Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Introducing Atticus & Will's Emporium!


This is a fun day for us!

Several years ago, when our friends Bryan and Suzanne Flagg created a side business making t-shirts and coffee mugs, I teamed up with them to bring Atticus and Will products to our readers. It was a sporadic venture. Now and then we’d come up with a new design, announce it on our Facebook page and our friends were flooded with so many orders and nearly put them out of business. 



After Bryan and Suzanne moved on from making t-shirts and coffee mugs, the demand for Atticus and Will gear remained. However, no matter how hard I looked, I could not find an online store that offered the quality of the mugs and t-shirts we first sold. On top of that, Bryan and Suzanne offered personalized care that is rare to find in contemporary times. 



Now, all these years later, I’m proud to announce a partnership with Stull’s Country Store in Andyville, Kentucky. 

Marlinda and Kim have breathed new life into the little country store in the middle of nowhere. It’s become such a destination, Samwise and I stopped there for a “Will’s Red Coat” book event last summer on our way home from distant travels. It remains one of my favorite events over the past seven years.



Today we are proud to announce the birth of Atticus & Will’s Emporium, an online store offering some of our old favorite products along with a few new ones. This will be a constant online presence, and new items will be added from time to time. 



Now you’ll have to bear with us in the beginning stages since this is new to us and we have no idea how much product will be needed. So today we begin with a soft opening for the next two weeks. Once you head to Atticus and Will’s Emporium, you will see what we are offering, and you’ll notice a “Click Here for Ordering Info” button. When you hit it you’ll see the following:
“We would like for you to take a look at the Emporium and tell us what you think and if you would be interested in ordered something when we go live. If so, please email us the items (sizes, colors, quantity, etc.) at stullscountrystore@bbtel.com  so we can get an idea of what our inventory our first order may look like!”



(A note: the t-shirts are the same excellent quality we used before. Those who already own them can attest to how comfortable they are. Also, make sure you click on the t-shirt photos to see the back of them as well.)

This will give Stull’s an understanding of how many of each product they need to stock in the beginning while at the same time taking your first orders. Because this venture is new, we’re taking baby steps that will grow into a smooth operation. 




In the past, a portion of the profits was donated to worthwhile organizations. That will remain the case going forward. However, we won’t be limiting it just to animal rescue. Donations will be considered to other non-profits that help land and environmental issues or those that help people in need as well. 




This is a long time coming, but it’s been worth the wait to find another partnership I trusted. I believe you’ll love dealing with Stull’s Country Store and their old-fashioned ways as much as I do. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Leaning Into a New Season

April on the Will Moses calendar.
One of my favorite possessions is the calendar above my desk, illustrated by Will Moses. The scenes depict villages both rustic and charmed. They are images you can fall into through a daydream. April shows Butterfly Meadow. A spring scene glows in pastels, with people in the doorways of their cottages and barns. The grass is pale green, the trees only beginning to leaf out. Quilts are being aired on the clothesline, and children are at play in the fields, chasing butterflies. Cows and horses meander through the print as it fades into the distance with quaint houses leading to a nubble of a hill set against a flotilla of cotton ball clouds in a baby blue sky. 



Each day I visit the places Will Moses creates. I imagine the lives of the townsfolks and animals. I think about the shutters and the shingles of the picturesque homes. He captures the seasons well and invites us into another time. It is folksy and laidback, not a hint of volatility. Although the artist lives in New York, not too far from the Vermont border, the thing that comes to mind is the motto adopted by the Maine Office of Tourism, “The way life should be.”



Although the calendar does not match up to what I currently see outside my window, and butterflies are closer to two months away here in the mountains of New Hampshire, this morning’s walk through the woods was a similar visit to a world most will never see again, just because they no longer look for it. 





Ice is fading from Evermore Pond. Less than half is covered by a paper-thin counterpane.  The fields are even more uncovered, with last year’s life soggy and still sleeping. The nights still get cold, the days have yet to get warm. Daily, the thermometer stretches toward fifty as the sun luxuriates early in the afternoon sky. 





Although the trails are a combination of mud and pockmarked snow and ice, groundlings scurry about the woodland. Samwise and Emily playfully give chase. The rule is they are allowed that much, but not to kill. So far we have not had to worry about that. 



Overhead we first heard the riveting of a pileated woodpecker tapping out its territory. Then we saw his dramatic beating flight and both my young friends looked skyward when he cried out in song. Blue jays screeched to their neighbors, but even their cacophony is music to me. Chickadees flitted, coming close enough to touch. They captured Emily’s manic attention, and her head turned almost mechanically to every movement. Back in the trees surrounding the mushy field, crows called to one another. 


When a half-dozen Canada geese sang in approach to Evermore Pond, Samwise and Emily hurried along the path and stood on the water’s edge to see the uniform splash landing. 


By the time I caught up with them, the geese were equally curious about Samwise and Emily. Instead of paddling away, they drew closer. Samwise sat, as is his nature, but Emily has a way to go when it comes to just watching. It wasn’t thirty seconds before she bounded off along the pond’s edge looking for a stick to play with.




Where we are today is very different from a year ago. Back then it was only Samwise and me. “Will’s Red Coat” was nearing its launch in hardcover. Three weeks of busy touring was to be followed by two months on the road seeing the country. Of course, Emily would arrive in our home in late October, and in January we headed south for half of the winter. 



That was a lot of traveling for a fellow who had never taken a road trip before. 


