After three Covid-forced years away, I’m back at the Collegeville Institute this week and next, leading a workshop called Apart and Yet a Part. I couldn’t be happier.
For the next ten days, I’ll be meeting individually with writers who will spend their days with no commitments other working on their own writing. Evenings, we’ll have dinner together and post-dinner discussions about writing and life, a book exchange, a meditation walk, and a final-night reading of new material.
This is the land of Minnesota Nice, which isn’t as glib as it sounds. Our power was out this morning and it strengthened my belief in humanity just to watch the staff here interact with the physical plant workers who came to get us back online. Everyone was respectful and helpful and thankful and had a good sense of humor. Why aren’t we all this way with each other all the time?
Yesterday morning, I heard the sound of children’s voice, and when I looked out the window, a preschool teacher was taking a picture of her students with our ridiculously large rhododendron as the background.
Those sweet faces and smiles were exactly what I needed to see after the awful news out of Texas the day before.
Leaving aside, for a moment, the discussion of guns and gun violence in this country, we need to do everything we can to protect our children in every way, not only from killings but also poverty, neglect, and abuse. If we aren’t willing to care for and protect children, whether they are ours or someone else’s, what kind of a society are we?
New on WritingtheNorthwest.com: my review of Tina Ontiveros’s rough house(Oregon State University Press, 2020), a difficult but moving memoir about growing up in the damp forests of the Pacific Northwest and the dry brown land around The Dalles, Oregon.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Contrary to popular belief, you can sometimes tell a lot about a book by its title. In addition to the double meaning of physical fun and difficult circumstances, it’s significant that rough house is printed in lower case. Ontiveros is shining a light on minor characters whose stories, though filled with poverty and violence, are worth telling—and worth reading—for what they reveal about the hardships many Americans face, as well as how those Americans—especially women, like Ontiveros—find a way forward despite the odds.”
I took this picture after a fierce deluge battered our just-blooming dogwood tree yesterday. It seems a good illustration of the Tolkien quote below–the kind of reminder I need with all that is going on these days.
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
My latest post on WritingtheNorthwest.com celebrates a unique and wonderful book about the history, customs and daily life of Native American tribes along the Columbia River. Click here to read: “When the River Ran Wild!–Excavating the Memories, Customs and Ways of the Mid-Columbia Tribes.”
I hope you’ll take a moment to read this honest and moving piece by Robin Bartlett, a writer I worked with last year at Collegeville: Memento Mori.
Here’s what Robin wrote when she posted it on Facebook today:
I am a preacher and not a writer, but today my writing is published in a magazine. The writing teacher that I worked with at Collegeville Institute, Michael N. McGregor, really pushed me to stop sermonating and start sharing more of myself. As a result, this essay is much more personal than what I typically preach, so it feels a little bit like “bleeding in public.” But here it is, in public anyway. Thanks, Notre Dame magazine, for giving me this forum. And thanks, Michael, for believing in me.
I was pleased to see this important reminder on this young man’s back the other day. It’s a shame, though, that we have to be reminded to be kind to those who might struggle more than we have to. Maybe we should all wear signs that say simply: “Human being. Be kind.”