Winter is Knocking

After a couple of weeks of beautiful, mild, autumn weather, a cold breath of air has moved in from the north and is sending the cottonwood and poplar leaves skittering across the deck and clattering against the window. Dsc_04122008-11-07Winter is knocking at our door, and many of us may dread the snow, cold, and bleak gray days that are coming.

I am reading Ted Kooser’s memoir, Local Wonders, during my morning reading and journaling time. The book is organized around the seasons of the year and I’m in the last section set in the wintertime. This morning I read about Kooser receiving a cancer diagnosis earlier in the year. He was unable to write for months afterward. He “began to heal” as he put it, near the beginning of winter when he started going for walks. Much to his surprise and delight he was able to write a poem after one of the walks. He continued writing a poem after each daily walk, scribbled them on a postcard, and sent them to a friend. He eventually put them together in a collection titled Winter Morning Walks: 100 Postcards to Jim Harrison.

I loved learning that Kooser regained his poetic voice and began to recover his health in the winter, a season that we often associate with death and endings. The trees look barren and dead, most of the birds have left for more temperate climates, and the lush plants that thrived in the summer gardens are twisted and shriveled. The ferocity of the winter weather also reminds me of how small I am compared to the power of nature. I feel much the same way when I gaze at the night sky and the mysterious, infinite spaces between the stars. I find it oddly comforting that I am not in control.

Winter is a time for slowing down, enjoying the silence and the crisp contrast between light and dark. There is very little color in the landscape, but that serves to help us appreciate the more subtle hues created by the winter light: the blue at the bottom of a footstep in the snow, the rainbows that the sunlight creates inside the crumbs of frost scattered on the tree branches. The abundant life that surrounds us in summer seems to have disappeared, but actually it has just gone to a deeper place, a safe place to rest and build up its stores of energy to burst to life again in the springtime.

Living things need both the light and the dark, summer and winter, moisture and drought, cold and warmth. The dead plants in the garden will be tilled under and nourish the garden next year. They will be reborn in a new way. Nothing is wasted. The same is true for us. If we feel tapped out, exhausted, lifeless, we can take that old dead material and mulch it to create something entirely different.

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Who, me?

I was thrilled when I first learned that Finishing Line Press wanted to publish my chapbook of poems late last year, until I started thinking about everything that was ahead of me: writing press releases, doing interviews, promoting book sales, scheduling and planning readings – especially readings. I am not at all comfortable with being in front of people. I’d much rather sit in the back row and listen to someone else. The enormity of the task ahead was terrifying.

S.D. Agricultural Heritage Museum reading, April 29
S.D. Agricultural Heritage Museum reading, April 29

Now, ten months later, I’m pleased to report that I not only survived, but have learned and grown so much from the experience. I now have two readings behind me, and have discovered that I can stand up in front of people and relate my experiences to them through my poetry. I have been very humbled by the support and encouragement of so many people that I live and work with, or who have gotten to know me through my writing. Some of you are family, friends, and acquaintances who may never have purchased a book of poetry before in your lives, but gave this one a try.

I have had wonderful feedback from many of you. I hope that my experiences with this project inspire you to try something that seems scary or even terrifying to you. This quote by Dag Hammarskjold sums it up pretty well: “Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible—not to have run away.”

I hope that you’re having a wonderful summer!

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Temporary Delay…

If you are trying to purchase At the Rim of the Horizon from Amazon.com, I have just been informed that the book will be unavailable there until August 18.

The book is locally available at the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum by phone: 605-688-6226 or by using their email contact form: http://www.sdstate.edu/agmuseum/emailus.cfm. and South Dakota Art Museum. The South Dakota Art Museum may have a limited supply of copies as well: http://www.sdstate.edu/southdakotaartmuseum/shop/index.cfm.

Thank you for your patience!

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Summer Update

What a busy spring and summer this has been – so busy that I have neglected to let you know that At the Rim of the Horizon is now available for purchase on Amazon.com. If you live in the Brookings area and would like to buy a copy locally, they are available from the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum and South Dakota Art Museum on the South Dakota State University campus. You may also contact me to get a copy.

Many of you were unable to attend the Agricultural Heritage Museum reading on April 29th because you may not live in the Brookings area, or were prevented by scheduling conflicts. I prepared a slide presentation for the reading in which I paired pictures that I’ve taken to go along with some of the poems that are in the book. This is an excerpt from the slide show that accompanied the poems that I read that night: (You will need MS Powerpoint or an equivalent in order to view the slides).

