It was 1996 when I received the gift of Perfection of the Morning from a friend. Sharyn had grown to mean so much to me over the years, having taught my children and worked along side me for the strength of Fine Arts in Education. Her gift was a blessing and I began to list Sharon Butala as one of my favourite authors. I felt Butala’s work really move my life forward in positive and meaningful ways. Interesting that yesterday, when I looked over my shoulder from the front of the crowded room at the Fish Creek CPL, I should see Sharyn sitting in the back row.
The book on the program for readings and discussion was Sharon Butala’s Where I Live Now. I was flanked on either side by two dear friends, Pat on one side and Denise on the other. I had never met the author and was beyond excited, packing up all of my books for Sharon’s generous signing before the session began. Because Denise knows Sharon personally, it felt as though I was sitting down next to a friend when she sat in the front row, with my stack in front of her.
This short post is a snapshot of the afternoon, not so much a personal book review, although as I’ve written on this blog since 2005, there are posts along the way that were impacted by my readings of Butala’s books…one being Wild Stone Heart and Other Matters.
The Globe and Mail review, written by Alix Hawley, eloquently expresses…
For all that, Where I Live Now isn’t a map of grief’s progress in the mode of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, to which it refers several times. Butala’s quiet and unusual book is an excavation of the Prairies, rural life and, above all, herself. She declares: “With this memoir, I hereby claim forever my portion of that country whose many layers … still resonate in my imagination.” She also claims an archeological knowledge of her own soul, now that she is in her mid-70s, and the right to take us through it. We’re lucky to go along.
And that is how I felt yesterday…blessed…enriched…treated to a very special moment on a Sunday afternoon. Sharon’s eyes lit up as she enthusiastically described her experiences on the ranch, her memories, transitions and disappointments. In good humoured and delightful fashion, she talked about the prizes of writing and the surprises of writing. Vulnerable, she spoke of loneliness, identity, and hope. The topics in discussion were ones that often cross my mind as a 62 year old woman, single in the world.
I think that one of my favourite moments, related to the book, was the recollection of the special day when Sharon edged the top of a ridge, to look down and see her husband, Peter, sleeping in the grass in one of the fields…I felt as though she had let us in to a very private and pivotal moment in her experience. I felt very touched by that.
I enjoy the company of my friends and treasured conversations with Denise, Pat and Sharyn. What a lovely way to spend Sunday afternoon. Thanks again, CPL.