Thursday, August 08, 2019


On this atypical summer day -- clouded and cool -- I sit at my keyboard in my old flannel, red-plaid housecoat patched with leopard spots and wonder what I'm doing.  Am I creating a writer's legacy or am I just writing and erasing?  Or is it enough to just think about it?  Why should anyone leave a "writer's legacy" anyway?

Writing is like the wandering line of sea wrack along a vast flat sand beach, a jumble of lost things brought bacck.  At Seaside the main street ends in a circular cement promenade with rest rooms under it.  I first came as a baby before I could stand up.  My parents spread a quilt, put me on it and instructed me to never leave it, then rented a bicycle built for two so they could circle on the sand.  I couldn't see the water.  I could hear it.  Maaaauuuuooorrrr.  A living thing full of the hidden.

So, to be all cute about it, that beach is the result of the Columbia River washing sand along from land.  Sedimentary, "granular", cumulative. Like a life.  It also built nearby Long Beach which is big enough and stable enough for a town and a lot of beach grass and gorse.  Both communities feature Brit style carnival elements, permanent county fairs with shooting galleries, bump-em cars, and salt water taffy.  Seaside has an aquarium.  Long Beach has a museum of Chinook culture.

This is like literature, accumulations of all kinds of print production.  I had aspired to join traditional literature, but now I think I won't.  There are so many kinds of writing, each accommodating a different kind of person and inventing new forms.  I did not stay on the quilt.  I did not pedal a bicycle for two.  in time, I walked, hoping for places where there were no other people, dragging my stick to write in the sand.  This is no way to create a best seller.  But why is "selling" the criteria for what is "best" anyway?  I can't even tolerate an editor.  But I'm terribly vulnerable to the people I write about.  Yet I don't give a damn for the opinions of relatives and former parishioners because they don't occupy the same world.  They never read it, don't know it exists, so no problem.

There are five or six books in process now, mostly in bits on my long form blog.    I began self-publishing bits that could be grouped together a decade or more ago when I was still thinking about Montana as a subject, even as a brand. is my printer -- not my publisher -- and listed the books on  Then Amazon took all that down.  Now they just list the books they sell.  None of my Lulu books sell.  One must actively promote, aggressively press people to buy.  It takes venture capital that I don't have.  Probably I should create a scandal -- play into the prejudices and unjustified beliefs that people already have.  I did that for animal control.  Now I don't.

So these "proto-books" exist on sixteen or eighteen blogs: 
Former teachers ("Alvina Krause," "Alvina Krause, Eagles Mere", "The Silver Comb" which are all collected by the Northwestern University archives), 
Blackfeet ("Blackfeet Reservation," "Cross Cultures on the Prairie," "Early Browning News", Heartbreakbutte", "A Guide to the Blackfeet Reservation"), Family ("Robert Macfie Scriver and Art", "Swan River", "Strachans on the Prairie"), 
Animal Control ("Dog Catching In America"), 
Clergy ("The Bone Chalice, "Unitarians in Montana"), 
Location ("Valier Album", "Water Over the Dam"), 
Feral (Don't ask.)

One whole wall of my front room plus bookshelves in my "office" is 3-ring notebooks containing "Both Sides Now," "Prairie Gladiator," "12 Blackfeet Stories," "Blackfeet Trails," "Scriver Seminary Saga," "One Windy Day," and more.  Edmonton UU congregation, as Moosemilk Press, published a book of my sermons, "Being Where You Are."  It sold well.  I have enough for more "books," lines of thought in lines of print that could be put on pages and bound in multiples for sale.  Beached.

But none of these is the one deeply emotional preoccupation that would power a "real" book, one worthy but possibly pornographic if you accept that as a category; progressive in the sense of exceeding the present culture.  I'd have to stop blogging to do it, but even if I did, old age is affecting me.  Possibly it is editing my brain in helpful ways.  Certainly it is changing me, simplifying.  Bits of memoir show up, but they aren't important.

Lifelong, a problem has been that I'm too idealistic, that I only want the exalted.  I hate community theatre and high school productions because they are often shallow and silly.  But I know that there can be near-mystical moments of breakthrough.  I hate predictable church services where everyone only goes through the motions, but I know that they can occasionally rise to being life-transforming.  Most of my love for individuals, movements, places, and all the rest has been unrequited.  That might be sad if I weren't so resistant to interference.

Several ranch women in this area of the prairie are writing columns in local newspapers, one of them augmented by writing romances with cowboys.  They depend on humour.  They define "Montana" -- I choose high prairie ecosystem.  None of them reach the stature of, let's say, Sharon Butala, who adds nature mysticism and is published in bi-national best-selling books, which people in Montana may not know about. Sharon is a focused writer who helped save not only a ranch in Saskatchewan, but one that became a preserve of original grassland for bison.  That's beyond anything I can do.

Lately I've been trying academic online open journals like Academia or Researchgate.  They take essays, short pieces.  "Notes from the Summer Conferences at Piegan Institute."  "Memories from a CPE Program Years Ago."  A few people read them.

I write this partly in defense, since some people are baffled that since I say I'm a writer they don't automatically see books with my name in bookstore windows. (There are no bookstores closer than 80 miles.) But also in defiance in defiance, a  record for reference.  A lot of people out there write well, write hard, write daily -- but nothing comes of it.  That's normal and they need to know that.

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