Mary Beth Writes

Years ago Len took this photo of a lone coyote. 


I just finished rereading Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News. Boy oh boy do I love her writing.

The story asks this. How do people who were damaged by their childhoods find purpose, meaning, and love as adults? Good question, huh?

The story is set in Newfoundland and there is danger everywhere. High rocky cliffs, terrible weather, worse-than-terrible weather, slippery roads that occasionally have a surprise moose standing in them. People who drink too much who shouldn’t drink at all. The mighty, treacherous north Atlantic crisscrossed by currents that can pull a boat out to sea or crash it against submerged or barely submerged rocks or smash it into towering cliffs. Also, Newfoundland has close-to-shore icebergs sailing past Try not to run into them in the fog.

Quoyle, the main character, was raised in abuse. In his 20’s he married an awful woman who gave birth to two daughters whom Quoyle loves with every fiber of his being. Things happen, he ends up in Newfoundland. He encounters all of the above dangers and nearly lose his life. But the most dangerous thing of all is that he begins to love the community around him. He falls in love with a particular woman and her son. He has to change how he see the world and how he thinks about himself. He has to accept himself as a worthy person.

The book is not a romance novel. It is about what scares you and what doesn’t. It’s about danger and salvation and where you find each of those powerful and ephemeral realities.

Some of are drawn to danger. Some pay money to ride rollercoasters and ziplines.

Some of us (me) get nervous making a left-hand turn.

Many of us love shows where actors face bad guys, guns, disasters, and animals that growl in the night.

Some of us double knot our shoelaces and make dental appointments six months in advance.

Why are we drawn to pre-managed danger such as amusement parks and movies and willfully driving too fast for conditions? Why do we avoid actual (or imagined) danger it so energetically? Such as always walking in groups, or driving cars the size of tanks, or folks who swear they will never go alone into a forest or a city?

A-n-d … as I write this our kid who lives in a nice neighborhood in Chicago is in her apartment with the alarm on because a guy a block from where she lives just shot two dogs and then barricaded himself in his apartment and – she says – there are sooooo many cop cars. And a helicopter.

This is her cat Frank who is monitoring the situation.

Danger pulls us out of the fog we live in. We listen and see more than usual. Danger wakes us up. Danger blows the to-do lists out of our minds. Danger reminds us that we are vulnerable. Danger is a wakeup call.

Danger is exhausting. People who live in tents in refugee camps live in danger. Their adrenaline is always running. They are edgy, scared, tired, spent. So are medical care givers in hospitals and clinics overrun with need and criticism. So are teachers with needy kids and toxic citizens running their mouths, inventing requirements that take forever to comply with and make no sense. So are we when people we care about are at risk. When we can’t fix things we once could fix. When we are weary and spent.

Danger is everywhere. It can wake us up. It can empty us of our resources, energy, patience, and compassion.

But, danger we survive becomes our path forward.

(About the 2001 movie of The Shipping News. It was dumb. This is a powerful and visual story taking place against the gorgeous isolation of Newfoundland. Every character is memorable; some are still dealing with damage caused by abuse and sexual assault against them when they were kids. So, oh the irony! The lead actor was played by Kevin Spacey. Like they say, you can’t make this stuff up.)






I need to read this book you so beautifully described. I hope too your kiddie and her cat are feeling more secure tonight.
Mary Beth's picture

I have a text into her and will let you all know when the coast is clear! Thank you,
Mary Beth's picture

Note to Everybody: She says they got the guy and the neighborhood is quiet again.

Like you a have reread "the Shipping News.' Such a good book. For the past years, I have the feeling that Danger is lurking...hate it. Work hard to abate it. Enjoying your series. Take care. Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you, Patricia. I feel the danger lurking, Maybe it's because we've seen so much that we thought would turn around and get better .. not turn around. Kept sailing for the rocks. Last night I donated modestly to the White Helmets in Syria - and it will help them a tiny bit and helped me a lot. As you know, generosity seems to be the main way we can fight the danger that is out there.

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Cats Again (Lost In Racine)


Because I now have my Substack site where I can publish my stories, its more exciting to write fiction. I’m working on a story now.

Meanwhile, here’s a newspaper column of yore. If you like cats, you will probably like it. If you don’t like cats, well, you are missing a lot of grace, humor, and vacuuming opportunities.

We don’t currently want to adopt new cats, but since we’ve now lived with twelve of the world’s finest, we are rich in memories that make us laugh.

Len’s Birthday


Last week I mentioned that Monday of this week would be Len’s birthday. A friend remarked to me ever so kindly later that day, “I thought his birthday was the 30th?”

It is. Len’s birthday is the 30th. This same friend has commented to me, over the years, about how much I remember.

Covid Diary #1350 Thanksgiving


Today is 1350 days since the that March Friday in 2020 when we all went into quarantine.

Today is 60 years since JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963. I remember that day, so does Len, so do many of you. Here’s a scary truth. We are as far today from that day – as that day was from the Wright brother’s first flight at Kitty Hawk on Dec 17, 1903.

Quarantine Diary #1349 Sci-Fi & Prophecy


We both took Covid tests this morning and both of us still have pink lines. I asked the internet what this means and it says I might be pregnant.

I have a call into my doctor’s office to discuss. I feel so much better that if I didn’t know I have Covid, I wouldn’t know it. I’ve been sicker than this after too much pie.

Covid Diary #1347


A few of you might realize yesterday we were 1345 days since March 13, 2020, and today we’re at 1347. Yup, I used a different calculator. Just a fun reminder that precision depends as much on asking the right question as doing perfect math.

I’m in day #4 of having Covid. No more chills. I have a fever of 100.4 which is more impressive than the 100.2 that Len achieved on his Day #4.  I’m taking various OTC meds and I keep track of them in my phone’s notes because, wow, it’s so easy to have no memory of the last time one took something. I’m good. Enough.

Covid Diary #1345


I thought I was done with the Covid Diary but guess what? Len and I caught Covid this week! Actually, Covid caught us. We have continued to wear masks in stores, library, meetings, and our church so we will never know for sure where Len encountered Covid. And since I got it four days later, I guess we know where I got it…

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