At the Rim Slide Show

If this link doesn’t work for you, I also posted the slide show in a different file format on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ruby-Wilson/218234428340368)

I hope to schedule more readings soon and will be sure to post updates as that process moves along. Stay tuned!

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Ag Museum Reading

I thank everyone for their patience who ordered a book several months ago. It has been a long wait for the book to be printed and shipped, and I sincerely hope that you receive your books soon.

There will be some opportunities to get your book signed and one of them is coming up in a couple of weeks. The South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum on the South Dakota State University campus here in Brookings is hosting a Reading/Signing event on April 29th at 7 p.m.

Weaving my poems and photographs together is a combination that worked well  in my first book, Campus Sketches, so I’m preparing a slide show of my pictures to accompany the poems I read at the Ag Museum. Even though At the Rim of the HorizonDsc_01562008-06-12 has only one picture (the one on the cover), many of the poems were inspired by the scenes that were often the subject of many of my photographs. The windmill picture on the front cover of the book is one that I took back in September of last year, just a few weeks before I received the news that Finishing Line Press had accepted my manuscript for publication. That same windmill is the subject of one of the poems in the book, and is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Even though a poem is supposed to be written well enough to create pictures in the reader’s mind, I think that you may enjoy seeing some of the actual places and things that I write about.

I hope to see you there!

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The Poem I Almost Wrote

 

I met a friend for lunch a few days ago, and she asked me whether I’d done any writing this week. Part of our commitment to each other as friends is to encourage, remind, and sometimes even pester one another to take the time to do what is important to us. For me, that would be writing. It’s so easy to put off, to find myriad other things that need to be done. I made a promise to my friend some years back that I would set aside some time at least once a week to work on my writing, and she gently reminds me each time we meet.

I scooped up a spoonful of soup and said, “well, I almost wrote a poem yesterday.” She smiled and I went on … “I went to my writing desk and turned on the computer and monitor, but that was as far as I got.” I had jotted down some notes after walking the dog a few days earlier, and I wanted to see if I could shape them into a poem.  “I’m not sure what distracted me, but I think it was skiing. There were a couple of inches of powder on top of the crusty snow, the temperature was actually above zero, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t have too many more chances this winter.”

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I sometimes come up with ideas for writing when I ski, so I think that it can be construed as writing time. After bundling up and strapping on skis I grabbed my camera and started out to the west  edge of the yard where I saw a three-square-foot area where snow had been scraped away. The only tracks that I could see nearby were made by deer, so I reasoned that it must have been either a scrape made by a buck to stake out a place for mating, or an attempt to get at some food. I decided on the latter since it’s a little late for the breeding season. Next I wanted to check out the field on the other side of the draw where I often see deer foraging in the late afternoon when I come home from work. I found lots of deer trails and followed one of them to a nearby shelterbelt where I saw two deer standing and watching me. I called back the dog to keep him from chasing them, and watched their white tails bob back and forth as they trotted through the trees. I reached the top of a rise and snapped pictures of distant wind turbines against a clear blue sky. When I turned to start back home, I saw two more deer standing near the edge of the field. They watched me for a bit to try to figure out what I was, but they vanished when I started moving again. The sun was setting when I reached the edge of our yard and saw some dead grass with a hollowed out area in front. I took a closer look and realized that it was a cozy deer bed within feet of the dog kennel,DSC_0457 hidden by brush, grass, and the stump of a dead tree. After I got back inside, I snuggled up in my “deer blanket” (a fuzzy blanket with a deer design on it) and wrote in my journal about my skiing experiences and discoveries.  I passed my writing desk on my way to bed that night, heard the computer running, and remembered my good intentions to work on a poem.

I have lost many “poems I almost wrote”  because of distractions, deliberately choosing to do something else, or simply because life couldn’t wait for me to devote the necessary time to them. I think that maybe poets are often filled with regret for the poems we lose, but I console myself with the thought that some poems will never be written, they can only be lived. I am so grateful for all of the poems in my life. Now please excuse me – I have a poem to write.

