ONE PERSON’S STORY

Ann Minnett MWW photo

By Ann Minnett

“The story of one person is the story of humanity.”
~Paul Coelho

Earlier this month my husband and I walked the grounds of the American Cemetery in Normandy France where 9,387 American military dead are buried. Some sections were open to the public to stroll between the markers and perhaps find lost loved ones. Although we had no family members to locate, the memorials, the beautiful setting, and pristine white markers moved us to silence. Each headstone listed the man’s name (4 women were buried there), service rank, home state, and date of death. I lingered over a few markers, concentrating on each man’s name as I zigzagged through the maze. It felt wrong to skip even one, and that’s when the impossible task of honoring all of them overwhelmed me.

D-Day markers

D-Day single headstone

I headed toward the central path, and there was a cross bearing the name of Raymond F. Eggers, TEC 5, from Oklahoma. Both sides of my family come from Oklahoma. I was born there. The enormity of war and killing and dying settled onto the headstone of this one young man who died in France 72 years ago. The fact of his grave stone touched me far more deeply than the enormous maps depicting American and British divisions landing on the beaches or parachuting into the countryside behind German lines or even the regimented rows of gravestones stretching in all directions.

Later, on our way through pastoral Normandy toward a seaside village up the coast, it dawned on me why one stranger’s grave stood out among the enormity of the events memorialized in the vast cemetery.

I could relate to the personal story of one man. His background. The loss of him.

And isn’t this where good authors excel? For readers the grand story emerges in telling the ‘small’ moment of one individual.

Enjoy your Memorial Day. Let us be grateful for those who came before and for those we touch today.

(Originally published May 20, 2016)

I Do All My Own Stunts, But Never Intentionally*

Ann Minnett MWW photo

 

By Ann Minnett

 

The title appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, posted by an ‘old’ friend. I resonated. 

I’m recovering from knee surgery (healing nicely) and had just purchased heavy duty ice cleats for my hiking boots. Northwest Montana is famous for winter ice, but I intend to keep moving, regardless of the weather. Hikes in all seasons are not only therapeutic for the soul but counteract the physical strains of writing.

Yes, writing.

Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy, spoke at the 2019 Flathead River Writer’s Conference. She talked about the physical stress writers experience by the act of writing. She’s had Carpal Tunnel surgeries on both wrists, developed from nonstop hours of writing. My fellow writers complain of shoulder pain, circulation problems, eyestrain, lower back pain, and my favorite, numb butt. 

I get it. When I’m writing and find my creative zone, it’s hard to stop, stand up, flex, bend, or take a walk. Health breaks disrupt the creative process. 

Recovering from surgery, I walk with a cane and try not to overdo my physical activity. Yesterday, I walked a bit outside and then sat at my desk for a couple of hours, forgetting to move. Ouch! I over did sedentary

That’s why I ordered the hiking cleats this morning. And that’s why my friend’s Facebook message hit home. I don’t have to hike five miles and slip on the ice to hurt myself. Writing, one of the most pleasurable activities of my life, can sneak up and bite me if I’m not careful.

Ann Minnett

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*Facebook.com/OldTimers Community

 

BUSYNESS VS. CALM

By Ann Minnett

I was driving down snow-covered Star Meadow Road Monday morning in a slight panic. I dug blindly in my bag for the list of Christmas gifts to buy and errands to complete in between yoga, a meeting at 11:30, dinner with a friend at 5:30 (we’re old), and finally another meeting at 6:30. Mustn’t forget to drop off my critique pages at Marie’s, I thought. Now where was that pen I stashed in the console…

I’m retired. We live near a resort town that currently looks like a tranquil Christmas card. How can I be this busy?

A huge bird—a golden eagle—flew over my car, filling the windshield and making me flinch. His flapping wings appeared jointed in five places each and nearly spanned the narrow road. He flew low and slowly in front of my moving car, hunting along Star

Star Meadow Road

Star Meadow Road – Photo courtesy of Mike Coleman

Meadow Road the way I’ve seen eagles follow rivers. We traveled at 30 mph, swooping downhill for a mile or more until he banked to the right, and I lost him in snow-laden pines. The busyness of my day fell away in the beat of his wings, towing me in the silence.

