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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What the Dickens?

The photo is from Barnados, a childrens charity in London in the 19th century. 


Argh! I have a new phone because the old one stopped staying charged plus a few more foibles. My phone cost $400 five years ago so it makes sense that it stopped working reliably, right? If an appliance worked like this we would burn that manufacturer to the ground.

Swan Story


I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s writing lately and I have decided there is too much to read. Much of it is very good but there is JUST TOO MUCH!

So my goal going forward is to write shorter posts, more often, that might remind you of the glory, power, and goofiness of your life as well as mine.

So, let me say again what’s always very true. Thank you for reading what I write.


About My Memorial Day Story


Today my story ‘Memorial Day’ is posted at Substack. Read it here. 

Courage, Big & Little



I’m writing fiction this week. I started a story in December that, along the way, turned into a Memorial Day story. It will be my Substack story this Saturday.

This morning I looked for an old newspaper column to rerun and found this one about a time when one of our kids needed to have four teeth pulled.

Cholesterol Numbers & Squirrels


Years ago I was out to dinner with friends. We were all just entering our 40’s and thus were all beginning to get the fun medical tests about this and that and cholesterol. I said, to a friend next to me, that I’d started eating oatmeal everyday for breakfast and my cholesterol had dropped …..

The room went silent.

Everyone heard “cholesterol dropped” and stopped speaking. Everyone wanted to hear how much it had dropped – which was about 8 points. In our twenties the conversation stopper was gossip about sex. Now the secret sauce was HDL and LDL

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