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New Year Ritual

I’ve been taking down the decorations, putting away the garland and lights, and re-reading the cards and letters sent to us over the holidays. I hang the cards and photos on a strip of green ribbon over the doorway to the living room as part of my holiday decorations. Usually I’m so busy that I only have time to skim through the greetings when I receive them, so leisurely reading them when I take them down after the holidays has become my annual ritual. I update contact information for family and friends, and sometimes keep the DSC_382_croppedfamily photos to insert into my address book. I love the many different creative ways people use to greet one another during the holidays. I am especially enjoying a Christmas poem sent to us by my sister-in-law, and I’m so pleased that people seem to be using poetry more and more for their everyday communications and to commemorate special occasions.

Is poetry enjoying a sort of renaissance these days? When I read work by contemporary poets I am continually awed by the beauty I find there. I also sometimes wonder why I’m attempting to write poetry when there is so much good stuff that has already been written. Do I really have anything new to say? Can I even begin to compete with all the rest of the wonderful writing that is already out there? In our competitive society where we try to get ahead by trying to outdo one another, we often apply the same model to our writing and art.

But I soon realize that is the wrong way to look at it. This isn’t a competition. I have to keep reminding myself that the beauty in writing is that each writer has his or her own unique experiences and viewpoint. You know how it is when you’re sitting around the kitchen table telling family stories, and your brother or sister, aunt, or father remember things much differently than you do? No one else will remember any moment or experience in exactly the same way that you do. That is why each person’s voice is so very important. It may or may not be a great work of literature, but no one else can tell your story.

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Advance Sales End on January 10

Front CoverThe pre-publication sales period for my first chapbook of poetry, At the Rim of the Horizon, will end on January 10, so if you are considering a purchase please order by that date. It’s hard to believe the new year is coming up so quickly! Finishing Line Press encourages you to reserve your copy early since they require a minimum and base the size of the print run on the number of orders received during the advance sales period.

I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to share what I’ve written. Although English and literature have always been my favorite subjects, I’ve never taken a creative writing class partly because I would have a very hard time writing on demand. I try to find quiet time each day to observe and write about my world: family, gardening, native plants, the night sky. I’ve learned that sometimes when I’m troubled about something, writing helps me to look at the situation in new ways. My poetry comes from ordinary events in my day that take on a special meaning:

CHRISTMAS BLIZZARD OF ’09

by Ruby R. Wilson

The snow is perfect for snowballs
too sticky for skiing
down into the draw
where the gayfeather spikes
lean south
thistle wears snowy sleeping caps
sideoats grama dangles seed jewels
inches above the snow
fleabane is tipped by cotton balls
among fluffy white bouquets of goldenrod
and the lower branches of the cedar
shake off the snow
— no, that’s the dog —
while a snowmobile
growls in the distance.

A blizzard hit during the holidays in 2009, shutting down the Interstates and holiday travel. When the snow and wind quit, I put on my skis and made my own tracks in the fresh snow. This poem grew out of that experience and is one of twenty-three poems included in the chapbook, which also features one of my photographs on the cover. Creating a chapbook was a great opportunity to combine two of my favorite activities, writing and photography. The first book I published, Campus Sketches, also combines my poems and photographs featuring images of the South Dakota State University campus.

Finishing Line Press is a poetry publisher based in Georgetown, Kentucky. In addition to the Chapbook Series, it publishes the New Women’s Voices Series and sponsors the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition. Other South Dakota authors that have been published by Finishing Line Press are Mary O’Connor, Christine Stewart- Nuñez, Norma C. Wilson, and David Allan Evans, South Dakota Poet Laureate.

At the Rim of the Horizon can be ordered now and will be printed and shipped in March. The retail price of the 29-page, soft-cover chapbook is $14 plus $2.49 postage. Use this link to reserve an advance copy online with a credit card: https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?cPath=2&products_id=1934, or send your name, address, and payment to Finishing Line Press, P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY.

Finishing Line Press Announces Release of At the Rim of the Horizon

Finishing Line Press announces the publication of At the Rim of the Horizon, a chapbook of original poems by Ruby R. Wilson of Brookings, S.D. The collection features a cover design and photograph by the author and will be published in March of 2014.

wilson_ruby_cov“I live on a small acreage near Brookings where the closest neighbors are the deer and other wildlife that come for visits. I’m also fortunate to live far enough away from town to enjoy skies that are dark enough at night to indulge my passion for amateur astronomy,” says Wilson. A keen observer of landscape and her community, Wilson’s simple, lyrical language brings to life everyday moments and encounters.

