Summer 2020 Story Sparks

“When it rains, it pours.” Remember that marketing phrase for Morton Salt (the little girl on the blue box with an umbrella pushed against the wind)? It meant its product was so good, that even with moisture in the air, their salt would still shake out through those little tiny holes. Salt -shaking would go on despite the dire downpour outside.

Lately that phrase runs through my head at unexpected moments. It’s serving as a reminder that when I think it can’t get any worse, it will. It will not only rain, it will pour! Planning a drive-by 90th birthday party for my husband Jerry went without a hitch until the morning of and it turned super cold for June! (We spend six months a year now in California to keep him warm.) And it was supposed to rain. What to do? I bought one of those patio heaters, but assembly was required. I even said to myself, “When it rains, it pours.” But the salt still poured because my neighbors came to the rescue and put the heater together in time. All they got was my thanks and cupcakes. It did sprinkle, it was cold. It rained, but it also poured.

As a society, we have had our share of hard, hard rains this year. Unintended homeschooling. Work layoffs. Complicated unemployment journeys. Shopping reservations (and the double meaning of that word!). Covid and deaths and losses so heartbreaking. Separations of first responders in order to keep their families safe. No visitors in senior living sites, many chosen for social connections. And an awakening of social injustices leading to hope and desperation at the same time. Yes, it’s not only raining, it’s pouring.

And yet, the salt is pouring through little tiny holes. New organizations formed to help people connect to needed resources are touching people’s lives. (Pandemic Partners – Bend on Facebook for one. Its kind participants found me a thermometer!) A young friend helped organize a non-profit, Harvestly, as a way to get locally grown food to people in need. I’m sure you can name dozens of places where the salt kept shaking through small holes.

Salt is a great metaphor for other reasons. In ancient times, salt was highly valued and sometimes used as currency. If people did their job well, they were said to be “worth their salt.” And in various places in Christian scripture, salt is mentioned and we are advised to be both salt and light to the world around us. Importantly, we are to keep the salt fresh and sound or it will be useless. In that light, I’ll share a link to the Confession of Belhar created by Christians during the South African time of apartheid. It moved me to tears as it speaks to how to be salt to a world spinning with uncertainty. I found the Confession as part of another “salt pouring” with a project called Lament, Listen, Learn, Love. It’s a 28 day challenge to explore issues of race and justice and to learn a new language of being in the world in respectful, compassionate ways. The daily activities are shaping me, helping me bring my faith onto practical paths to help keep that salt pouring. At the same time, I feel refreshed rather than despairing of the great uncertainties that lie before us.

I hope to bring to you ways to keep your salt refreshed, too. (Egyptians also used salt to help preserve the dead…I don’t want to go there!). Here are more resources that have encouraged me and I hope will do so for you as well.

  • A poem, “Ice Storm” by Tom Hayden, about our strength in ice storms, among other things.
  • Building resilience. A terrific short video made by the daughter of a friend of ours, Joanie Joy, an associate Marriage and Family Therapist. This is as good an explanation of resiliency as I have ever heard. It gives me hope that people will keep creating salt-shaking even when it’s pouring outside.


Update:  Jerry

Jerry and my days are filled now with tending. Keeping him healthy (he had bronchitis, bursitis and an infected tooth in June along with his 13 compression fractures, asthma, emphysema and COPD.) Oh, and cancer for which he gets infusions monthly and will even though right now the cancer is in remission! Hurray. He turned 90 on the 25th. It’s raining but it is also pouring. I hope you can find those pouring moments in your lives.


A Light in the Wilderness

Kudos! A documentary about Oregon’s Black Pioneers, written and directed by Kami Horton, won two Northwest Regional Emmys this spring. One for Best Documentary and one for Best Director. Oregon Experience has it available on Oregon Public Broadcasting. It featured Letitia Carson’s story. Those of you who loved A Light in the Wilderness might remember Letitia as one of the first African American women to head across the Oregon Trail and lead an amazing life at a time when Oregon was not kind to people of color. The book won the WILLA Literary Award for Best Original Trade Paperback Fiction too! Good stories deserved to be honored so I’m grateful the OPB documentary has been honored by the Emmys.

Jerry and my days are filled now with tending. Keeping him healthy (he had bronchitis, bursitis and an infected tooth in June along with his 13 compression fractures, asthma, emphysema and COPD.) Oh, and cancer for which he gets infusions monthly and will even though right now the cancer is in remission! Hurray. He turned 90 on the 25th. It’s raining but it is also pouring. I hope you can find those pouring moments in your lives.


One More River to Cross

One More River to Cross is a finalist for the 2020 Will Roger’s Medallion Award  in the inspirational Western Fiction category.

The Will Rogers Medallion Award is an annual award recognizing an outstanding achievement in Western books and film.