(Previously posted Dec 2014)

Who Was She?

By Ann Minnett

A black hole blocks me from the real story of my paternal third great grandmother (ggggrandma). Every other line in my family tree can be traced further back, mostly thanks to fastidious recordkeeping by Quaker ancestors.

But not ggggrandma Merritt or Merrett or Merett or Marat as it was sometimes spelled. I am obsessed with what little we know about her and who my ggggrandfather might have been. If you have plotted your own family tree, you know how difficult it can be to locate and follow the women who came before.

Here’s what we know about her:

·       Born in SC in 1810

·       Two sons born in north GA, 1832 & 1835

·       Listed as head of household 1840 – north GA 

·       Married a Mr. Lankton in 1844 – north GA

·       Widowed in 1868 and moved to Missouri to live with her son

Possible scenarios:

·       She was a Merritt and had two boys out of wedlock

·       She had two illegitimate sons by a man named Merritt but they never married

·       She married a Merritt, had two sons, was soon widowed, and remarried 

I would like to settle on one of the above and just let ggggrandma be, but I also feel honor-bound to get her story right. So, guess who is not writing or marketing her novels? Who has conducted endless Google searches and purchased reference books on daily life and customs in Antebellum Georgia? Who has lost days reading about The Indian Wars between Georgia pioneer militias and tribes that resulted in forced westward migrations of native populations? 

I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps what’s keeping me from writing domestic suspense will lead to my first novel of historical fiction.

 

Complex Lives of Local Characters

By Ann Minnett

I live in the mountains of NW Montana, twenty miles from a tourist town. My small town used to be known for logging and then became a railroad town, but the impact of those industries has waned. Our economy relies upon visitors, mostly in winter and summer, who come to enjoy our great outdoors. Construction, service industries, restaurants and bars, outdoor exploration, and retail shops keep this valley buzzing.

best sunshine 3 orange and pink

Sunrise in the Last Best Place

Thirty years ago, I was one of those tourists. I fell in love with this area and returned for vacations at least once every year for two decades. We bought property early on, finally built a house in 2009, and followed through on a promise to ourselves to live here fulltime.

 

 

 

We’ve lived here year-round for eight

31517h

Courtesy: Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau

years. We love sharing Montana with friends and family and have no thoughts of leaving. While dreams do come true, I’ve thought a lot about the differences between visiting a place and residing there. In all those years of playing outdoors and eating hearty meals and shopping for souvenirs, I paid scant attention to the lives of everyday residents.

 

The ‘locals’ in my picturesque hometown—those with complicated, embedded lives–are the rich characters I write about. I’ve come to know them through writing groups (everyone has a book or a poem in them), advocacy for abused and neglected children, drug/alcohol recovery in this valley, and toe-in-the-water political activism. The hairdressers, shopkeepers, wait staff, once existed to tend to the Tourist Me. Now I see them juggle childcare and work, try to find affordable housing while earning minimum wage, work one or two seasonal jobs, find time to play, and cling to the values of their grandparents, all while rubbing shoulders with billionaires or just the moderately rich.

Fifteen Years of Lies FINAL EBOOK COVERMy third novel, Fifteen Years of Lies, recounts the story of three local friends—a housekeeper, hairdresser, and owner of an auto repair shop—and the wealthy stranger who comes to town to threaten their lives. My forthcoming fourth novel, tentatively entitled Me Between Them, also takes place here. Long story short: A middle-aged widow fights to keep her family together and her grandchildren safe from domestic violence despite a daughter-in-law’s vicious lies and her husband’s revelations from the grave.

I hope you’ll visit NW Montana. If and when you do, enjoy! but notice the locals you meet. Sometimes they have the most remarkable lives.

~ Ann

Ann Minnett MWW photo