I give thanks each day for things that inspire, large or small, the gifts that come out of living my life. I will whisper my usual thanksgivings on the day designated for the act. I’ll give thanks for my family in general, my children and grandchildren in particular, for the glory of the seasons, clouds and wind and rain, and for all manner of living thing, from friend to flower.
But, this year, I burst with gratitude for the happy gift of story. I breathe stories, inhale and exhale them in a rush that I can only describe as delight. I read and I research, both fiction and non-fiction. And I write the facts and imaginings that grow out them. I am thankful for both.
Reading and listening give me joy; but writing pleasures me more. I feel a surge of happiness bubble up in me when a story unfolds on the page. I am thankful for it, and I am thankful to the authors, researchers, tableside talkers, the wonderers, joke-tellers, and big-screen directors who bring the stories to our feast. Selfish? Perhaps, but stories bless this world as much as clouds on the wind or rain to the ground. You’ll hear plenty of stories this week. Listen to them. Honor them. And tell one of your own.
Now a “thank you” excerpt from my just finished, still unpublished, book, based very loosely on the life of Jacob and Mary Croy:
… the family, sensing a story coming, a rarity from Jacob, adjusted in preparation.
“We were out on an early reconnoitering in the war, up on Savage Mountain, a part of the Allegany Ridge. Alexander and I were leading the patrol. We had stopped for a bit when I looked up and saw her, a panther, just relaxing there above us in a huge pine, staring down with those big yellow eyes. She was close, too, enough that you could see her tawny coat, all etched in black, and her paws opening and closing as she stretched out, lazy like.”
David, until now, disengaged and playing with a stick, came to life. “A panther, Pa? Like the one that dragged off our cow?”
Jacob chuckled and rubbed his son’s head. “Like that, but near enough to strike out. You see, the thing about a she-cat is that, with her belly full, she can be easy, not dangerous; but if she is hungry, if it’s her killing time, she might lash out at most anything, even a grown man leading his horse along, the way your grandad was doing.”
“Saw a cat once myself…” George said in an attempt to regain control of the conversation. But the family knew his ways, never listening but always plan what to say next, and drowning out the words of others. So they shushed him.
“What happened next?” Will asked. His brother and sisters adjusted themselves at their pa’s feet and waited.
“Well, we stayed still and watched her. After a bit it seemed she was contented enough that we needn’t worry. We were about to go quiet like and pass her by when some young recruit, Abe Parson, you remember him, Mary?”
“A reckless boy, I remember.”
“The same. He came roaring up, loud as ever, and that she cat panicked…and pounced.” He paused for obvious dramatic affect.
“And.” Margaret whispered.
“And…” He looked down at her, wide eyed. “I shot her.”
George, finally listening, shook his head. “So, ‘More than one way to kill a panther,’ humph.”
Jacob smiled. “I guess, but more important to me was that afterwards Alexander Hutton suggested I court his daughter.”
Mary was taken aback by the comment, not one she had ever heard. “It was my father who made that decision?”
Incredulous, she eyed him straight on, willing him to answer. He produced a smirking, half-hidden smile and looked down, his dark lashes shadowing the violet of his eyes. “To me, Mary Carter, killing a panther was nothing compared to you. You turned my knees to butter. Your father only eased me into what he knew I wanted most.”