Sunlight skims across the green moss on the old oak’s trunk around midday on this Solstice of 2020. The tree overlooks Pleasant Plain across the river, the plain also bathed in light, the higher mountains behind remaining hidden in dark fog.

Solstice has been observed throughout the world since distant times past as people became aware of this turning of seasons that brought longer days of light. With that realization came many celebrations of hope for light against the darkness.

In my ancient stories of Crete, feasting and dancing commemorate the day, while in Ireland the yule fire and decking of garlands add to festivities at this time marked by their great stone circles.

Today many of our own symbols of celebration echo these ancient tributes to the light.

In this year when a deadly plague has thrown a cloak of darkness over our world, our need for light feels especially keen. Yet even now, signs of hope arise. A vaccine. A triumph of science and dedication. The daring of brave healers and workers. The many kindnesses toward friends and family, even strangers. The calm efforts of caring for those around us, if only by staying home.

Remember the turning toward light this day and the hope it brings. Happy Solstice.


The Silence of Progress

When we’re called to shelter the walls may feel tight. Yet I’m grateful to be able to shelter on our farm. Walks on the mountain have brought daily joy. Spring has come and gone. Summer’s here. The lavender’s in bloom.

I’m also grateful my work is here, and I can immerse myself in that. I’m working on the series, two trilogies, one centered in ancient Minoan Crete, the other in ancient Ireland. They’re complete now. But before my agent sent Book One to a new publishing house recently she suggested I review it.

Review it.

Two simple words. But it meant going through the whole thing. So in silence I entered that world once again–and found places to heighten the tension, smooth the flow. After she sent that off it occurred to me that if I found places to improve in Book One, maybe I’d better review Book Two–which led to reviewing Book Four, one I had recently revised dramatically. And once I read that I thought I’d better make sure the required changes in the opening of Book Five still worked. I got caught up in that story and didn’t really know where to stop, so I read it all. Book Six is a bit long and I think I should see if I could trim it a little–which will require a full read. But I got to thinking about Book Three, which I had skipped because it has always read so well, thanks to my muse who breathed so much of that story into my ear. What if I could make it just a bit better? I reviewed it. No big changes but worth the read.

Because I have been so deep into this, I haven’t been on social media much. It’s in the silence that I make progress.


A Visit of White Hawks

white hawk

Photo by Robin Loznak

If you’ve read A Place of Her Own you know what the white hawk means to me. So I want to share today’s thrill. I am sitting in my office, laptop on my lap, composing another blog post when I look up and see white hawks soaring above the field below me. Two white hawks! They must both be males, because the female marsh hawk would be gray. What are they? Nest mates? Sons of the white hawk who visited me when I was writing Martha’s story? The one that seemed always to be a harbinger of good news?

I watch them for a while, lifting together in synchronous flight, parting, sweeping high, darting low to the ground, together again, rising as one, until they fly out of my sight. Then I sit down to write this.

I’ve seen them more than once in the last week or so. A couple of days ago I saw three. Three! Whatever it means to see them visiting again, they do lift my spirits, as if letting me rise on their wings.

The photo above, taken by my son-in-law Robin Loznak, appears in the book, A Place of Her Own. It almost failed to make the cut. He’d been trying for some time to capture this one on camera so it could go in the book, but it kept eluding him. Deadline came and no hawk picture. Then a few days after the deadline it appeared when he had his camera in hand. Thankfully my editor agreed to add the picture, deadline or no.

This morning I feel lightened by the hawks’ return.




Fun at Fort Umpqua Days

Elkton history enjoyed a dash of fun at the annual Fort Umpqua Days celebration Saturday and Sunday. From the parade Saturday morning until the final show of the pageant in the ECEC Amphitheater in the Park, history echoed through the festivities with this year’s theme, “Woods to Wine.”

605.fort umpqua boothIn my booth there I enjoyed presenting my own bit of local history with my book, A Place of Her Own: The Legacy of Oregon Pioneer Martha Poindexter Maupin. Robin Loznak took this picture of me.