Something Worth Reading

It’s getting exciting! My next novel, Something Worth Doing, comes out

September 3. I’m so hoping you’ll all contact your local bookstores or wherever you buy your books and pre-order this one. No one knows how the sales for Covid-era books will go but this story about a 19th Century woman who personifies resilience is one of my favorites. Based on the life of author, newspaper editor, teacher, suffragist, mother, wife and public speaker, Abigail Scott Duniway was a gem. You can pre-order your signed copy of Something Worth Doing from my website store today. Holy cowchips, I hope you like her and this book.


Jane’s Calendar

It is a strange time to be a writer and a speaker. All my events where I greeted readers and sold books have been canceled and well they should. My last event was in November at the library in Yreka, CA. I’m so glad I did that. It was a warm and wonderful welcome to California. I have events scheduled in September and October in the Northwest, but there is a good chance those will not occur or happen digitally. Please keep watching my calendar.

Keeping Connected with Virtual Events

I’m growing new brain cells learning how to do such events on Webinar, Zoom, what have you. I have two in July.

July 14 – Corvallis-Benton Public Library  Pre-register for the 7:00 pm evening event. There is no charge and you can ask questions and participate.

Several virtual events will occur for the adult summer reading program for Forest Grove City Library. The link to the first part of a discussion with director Robert Abbey about writing and life is up now titled “Introducing Jane Kirkpatrick“. I hope you enjoy them both and will come back for more Forest Grove City Library events that will be held throughout the summer.


Word Whisperings

Traders to the Navajos: The Wetherills of Kayenta
by Frances Gillmor and Louisa Wade Wetherill
University of New Mexico Press, first published 1934. Reissued 1953, ’65,’ 67, ’71 and 1974.

This precious little book swept me away. It’s a nonfiction account written about a Quaker family and their descendants who came among the Navajo and spent a lifetime living with and loving The People. I had no idea who had first explored the archeological sites of Canyon de Chelly or that a Norwegian professor wrote some of the first books about the “Basket people” who preceded those who left behind the astonishing rock settlements. The Wetherill family’s story, especially that of Louisa who turned a terrible time of fear into change, is compelling. She learned the Navajo language, became as one of the people who said she was of them. The Slim Woman they called her. Now there’s a story and Frances Gillmor and Louisa Wade Wetherill wrote it beautifully. Your library may well have this book. I bought it at a used on line bookstore.

As a corollary to this title I urge you to consider this coffee table photographic and prose book The Magical Universe of the Ancients A Desert Journal. Text by Julie Whitesel Weston and photography by Gerry Morrison. Publisher, Big Wood Books, 2020.

I purchased this book for the photographs of the four corners region of the Southwest. My current work in progress draws heavily on Arizona and New Mexico. I like to surround myself with photographs of a region I’m writing about. But I had the added delight of having the text be a book of poetic prose by Julie Weston. I have long loved her novels (Moonscape, Moon Shadows) set in the Hailey, ID area that feature a 1920s female photographer and a mystery. Her descriptions and appreciation of this haunting landscape of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico’s stone and desert are a highlight of the book. I re-read portions of it in the morning before I write to remind myself of the power of place in story. Even if you’ve never visited this landscape, after reading this work and gazing at these photographs, you will want to go.


World Changing

A Native American friend of mine reminded me that America is a very young country. We are really now in our adolescence. And what is that developmental time period known for? Angst, upheaval, fierce independence, struggles against authority as well as sleeping late and sometimes leaving a mess. But it’s also known for innovation. Follow this link to meet 8 teenagers whose inventions have changed the world.

Adolescents can seize our hearts with their generosity and compassion and make us hopeful for the future (Parkland students come to mind). It’s how I’ve come to consider these times of social unrest, uncertainty and strain, people arguing about facemasks or whether COVID is even real. We have had disruptions before. They felt awful. And we came through them better and stronger. I may have terminal Pollyanna-itis, but so far it’s kept me from despair. As the resilience video reminds us: the thoughts we hold can make us sick or keep us moving forward. I’m choosing to believe that COVID is real, that facemasks will help and social distancing is something I have control over, something else that can keep us resilient: knowing what we control and what we don’t. And I happen to like adolescents.


Further Salt Pourings

Links to Inspiring Content

I met Barbara Cole in 1980 in Maryland at a special month-long event for people working in public service. She’s a wonderful writer and reader. Hear her reading her own work.

To be inspired by the small things that can create large things with persistence and love, visit this site. Here’s a man who takes tiny key strokes on a manual typewriter and creates magnificent works of art. He keeps pouring despite the deluge he was born into!

And finally, this Ted Talk “How to Deconstruct Racism.” It will make you laugh but also helped me understand and create ideas for how to do better in this ever-changing world.

While this summer Story Sparks will come out after the Fourth of July, I hope you’ll listen to this 103 seconds of power from a seven year old singer.   Have a grand summer and stay healthy. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Social distance. I want you all around for the years ahead.

Thanks for reading Story Sparks.