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A Heart for Any Fate in the Time of the Coronavirus


Only three weeks since my last blog post and the whole world has changed. Newspaper and on-line articles are full of advice on how to weather your lockdown at home.  I don't need them. I put in so much time as the Queen of the Kingdom of Isolation while struggling to recover from physician prescribed opioids and benzos that I already know how to do this.  My calming, healing, daily yoga practice and forest walks have been in place for years.


But I also don't want to be the one telling everyone else how to handle this, making up suggested lists of projects and all that. This is the time for each person, each family, to marshal their own resources and figure it out for themselves.


People are quick to suggest what a perfect time this is for writers, citing stories of Shakespeare writing Lear while he was holed up from the plague. Well, for any fellow writers ambitiously working away, I say, more power to you. But I only write books when I have something to say, and right now I don't.


What I do have to offer is a book I already wrote: A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon, 1845. Twenty years ago I lovingly nailed down my own version of a story that thrilled me as a child, one book after another: the Oregon Trail.  In following the Kings who settled what came to be Kings Valley in Benton County, Oregon, I wrote of families marshalling their resources for this epic journey, banding together with other families for safety and support, experiencing the conflicts of the trail—hoarding, illness, despair.  It's also a love story. It won the Oregon Book Award, the Willa Literary Award (named for Willa Cather) and was short-listed for the Silver Spur, awarded by the Western Writers of America. 


If reading aloud with your kids, especially your restless young teenage daughters, is on your list for making the most of this self-enforced family time, I would suggest that escaping to a story of a  time when American families had to step up and show their true grit might make for a memorable experience.  If you're diligently trying to home school kids more formally, I can send you a great list of study questions put together by a local teacher.


I am always faithful in answering letters from readers, so if you want to suggest your kids write me with questions or comments, you needn't fear them being disappointed.  (LJC1@earthlink.net) I promise to answer.


Now is the time for each of us to show our best selves. This, too, shall pass, and we will come through it together, the better for having made the journey. Stay home, stay safe, stay well.  And love each other. 

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Water Witching

We have to dig a well at Plunkett Creek, one of our tree farm properties. It’s silly, actually. We have no intention of building, but in order to maintain the right to build, we have to go ahead and do it. I wonder if the people who made these laws thought of these consequences--ugly and perhaps unoccupied white trailers parked here and there, blighting the forest zones of Oregon. They’re place savers. Why can’t we just have a legal paper stating the property is buildable sometime in the future? Since that doesn’t seem to compute, and we’ve paid a price reflecting the right to build, we must build to protect our investment.

As the self-appointed Director of Cute of this operation of ours, I have vetoed the ugly trailer bit and hope, for the same money, to have some locals build a little cabin. Even the smallest picnic house requires all the services.

Thus, the well. Yesterday we went up to the Kings Valley property with our timber manager, David Brinker, and watched him do the witching. My husband and I both held the witching wires and felt them go nuts over the spot where David said we’d find water.

I thought it was exciting and magical, but last night I went on line and found nothing but material debunking the whole idea of water witching. No proof ever of it working, they say. And lots of stories of people doing just what we did, holding the wires where X marks the spot and claiming they’d felt them move in a decisive way. These people were not being written of with admiration!

But everybody, including David, has stories of having found the water with witching and coming up dry when the witching process was bypassed.

So, next week, we’ll drill. I want to watch. I can’t wait to see if David’s right. Stay tuned! I promise an honest report of happens.
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