Monday, August 30, 2010

Essay Earns Award

We’ve attended the Routt County Fair since our children were young. It is as much a celebration of the season as of community. Over the years Andy and Cassidy looked forward to spending the better part of a week with 4-H friends and families: showing horses, swine, steers, rabbits, and poultry. I also enjoyed preparing canned or baked goods and participating in the Home Arts show. Some years a loaf of bread would actually turn out well enough I thought it would pass a judge’s muster; and other years, I left it at home. I would perennially marvel at the handiwork, craftsmanship, and artistry that, in our contemporary world seem to be disappearing: beautiful canned peaches, meats, pickles; beautifully shaped loaves of bread; meticulously stitched quilts; plentiful cabbage, zucchini, squashes, tomatoes, and herbs; and some years a large variety of cut flowers and well-tended arrangements.

I haven’t entered every year, but now and then I enjoy participating. This year I took my raspberries, my newly produced photographic note cards, and two of my essays: “Gifts of the Harvest” and “My Grandfather’s Footsteps,” both essays included in my memoir, At Home in the Elk River Valley. To my surprise, “My Grandfather’s Footsteps” was awarded the Reserve Grand Champion Overall Adult Art Exhibit. The Grand Champion Award went to a metal sculptor who created a horse out of horseshoe nails, thousands of nails. I marveled at his welding feat.

Viewing my ribbon and the judge’s few comments; I wondered what had truly resonated with the judge. Was it the story? Was it the writing? Was there something familiar in the judge’s family history? I believe writers, for the most part, like to know what stirs the reader. When a reader shares what resonated, I believe the act of writing comes to full fruition. It is then, when a writer connects with a reader, the act of writing offers its fullest satisfaction. So, while I’ll never know what exactly stirred the judge, I will take satisfaction in simply knowing he or she was moved by a story of an immigrant who steadily found his way west and in doing so, found a place and community of support, in which to raise and nurture his family.

Leaving the exhibit hall that afternoon, I imagined I and the other exhibitors, experienced a sense of our existence in sharing what we had created or nurtured in our kitchens, gardens, or workshops. Entering our creations offered not only an opportunity to participate in community, but offered the opportunity to be known through the products we brought to life.

To read “My Grandfather’s Footsteps,” go to:

Also, watch for the official release of my “At Home in the Elk River Valley” Note Cards. Coming soon! Great for birthdays, family and friends, and upcoming holiday gift-giving.

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