I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
July 1, 2022: Kirie Pedersen
Every day, I marvel that I get to live almost without sounds of civilization here adjoining the Olympic National Park, where I was born and still live on the same property. Instead, I sleep to the sound of waves on the cliff (May through October when I sleep in a tent right on the cliff), and eagles, seals, great blue herons, and myriad other birds in the wildlife sanctuary I left/created around my cabin built mostly of repurposed materials.
For those of you who don’t know her from the delightful comments she leaves after reading essays in this series, meet Kirie Pedersen. She’s published essays, non-fiction, and fiction in more than fifty literary and general interest magazines. More than fifty. I became aware of her writing because she read a story of mine back in 2013, came looking for me, found Catching Days, and left a comment. The excerpt above is from a letter she wrote me in 2019, when we were talking about our days.
I’m obsessed with where Kirie lives and where she writes. In a wonderful 2017 interview over at The Magnolia Review, Kirie describes her writing spot.
I work in a 10×12 foot hut I call Eagle Cottage because bald eagles nest nearby, and they cackle as I write. Eagle Cottage was repurposed from a 1924 schoolhouse that was being demolished… [It] is lined with journals, poetry, plays, novels, short stories, and books on writing craft. Close beside me are jars of colored pencils and fountain pens.
In that interview, you’ll find more lovely details about her process and her materials, and her Artist Chicken!
Kirie has lived a fascinating life. Earlier this year, I read a piece by her, entitled “Finding Pulali,” which was published in Sunspot Literary Journal. This piece is about where and how she grew up. Before I read it, I didn’t know what Pulali was.
Pulali Point sits pretty much in the middle of the Olympic Peninsula and is itself a small peninsula jutting into Dabob Bay, Hood Canal, and Jackson Cove. The geological formation itself dates from the Eocene Era and is about forty million years old.
I could spend this entire introduction talking about this one piece that is alive with form. Here’s the beginning.
For a graduate workshop, I entitled this “Essay in Twelve Genres.” Feedback: The word genre is phony, unnecessary, and insufficiently ironic, a pretension by someone fancying herself intellectual. I was, they suggested, using genre to seal myself up and be safe.
I too was concerned by the word, but it is the idea that disturbs me. When I try to write about Pulali, I grope for a form that captures my birthplace, my home. I attempt essay, dream, play, story. Word made manifest. Word made flesh.
Kirie had a hard time when each of her parents died in a two-year period while she was living across the country, far away from this world, on the opposite coast in Manhattan. In “In a Dark Time,” she wrote about the despair and depression she suffered and how she brought herself back from it. This essay was snapped up by The Magnolia Review, prompting the interview mentioned above. “In a Dark Time” received the Ink Award, for being the piece that unified the entire issue. It also received a Pushcart nomination. The excerpt below shows the mind/body connection in a number of ways.
My previous despair returned full-force, and perhaps due to the depleted immune response grief can cause, a tooth abscessed, and I developed debilitating back pain. I’d tried my list of non-drug cures that final year of my mother’s life, but my practice was desultory. Now, flattened by physical and emotional pain, I became determined to survive.
If you’re looking for a peak into Kirie’s fiction, check out “Liberating Life,” a flash piece from Glossalalia, with an ending that just keeps echoing out… Here’s an excerpt from the middle.
In Buddhism, Paul said, there was a ceremony called Liberating Life. The monks gathered animals scheduled for slaughter, and they freed them. When the Mormons purchased a live turkey for Thanksgiving, the turkey wandered around the yard. Melissa asked Paul if they could purchase the turkey and talk the Mormons into buying one already killed.
The Mormons agreed, and the turkey moved to the Buddhist side of the fence.
This essay, “Getting a Life–Coming of Age with Killers,” which was published in Under the Sun and which received a Notable Mention in The Best American Essays 2018, is a personal look at growing up in the same place in which Ted Bundy was murdering women. It’s also a solid piece of journalism about what was actually happening, as well as the realities of the death penalty. Here’s the first sentence, which starts with the personal.
“Ted got Brenda,” my sister said.
And here’s one more excerpt from the beginning so you can get a sense of how the journalistic voice mixes with the personal.
In my early twenties, every three or four weeks a peer in her late teens or early twenties disappeared. Brenda, a year behind me at Mt. Ranier High School, was number six. The women vanished from streets I’d walked that same day, from beaches where my friends and I sat to tan, from beds just blocks from my own, and from the campuses of the universities my sisters, friends, and I attended.
Kirie’s essay “Saving Paradise,” published in the beautiful Still Point Artists Quarterly in 2017, will be of special interest to those who love places that are disappearing.
The last thing on earth I wanted was to walk to the front of that room, but if I didn’t say something, I would forever lose my chance. “I propose preservation of Meadowdale as a wilderness,” I murmured into the microphone, voice thin and shaking. “A walking-only park where children can learn about the environment.”
Kirie earned an M.A. in fiction writing from Western Washington University, where Annie Dillard (!) was her thesis chair. Kirie also loves the writing of Ellen Gilchrist, another favorite of mine. She’s taught writing for gifted and talented inner-city students, elders, and others. Washington State commissioned and published her Writing Handbook for Teachers and Tutors (published in Spanish and English) and Teaching Creative Writing Using Native American Songs and Myths. Please check out her website–I love how she introduces each new publication with a few words about the piece and about the journal where it’s published. P.S. Click on the little white lines in the upper right to subscribe to her publication updates!
Come back on JULY 1st to read how KIRIE PEDERSEN spends her days.