Exactly what a writer
wants to hear first thing in the morning.
I rose yesterday at 4:00 a.m. to get at my day's work; I filled the firebox on our ol' computer and powered up; I connected with our internet provider and got the e-mails. In tumbled a message from one Sharon Higgs, a name I didn't recognize. The subject line was Curlew: Home.
"I received your book yesterday," Sharon wrote me. "I have only had an opportunity to read a few pages. I am amazed, as your story is laying out my feelings."
Sharon had been born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, had moved to Illinois, and then to southern California (at age 14). She and her husband now live in the Pacific Northwest.
"For years I have had this yearning," she said. "I thought it was for seasons, which was part of it, but there was more and I just couldn't put my finger on it. I thought maybe I simply had a restless heart."
"It is beautiful here," she added, "and yet the yearning has become stronger and I'm being pushed, but I don't know where."
"I discovered your blog," she wrote, "and then I ordered your book, and now I am reading my feelings, only they are yours."
"I just want to say thank you for writing it all down," she said. "I am truly enjoying your story and it feels so good to know that these feelings are real and they have meaning and other people feel them too."
Well. How can you not push everything farther back on the To Do list and immediately respond to such a missive?
I did immediately respond, thanking Sharon for her good words. "You can't imagine how much such a response means to an author," I wrote. "We labor pretty much alone, in silence, and wonder if anyone hears us. Thank you for saying that you have heard me."
Sharon responded with a follow-up e-mail, which I received this morning.
"As for Curlew: Home, it is wonderful," she wrote. This is an unsolicited testimonial, folks, the best kind. "I am only about 100 pages into it, but I am enjoying it so much. You capture the time, the traditions, the lay of the land."
"My husband and I spent some time in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1990," she wrote later on in the e-mail. "I had not been back to Wisconsin since leaving there for Illinois when I was 7. My parents, especially my mother, always said how terrible it was, dreary and cold and bland. When we drove into the state, I was stunned. I found it to be beautiful. It was probably March and the trees were still bare. The rolling hills and the farmland, I loved it all. I could not imagine what my mother was talking about."
Sharon noticed several things about us while she lived here, "things I understood from my deepest self."
One - "The work ethic tends to be huge. There was always fear of losing a job, lay-offs, plant closings, when I was a child.... I picked that up early in life and it stayed with me.... I saw it there in 1990. An insurance man who came to my house worked two jobs though he didn't have to.... He said his daughter did the same."
Two - "Then there is this popcorn thing.... When we lived in Madison, it was common to see men wearing three-piece suits walking along at lunch time with a bag of popcorn.... Fresh popcorn. It was different than any I've ever had, better. I have never been able to duplicate it."
Three - "Then, in one of your journal entries from 1998 - September, I believe - you speak of the seriousness of the people as they are going to work. It's so true. Life seems so serious there, if you don't pay attention to every moment you could lose your grasp of it." She has the same feeling in her own life.
"In any event," Sharon wraps up, "I want you to know how much I appreciate your writing of this book."
Sharon, I want you to know how much I appreciate your e-mails. As I've told you, writing is a pretty lonely profession, and whenever I get to engage a reader responding to me directly about my work, that is a terrific day. It happens, but not as often, perhaps, as one would like.
Folks, Curlew: Home is about this far from going out of print. Get yours now. Copies are still available at amazon.com here, or you can order it directly from me, as I have the publisher's remaining copies: $15.95 + $2 s&h = $17.95. Make check payable to: Tom Montag, PO Box 8, Fairwater, WI 53931. There is more information about the book here. If you want the author to sign your copy, let me know: I think I could talk him into it.