Right next door to me was Leta Lovelace Neiderheiser with her history of her famous pioneer ancestor, Jesse Applegate: A Dialogue With Destiny. Nice meeting her.

606.cousins at fort umpqua

I was also pleased to meet another cousin, Cheryl Miller, a third cousin whose line runs through Martha’s son Cap and Cap’s daughter Lois. Cheryl and her husband live in Cottage Grove, where she works in Safeway. During my years in Cottage Grove I had no idea I lived near cousins. I’ve met so many since this book came out, it’s one of the pleasures I hadn’t expected.

435.campfireWhile people in the booths kept busy on the hill, down at the old Fort Umpqua replica near the river, kids were delighting in getting a taste of history, pumping water to wash clothes, cooking in a Dutch oven over an open fire, and other activities.

Then each evening we gathered at the amphitheater for the pageant “Echoes of the Umpqua 2014: Woods to Wine.” The theme recognized the shift in the local economy from one based on timber and logging to one highlighted by the winery business. Just last year the federal government designated Elkton an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in recognition of the high quality cool climate wine grapes produced by local wineries and vineyards. As usual, the pageant presentation had some fun with the history. I enjoyed being on the writing committee for the play–although we’re sworn to secrecy on who wrote which part. 🙂

607.gram & gramps pageantA right sassy granny enjoys a taste of the local wine and reminisces about the good old days when loggers ruled. Did somebody mention lady loggers?

We flash back to those early days when a new teacher comes to town and struggles with an unfamiliar culture of loggers and farmers who expect their kids to skip school while helping out with the harvests. How can she possibly teach them?

608.pageant square dance



But a square dance is fun. And she can’t help noticing the charming young logger who enjoys a bit of Shakespeare.


611.pageant musicians



The band offers some good old-time music. And as the saying goes, a good time was had by all. 🙂





Fort Umpqua Days

Elkton, Oregon, puts on a big Fort Umpqua Days event every year on Labor Day Weekend in celebration of the town’s history.This year it’s Saturday and Sunday, August 30 and 31.the fortThe British Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Umpqua in 1836 near where Elkton sprouted a few years later. It was the company’s southernmost fort in the Oregon Territory in the days when they essentially ruled the area, chasing the lucrative fur trade–before all those American pioneers started trekking west over the Oregon Trail.

The first fort burned in 1851, and a flood in 1861 washed away what was left of it. A few years ago citizens of the area decided to reconstruct the fort on a site just downriver from the original, and the work continues today with new buildings going up inside the wooden palisade walls, with considerable effort made to keep things authentic. Now the HBC flag flies again.

DSCN0434So, during Fort Umpqua Days we celebrate with a parade and a history pageant, a craft fair, and other events. I’ve enjoyed serving on the writing team for the pageant the last few years, in which the history is told with a bit of humor and a bit of truth. And this year I’ll have an outdoor booth for selling and signing my book about one of those intrepid American pioneers–my own ancestor Martha Poindexter Maupin.

DSCN0429Last year kids came into the fort grounds to learn how people at the old fort cooked and kept gardens and washed their clothes, which was probably a whole lot more fun for the kids than for those guys at the original fort. Inside, there are furs and stories aplenty to whet the imagination.

The event is open to the public and fun for kids of all ages. If you enjoy taking a step into the past, here’s a great place to do it.  🙂



That’s our newest crop on the farm and this is what it’s all about. Hazelnuts! Tasty, crunchy filberts! The fruits of our labors. nuts 2We planted 700 of these babies. And that in itself was a big job. Our first challenge was to square a section of the field, then stake out the rows before digging a lot of holes and planting the nursery stock. (More on that nursery stock here.) The trees are little more than long, spindly twigs when you get them, with a wisp of roots along a J root where they’ve been cut from the mother tree. After planting in the winter months, you wait until spring to see a bushy tuft of green at the end of that spindly twig.hazelnut orchard

They’re about three and four years old now, most of them. We planted half one year and half the next.

Our biggest jobs now are watering and flailing.

