What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. For right now, I figure I’m strong enough, thank you very much. I’m hoping I get to coast a while before I have to undertake any more heavy-duty learning experiences, but since I’m not in charge of the universe (thank heaven), I’ll just have to wait and see.
Before I mention some of the gifts my time in the dark night of the soul gave me, I want to answer a few questions I’ve seen in the comments.
Are there more books to follow THE YANKEE WIDOW? Absolutely. WIDOW is the first in a series of 3 novels, covering the lives, fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Winslows and McBrides, with plenty of stage time for Enoch and Jubie and their children. Together, the stories constitute a family saga spanning two generations.
At present, I’m writing the book I call WEST OF YESTERDAY, the story of Rogan McBride and Amelie Winslow, and the continuing adventures of Bridger and Caroline, with old characters returning and new ones turning up as well. The book is set in the South, immediately after the war, amid the ruins of the only world Amelie has ever known. Little wonder she has her reservations about a certain Yankee major. Rosebud, an ex-slave and formidably intelligent woman, is a real force of nature, and I am enjoying writing about her.
The third book, still untitled, features Caroline’s daughter, Rachel, all grown up and facing challenges of her own–big ones.
The paperback version of THE YANKEE WIDOW will be released in June of 2020. COUNTRY STRONG, a contemporary western romance and the first in a new trilogy, is scheduled for October.
Another question I receive often is, how are the animals on the Triple L these days?
The dogs, Tule and Mowgli, my little LA street pups, are thriving. My elderly cat, Wiki, is still with me, and though he had seizures connected to renal failure, he’s on strong meds now and, so far, he’s been seizure-free. Due to cuts in staff–my wrangler moved back to Canada–I had to give up the horses, as I couldn’t take care of them on my own. My nephew, Andy Wiley, and his lovely wife, Angie, re-homed them for me, making sure they all ended up with good homes. Andy and Angie are not only horse lovers, but they’re practically whisperers, too. Although it broke my heart to see my 5 remaining cayuses go, it was a real comfort to know the Wileys would make sure they were well taken care of.
And, yes, I still miss those critters.
Now, for the gifts that came out of those dark, dark days. Some of them, anyway–I keep finding new ones.
#1 I found out what good, loyal friends I had, and what a blessing it is to have a family who loves you.
#2 I discovered art, and the power of vibrant color to ease sorrow. I’ve been painting for several years now and, while I’ll never be a fine artist, I’m pretty good at acrylic pouring–I’ve even sold a few pieces here and there.
#3 Although I did my share of bitching and moaning, I have–and had–so much to be grateful for. I’m closer to God than ever before.
#4 I did some container gardening this past summer and learned–at the age of 70–to can fruits, vegetables, meats and soups. My mother and all my aunts canned, of course, but I never really took an interest until I watched people on YouTube putting up tomatoes and other delicious things. Whammo. Looked like fun to me, so I started sealing things in Mason jars and I love seeing my pantry shelves packed with bottled love.
#5 (This one will surprise you.) As my interest in gardening grew, I naturally got interested in composting, too. Now, I have an entire worm farm in my basement, and the little critters are busy creating truly excellent fertilizer for next year’s raised beds and containers. I fuss with those worms practically every day, and feed them well on the pulp from my juicer, vegetable scraps, even toilet paper rolls.
#6 I’ve become an orchid whisperer of sorts, if I do say so myself. Again, via YouTube, I’ve learned to love these exotic and somewhat temperamental plants and I take real pride in caring for them. Last count, I had 24 of them.
#7 Dustin–Jenni’s husband–and I have begun to experiment with raising vegetables hydroponically, again, in my basement. (It’s a large space, housing my art room as well.) We hope to raise kale, tomatoes, green beans and carrots, among other things, indoors over the winter, and I’ve planted garlic for next year. (I put garlic in practically everything I cook, besides dessert. Onions, too.) I’ve made and preserved Sweet Onion Jam (yum), cranberry sauce, split pea soup, pork and beans, and just about every kind of stock there is.
Turns out, I’m a fair hand at cooking.