Tough. It’s a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, as I find myself in conversation after conversation with wonderful, inspiring people over what it means to be tough.
The past two weeks in Wyoming have been an awesome hurricane of readings, book selling, interviews and writing workshops. Coming up against those Sublette County mountains – my mountains, I am proud to claim – is nothing short of spectacular. Experiencing a Wyoming fall in all its glory was a blessing unmatched – it’s only fair to say I get homesick when the quivering leaves of a yellowing quaking aspen put tears in my eyes.
Selling a book, this piece of art that has been so close to me for the past four years, is a tremendous and rewarding feeling, it is. But the best part? The best part has been being in conversation with people, real people with dynamic lives and hearts tuned into what really matters. Real people with lives much different than mine. Real people with unique perspectives of what it means to be tough.
I think of Ashta, the 69-year-old woman from West Virginia who I met in a Jackson Hole bookstore. One day away from her 70th birthday, she told me how she planned to celebrate her special day in the Tetons, her sister and son by her side. She likened “tough” to “strong,” thinking on the term from the perspective of a woman, a mother. That we draw strength from the most unexpected places sometimes.
And there’s Paul, who walks with a cane now and recalled his days driving cattle with my grandfather before sunrise on an old local ranch. He’s lived in Sublette County his whole life, save for one month, the month he was born so many decades ago.
And there are the two women I met at the Rock Springs library who own property up near Sublette County’s Warren Bridge. One of them was taking her grandson bowling the afternoon I gave a reading. Still, she made time to stop in and buy a book. The slight woman who has lived in Rock Springs since 1946 and loves to collect as much information, hear as many stories as she can about the region where Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood takes place.
These people, these conversations, are the bread and butter of what I do. I write, yes, but writing would be meaningless without people to share it with.
At its base, writing is about communication. My reward for writing is the communication that gets returned, those individuals who stick around long enough to go a bit deeper, who take the time to share with me their own perspectives.
Part of life’s beauty is the way we meet each other at our various points along life’s path, the opportunities to share our unique views with one another.
The book sales have been outstanding. Exciting, rewarding, completely worth smiling about. But those conversations? They are the real icing on the cake.
So? What’s your perspective? How has the concept of “tough” played out in your life?