My son-in-law Robin Loznak does the flailing, which is a serious form of mowing. The flail, drawn behind a tractor, cuts and chops the grass and weeds close to the ground.

And in the summer I water. We haven’t been able to put in a water system yet, so I’m the water system. We have a waterline that feeds out to the edge of the new orchard. So from that I attach about 300 feet of garden hose, with which I can reach about half the orchard. Then I attach the hoses to a long plastic hose running down the center to get the rest.

robin's other officeIn previous years I’ve watered at least three times during the summer. But this year most of the trees are old enough that they don’t need watered as often–which is fortunate because it’s been a busy summer for me with all the book events. However, we do have a few new babies we planted last winter to fill gaps where we had a few losses, and we needed to add some more pollinizer varieties. Robin brought out the big guns to help out, using a spray tank behind the tractor to give those brand new trees some extra water. He calls this his “other office.” He took this photo of the tractor and tank with his cell phone. And in one of his other lives he’s the photographer who did the wonderful farm photos for my book.

It’s a pleasant field tonuts work in, with the river flowing alongside, the rapids whispering with a steady wash.

We won’t have enough of these nuts to harvest for another three or four years, but they’re scattered throughout the orchard, and we might find enough for some good munching.


Practice for Saturday’s Tsunami Event

We’re going to do something different at my book release party at Tsunami Books in Eugene this Saturday. A reading set to music. Here, my cousin Don Fisher on trumpet and friend Patty Wilgus on piano are putting on the finishing touches during our final practice together for this event.

DSCN0245In my book, A Place of Her Own, the Civil War played heavily in Martha’s life during her years in Lane County. So for this Lane County event, I wanted to bring a touch of that Civil War era into my presentation. Using the two great songs from opposing sides of the conflict, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” for the North, and “Dixie” for the South, Don and Patty will surround my spoken lines with song, sometimes cheerful, sometimes sad, as we dramatize a thread of story from the book.

Don and I share Martha’s lineage. She’s a great-great-grandmother to us both.

The atmosphere at Tsunami Books provides a colorful setting for the event, with a stage and well-used piano, and plenty of space to hold the sound of a trumpet. Before and after the reading, Don and Patty will offer easy-listening background music.

To add to the festivities, we’ll serve wine from the River’s Edge Winery in Elkton near the family farm. This winery touts a special pinot noir made from grapes grown in the northern Umpqua Valley. We’ll have samples of that specialty as well as a nice pinot gris, and for sweet-loving taste buds, a Gewurztraminer. Or if you’d rather, we’ll have lemonade, with or without a bit of bubbly. And cheese and crackers.

The fun starts at 5 pm Saturday, June 21, and runs until 7. You can find Tsunami Books at 2585 Willamette Street in South Eugene, just a few blocks north of the corner of 29th and Willamette coming in from the 30th Street exit.

If you live anywhere close to Eugene, I hope you can come. 🙂



Speaking at Roseburg Rotary

I spoke to the Roseburg Rotary Club last night about my book A Place of Her Own. Here I am with Susan Morgan, president of the group, in the middle, and Laura Lusa, my accountant who invited me to speak, on the left. Rotary

My son-in-law Robin Loznak snapped the photo with my camera. He attended as a guest of Dr. Frack, a veterinarian at Douglas County Low-cost Veterinary Services where Robin works.

I enjoyed the evening with this receptive group of Rotarians. They met at Kowloon’s Restaurant for dinner, the meeting, and plenty of camaraderie.

Thank you, Laura, for the invite. 🙂



Video Encourages Writers

PNWA in Seattle just put out this YouTube video for their upcoming conference July 17 to 20 at Seatac Hilton Hotel. I’ll be there as a presenter, joining a panel of PNWA Success Stories on Thursday, the 17th, at 9:30 am, and giving a workshop on the Power of Perseverance Saturday, the 19th, at 4 o’clock. I attended this conference in 2012 and found my agent there, Rita Rosenkranz, who turned my dream of being a published author into the reality of my new book, A Place of Her Own.

It’s a great conference, wonderful positive atmosphere, and fun!

For more about PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association), you can check out their website.