of all I sigh a happy sigh of feeling at home focused on what matters. I pray for the same for you. Find your focus. Keep the fire going.

News of the World…or at Least My World

In late April I proposed writing three books all set in a small coastal community with a real historical woman as the anchor but with the opportunity to introduce fully fictional characters as well. I’m getting ready to sign a contract for those three books. Hurrah! The first won’t be published until 2025. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll keep reading my Story Sparks, perhaps read the archives on my website or better yet, re-read some of the stories that touched you. Those novels won awards but didn’t always sell well so tell your friends. Maybe they’ll order one or two :) Or check them out at their local library. The series working title is The Seasons of Cannon Beach. I just need to keep the heat going to write them all! And I now have a real reason to visit the Oregon Coast!

June 17th – 1:00pm Chaparral Books, 5210 S Corbett Ave, Portland, OR Reading and exploration of father daughter relationships in Jane’s books, especially Beneath the Bending Skies, about Mollie Ronan’s father-daughter connection.

July 19th – Martin Center, Mondovi, Wisconsin. Stay tuned for details about a writing class Jane will teach and a presentation celebrating the ground breaking of a new library in her home town in Wisconsin. The library has accepted some of Jane’s professional papers. Mark your calendar if you’re in the Midwest.

August 26 – 5:00 pm Sunriver Books and Music – Sunriver Village Building 25C, Sunriver, OR. A book presentation and signing at one of Jane’s favorite bookstores. They’ve been there through the years.

Word Whisperings
The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession and The Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson, 2018.

I am always intrigued by books about things I didn’t expect to care about that instead become compelling reads. I couldn’t put this book down. Maybe it’s because I remembered taking fly-tying classes in the early years of our marriage. Maybe because the author provided detailed historical information about natural history, Darwin and others who sent back feathers obtained at enormous personal cost from the Amazon and other exotic sites way back in the 1800s. The story is of a young musician in this decade who became obsessed with these historical feathers now kept in museums and worth millions. And the author became obsessed with the story of what the young musician did and those who were complicit with him. It’s a story that says something about passion — that heat close to the hearth — and how while it can give us warmth it can also burn.

There is Always Something

For those asking, the movie prospects for Homestead continue. I texted last week with the screenwriter working on adapting my book. We chatted a bit about screenwriting in general. I have much more sympathy for his efforts having undertaken my own task.

What our conversation reminded me of was how our Homestead world had so many challenges, large and small and yet how things came together in unexpected ways and still do.

The grand baby born on Christmas Eve is now a mother of her own with two young children. The baby in the airplane crash is in her thirties, married with happy dogs she raises and trains. The baby I helped deliver on the reservation will be 29 this month. She too is married with two children. Lives have gone on and we are reminded of our own aging. Bad things happened on that ranch. Dogs with seizures. Floods happened. A plane crashed.

But in the end, neighbors, family and friends came to take the “dis” out of discouragement and gave us instead the hope that we would not be alone on our journey. Over and over we’ve encountered this Homestead lesson. Perhaps it was the reason we were on that land in the first place: to experience the lesson and to share it. There will always be something to astound us, challenge us, open a sore of fear. But there will also always be others. It’s that I will hang onto this month. You are with me and I am grateful.

With gratitude,


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.