Author Linda Hasselstrom says,Ruby Wilson writes of making poems in her kitchen: ‘with potato water/ honey, yeast and flour.’ She stirs, kneads and shares the delicious results with her readers, enough for all, with a few tasty leftovers for breakfast. Follow her; stroll to the rim of the horizon as she thoughtfully explores, in darkness and in light. The moon winks as she savors the treasures of her world and ours: sideoats grama and bluestem, sons with gelled hair, water’s canvas, nighthawks. With her words you learn which way the wind blows.“

“In At the Rim of the Horizon, Ruby R. Wilson pays attention,” says poet Christine Stewart-Nuñez. “She zeros in on remnants of the South Dakota prairie—its grasses and transcendent skies—to cull ordinary, beautiful moments for poems. And just when she’s gotten readers comfortable in her kitchen or garden, she catapults us into the Milky Way. In the naming of Regulus, finches, wild mustard, and windmills, Wilson sharpens our gaze.”

“I have always been interested in writing since high school,” says Wilson, “but really started writing seriously about 20 years later, after I attended my first mentored writing experience at Linda Hasselstrom’s Windbreak House Writing Retreats.” Ruby R. Wilson’s work has appeared in publications such as New Letters from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, Peril and Promise: Essays on community and Beyond edited by Charles L. Woodard and published by the South Dakota Agricultural Heritage Museum, P3 (Painters, Poets, & Pavilion) Invitational Exhibit at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science in Sioux Falls, Crazy Woman Creek and Woven on the Wind published by Houghton Mifflin, and Arts Alive from the South Dakota Arts Council. Her first published book of poetry was Campus Sketches, a collection of poetic and photographic images of South Dakota State University that also included Wilson’s full-color photographs.

Finishing Line Press is a poetry publisher based in Georgetown, Kentucky. In addition to the Chapbook Series, it publishes the New Women’s Voices Series and sponsors the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Competition. Other South Dakota authors that have been published by Finishing Line Press are Mary O’Connor, Christine Stewart- Nuñez, Norma C. Wilson, and David Allan Evans, South Dakota Poet Laureate.

At the Rim of the Horizon can be ordered now and will be printed and shipped in March. The retail price of the 29-page, soft-cover chapbook is $14 plus postage. A copy can be reserved by contacting Finishing Line Press, P.O. Box 1626, Georgetown, KY or through their website at http://www.finishinglinepress.com.

Preparing for Winter

It’s the second Saturday in November, and I’ve been preparing for the winter weather that I know is coming. I washed sheets and hung them on the clothesline to dry – we won’t have many more days that are warm and dry enough, and I love the smell of sheets dried outside. Two weeks ago we harvested the carrots and potatoes from our garden, and I pulled up the rosemary and thyme from the outside pots that I had planted them in, tied them in bunches, and hung them upside down to dry inside. Today I snipped the dried stems and placed them on cookie sheets to dry in the oven on the lowest possible setting. After they dried I pulled the brittle leaves off the stems by pinching my thumb and index finger and gently running them along the stem. I told my husband that it was very “thyme-consuming”, but well worth the effort even if only for the satisfaction I get from smelling the herbs as I prepare them. This seemed like a good day to make bread, so I tossed in some of the dried herbs just for fun.

This afternoon we brought in the rain water, bucket by bucket, that I had saved from our last storm so I can use it to water my indoor plants this winter. Then I took down the wind chime to store in the garage over the winter. I’m always a little sad to bring it in, and would really like to be able to leave it out all winter. When the chimes are ringing in the summertime I always know that the wind has shifted around to a northerly direction. North winds usually bring cooler, drier air in the summer, but winter is a different matter entirely. I tried leaving the chimes out all winter once, but by spring the winter winds had scattered the pieces on the ground in the herb garden. Fortunately, I was able to find them all and put it back together again.

Although I’m a little sad to bring in the chimes this time of year, I look forward to winter. I love the quiet and how everything seems to retreat inside of itself. It feels a little like hibernating: a time to be quiet, reflect, and use the inner reserves that we’ve stored through the plentiful summer and create something new.

“In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerily ascends.” Henry David Thoreau

Well, the bread smells like it’s done …