Season of Thanks

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One of many reasons to give thanks this year: the Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience Program.

2014 started as a rough year, but it’s shaping up to roll out nicely. I’m talking on a personal level, of course. How you judge things on the regional, national, and international scene might be a different story altogether.

But in the small universe of my own life, I have much to be thankful for. Even the trials we had, in the long run, have proven rewarding experiences.

Today as I prepare to join my family for our annual turkey feast, I want to take a moment to reflect on some of the important people and big events this year that have made me thankful in many ways.

For professional and financial reasons, in 2013 my husband and I made the very painful decision that we would have to live in different countries for the time being. Needless to say, this was a source of extraordinary stress for me. Now, looking back on 2014, I am deeply thankful for the means and opportunities that we have had to enjoy each other’s company, despite the distance that has separated us on a day-to-day basis. I am also thankful that our love for each other has seen it through this latest trial, and shows no sign of abating as we look toward the new year. We will be together this Christmas season, and we have much to celebrate.

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With my husband Rafael and my editor Eric at the launch party for High Maga. Just a few weeks before, we didn’t know whether the book would be released on schedule, much less whether Eric would be there to see it.

Early in 2014, my editor and good friend Eric T. Reynolds suffered a massive stroke. As days and weeks passed, and he continued in critical condition, many of us wondered whether we’d ever have Eric back with us again. This Saturday, I’ll be joining Eric and his family to celebrate his birthday – the birthday that almost wasn’t. I couldn’t be more grateful for this, to have him not only with us, but well on the road to recovery, working hard at rehabilitation, and blessed with the same joyful and fighting spirit that has always made him uniquely Eric.

Eric’s stroke gave me an unexpected opportunity to step inside Hadley Rille Books, as I was called upon and willingly gave my time to help keep the press afloat in his absence. Despite the very difficult circumstances under which all this happened, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work closely with Terri-Lynne DeFino and Kim Vandervort, fellow magas and sisters in writing, to accomplish something none of us were quite sure we could accomplish. Thanks to their help and support, High Maga was released on schedule; Eolyn came out in audio book over the summer, and High Maga is due to be released in audio any day now. And that’s just my stuff. Terri and Kim also put out multiple audio books, launched an indiegogo campaign, and as Eric has gotten back into things, have put into motion the release of another new publication, Harriet Goodchild’s After the Ruin. It’s been a TOUGH year for Hadley Rille Books, but also a year that I think has shown us what we are made of. And we’re made of some good stuff.

The other BIG item on my thank you list: the opportunity to co-coordinate the 2014 Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE) Program at Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica. For this I am deeply indebted to fellow maga and kindred spirit Barbara Dugelby, easily one of the best supervisors I have worked with, and a woman to be admired on many levels. We had the most amazing group of mentors and students this year, and a top-notch staff to boot. More than a program or a research experience, this was a community, my family for eight weeks, and once in a while I still miss them dearly. I carry them, and the very rich experiences that we shared, in my heart everywhere.

This fall at Avila University, I at last realized my dream of teaching Ecology Through the Writers Lens, a course that integrates scientific and literary modes of inquiry in understanding natural ecosystems. Dr. Amy Milakovic and I took a group of eleven students to Konza Prairie, a breathtaking tall grass prairie reserve and biological station near Manhattan, Kansas. There we enjoyed three days of a truly transformative experience. The students will be presenting their final creative projects based on this experience in just a couple weeks, and these promise to be as diverse and exciting as the prairie itself.

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Soaking up the inspiration at World Fantasy with Stephen Gould, Julia Dvorin, and Terri-Lynne DeFino.

The last 10-12 weeks of 2014 have been about reunions. My brother came through Kansas City for a brief visit late in October; on the heels of that weekend good friend and fellow Rice alumna Martha Carey (also a maga!) visited my home. November started off with a weekend at the World Fantasy Convention, where I caught up with Terri-Lynne DeFino, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year and a half, although we had worked intensively together over the spring and the summer. I also met up that weekend with another good friend, Suzanne Hunt, who lives and works in Washington D.C. as an environmental policy consultant. Shortly thereafter, thanks to financial support from Avila, I was able to attend a World Health conference in Costa Rica, with the added perk of seeing my husband after several months of separation. This string of happy reunions is set to continue through the end of December, and for that I am most thankful.

Last but not least, I am thankful for the renewed inspiration that has marked recent weeks. The World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C., fired up my imagination. That along with a string of extraordinarily good books has me moving forward again on Daughter of Aithne, which I hope to finish early next year, with an eye toward publication in late 2015. The World Health Conference at the University of Costa Rica has renewed my resolve to make a positive difference in this world – a reflection that merits its own blog post, and to which I will be returning in the coming weeks.

That is my year in brief. I have a break coming up this holiday season, and I’d say I’ve earned it. 😉  But so has everyone else who helped make this such an amazing year. A simple thank you is not enough, but that’s what I have to give. I am so blessed to have such an extraordinary group of friends, colleagues, and family. May the holidays bring you many blessings, and may those blessings carry into the new year and beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone!

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Our intrepid explorers – biologists and writers – at Konza Prairie.

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