Linda Neale's Blog

Women Writing the West

Linda Neale - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Women Writing the West is a nonprofit organization of professionals writing and promoting the Women's West http://www.womenwritingthewest.org/. Members' stories are set in the Western United States — past and present — but WWW considers the "West" as more than a geographic location. The West represents a way of thinking, a sense of adventure, a willingness to cross into a new frontier.  WWW is open to men as well as women. I'm here in Lynnwood Washington at their annual conference -- about 150 writers who write fiction and nonfiction, adult and youth stories, about any topic related to the West.   I'm listening, learning, selling a few books.  The Power of Ceremony doesn't quite fit comfortably into any WWW category, although it might be called "creative nonfiction."  More typical is the book by Evelyn Searle Hess, To The Woods: Sinking Roots, Living Lightly, and Finding True Home, or a "romantic suspense" by Mary Trimble about a working cattle ranch near Mt. St. Helens in 1980 entitled Tenderfoot.

 

Yet even here people talk about the need for ceremony in our culture.   Ellen Waterston, the founder of The Nature Of Words http://www.thenatureofwords.org/ in Bend spoke of it in her keynote address when she referred to the closing of a sawmill that was the main industry in a small Oregon logging town.  "On September 9, 1993 a Crown Pacific 'memo to employees' announced that the last large log would be processed through the mill that day at noon, signaling the final closure of that portion of mill operations.  The informal plan was to allow each station operator the opportunity to perform their task one last time -- loader, trimmer, debarker, scaler, sawyer, edger, filer, green chain, stacker and planer.  It is not clear whether the mill management realized how important this impromptu ceremony would prove to be.  Western corporate culture isn't known for recognizing the need for riturals -- to celebrate beginnings, to give thanks, to grieve endings."

 

I'm finding that lawyers, writers, mothers, physicians, and people from every walk of life are becoming aware of how we have been cut off from a ceremonial life.  We long to return, to have a deeper connection to all that is. In unexpected places, people are talking about it.  They just don't know how to do it.  It's an exciting time.

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