It started out with a hole in our hearts. There were peaks and valleys that have followed since.
Our lives will never be the same following the unnecessary loss of our friend (Dana’s best friend) Alissa Reynolds. Outside family, she was the person who walked through our front door most frequently, the person I called to consult on just about every gift for Dana, and she worked for me in two different capacities as an advertising manager. We loved Alissa, and there are still moments that are almost too much to comprehend.
I spent most of early 2020 planning our Tranquility Base Retreat for Writers & Thinkers beginning with our Phase 1 lodge. We dug the footings in early March and finished up the last details in October. It is a beautiful 6-acre parcel of land smack dab in vast Ozark Mountain valley with 500 feet of White River frontage. It is the place I always dreamed about. Quiet. Secluded. A place where a man can go and think, or enjoy a great day with family and never see another soul. TB is my place for peace and joy.
It was a major milestone year for each of my three children. Adam completed med school, and is now in residency as an ER doctor at UAMS in Little Rock. Emma entered her second year as director of the Jonesboro Public School Performing Arts Center. She encountered major adjustments in her work this year. After blowing the lid off her ACT, Sophie entered pre-med study at Arkansas State with a full ride. These are the kind of “kids” you pray for. Amazing in every way.
After the discovery that we enjoy some of the most fertile soil in the world here off the banks of the White River, I created a garden of about 1/5 an acre. With my new bee hobby nearby, it produced massive quantities of produce and I canned, pickled and froze garden vegetables for a solid two months. I’ve expanded the size for next year’s garden by about 4 times. When will I ever learn?
An unexpected opportunity popped up in early fall when I mentioned to a longtime friend and editor of the local Mountain View paper that I’d be open to helping out from time to time. Lori Freeze and I go back to at least 1986 when we shared responsibilities at the college newspaper. As it turned out, a longtime employee was off with a new baby the timing was right, and I now work there about 32 hours a week. It’s been a joy getting back into the journalism world. Outside family, it’s what I know and love most.
Dana spends part time helping me with my publishing operation and she also works as business manager for the Arkansas Crafts School in Mountain View. The flexible nature of our jobs allows us to travel frequently back and forth between Mountain View and Jonesboro checking on parents and visiting with children.
On October 1, I published The King of Highbanks Road, actually four versions of that book – a hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook. It became an Amazon #1 New Release five hours after it launched. There was also a companion cookbook. The process of writing that memoir was an incredible journey into my past, and mostly helped me learn more about why I am the way I am, not to mention giving me an all-new appreciation for the rural landscape where I grew up.
We continue to maintain a home in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, which for obvious reasons, has not been seen in more than a year. I’m getting the hankering for some hammock time back there at Latitude 1 South.
We’ve both had COVID now. Thank goodness they were relatively modest cases. My heart breaks for families with more serious situations, especially those who’ve lost older loved ones in long-term care facilities where the visits were few and far between.
It has been a year for spiritual growth, though I’ve not attended church since January. I’ll write a book next year about the Bible-Belt church and its impact on believers like me. I’ll also write a book about my life of storytelling in the mass media.
We’re not complaining. It’s been a busy, sometimes exhausting year. But we are blessed with family and friends around the world, and can’t wait to hug your neck the next time we see you.
Via con Dios, for now.
One favor request: There are several contact forms at various places on this blog site. I’m building an all-important email list for next year for newsletter distribution and other purposes. It’s the biggest favor you can do me right now. Many thanks for your consideration.
Steve, I love your writing. It puts me right in the kitchen with Mama Steele, or over at your parents’ house for dinner. I hope you continue to post your writings for that little newspaper. It’s like turning to the back of Southern Magazine to read Rick Bragg’s latest essay. You are one talented guy.