Even though I long to see the bison again, and visit the places we missed out on, there are different goals for this year. Two books are underway: another memoir and my first novel. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the task of making up names of characters and places. The town I’m creating is not all that different from what one would find in a Will Moses painting.





While mostly staying put, we’ll get away to Stowe at least twice this year. I look forward to introducing Emily to the places Atticus, and I trekked throughout the years and showed to Samwise as well. They do land management well in Stowe, and there are numerous areas to let my friends run free. I’ve have come to think that while North Conway is an excellent place, Stowe is pretty close to perfection.





As Emily matures, I notice how much growth comes from osmosis. We don’t do much training. Nothing formal really. By being around Samwise and me throughout the day, she is developing and coming to terms with rights and wrongs. It may not always seem it during the more trying moments of puppyhood, yet I remind myself that this is only her six month with us. 


She realizes that no one is going to rob her of her willfulness, but at the same time, there’s no need to exercise it as often as she does. Throughout the day she reminds that what she wants most is what we all long for – to belong. Occasionally, though, she needs a nudge to help her get to that point. 





As I write this, Samwise is at his post in the bedroom, sitting up watching the birds and groundlings in the backyard from the foot of the bed. He is a keen observer. Emily is under my desk, sleeping with her head atop my foot while her front paws wrapped around my leg. I stir slightly before standing up, to give her warning. We seem to have perfected this part of it so that she does not get stepped on. 





She still hesitates each time we get into the car. I was warned about this, and I’m not sure why she takes her time, but it may have something to do with her breaking her leg as a youngster in her foster family’s van. The story is that she made to leap out of the front seat and the little boy grabbed her leg to stop her. She jumped, and the leg snapped. 



The break healed nicely, as you can tell by the way she races through forest and field. 


However, having her take her time while getting into the car on her own while off leash (which is most the time) is accounted for. We manage. If she wants to take thirty seconds to a minute deciding on when to hop into Bill, I’m okay with that. It merely reinforces the message to Emily to be herself. 





Like Samwise did at her age, she reminds me when she wants me to stop writing to give her attention. He would nudge me with his nose, letting me know he wanted me to lay with him. Emily, meanwhile, is a bit more in my face. She stands on her hind legs with her front paws on my shoulder and looks into my eyes. It’s usually enough to hoist her up and sit her on my lap for a few minutes, but occasionally she wants more so I carry her to the bedroom where we all hang together, book out, but bodies touching. Their breathing slows, eyes grow heavy, and snores rise. It is quality time not only for togetherness but for my craft. For if a writer has homework, it’s reading, always reading. 





As I tidy this up, we’re getting ready to head to the post office and mail this morning’s notes and letters written to friends and acquaintances. One is to a delightful senior woman in Tucson, Arizona. I met Rose Duracka last year when she was volunteering at a gift store in Yellowstone. We chatted warmly for so long that I returned the next day and gave her a copy of “Following Atticus.” She’d written a letter that I’ve only now responded to, and I’m sending her a copy of “Will’s Red Coat” as well. 





Before heading out, I still need to cut up the potatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic, add some broth, Italian seasoning, fennel, and caraway seeds as I dump it all into Instant Pot. When we return from our errands, it will be to a welcoming hug of a scent.





Slowly, as winter leans into spring here, we change with the passing months. Whether it’s in our search for heartening adventures, a new town to call home, in stories written, or maturity and understanding gained, onward, we move, by all means.   




Friday, March 23, 2018

Before You Normalize It, Put Yourself In My Shoes

It’s called stalking, even if you think it isn’t. 



I’ve been sitting on something for a while, as my friends know. It’s been an issue since the publication of Following Atticus in 2011, but it’s become more of one this past year. It has led me to understand that it’s time I prepare to move on from this town I’ve called home for the past nine years. 



Last October, on a delightful afternoon, just before Emily arrived in our lives, Samwise and I were walking along a cross-country ski trail that gets little to no use outside of winter. It’s one of the reasons we frequent it and other trails like it. I adore being alone in the woods with my thoughts, but if you’ve read anything I’ve written you know this. 



That particular walk turned out to be different, however, when Samwise howled out in alarm that a couple was approaching us from the opposite direction. We exchanged greetings, then more warm words. There was talk of the weather and foliage, talk of Samwise, and of the area.

The couple was from Switzerland and had been visiting the White Mountains over the last few years, always in the autumn. I suggested some hiking trails they might like. 

We were chatting for more than twenty minutes before the woman paused and gave me a quizzical look. 



“Are you Tom Ryan?”

“Yes.”

With a burst of excitement, she grabbed her husband by the arm. “Oh my gosh! Oh gosh!”

She’d read Following Atticus in German and liked it so much she read it again in Italian. She bought many copies for friends. 



They did not know about “Will’s Red Coat” but told me they’d pick it up at White Birch Books the next day.

As we parted, each of us felt richer for having this encounter. 



Over the past seven years, I have run into people visiting the White Mountains from New Zealand, Germany, Australia, Italy, England, Scotland, and numerous states. They came here after reading “Following Atticus.”

It’s one of the highest compliments I’ve received. It means something to me to share my feelings for this area and to have it move readers to the point of wanting to see it for themselves. There have been countless almost-magical interactions with folks in this manner, and they all have one thing in common. 



None of them came here seeking me out. 



They came to see the mountains and perhaps thought it would be nice if they ran into us, but it was not part of their plans. They did not go out of their way to find us.



This organic kind of meeting is the best kind. 



Alas, there is another side to interacting with readers that has never felt comfortable. It’s one of the reasons we have not walked in Jackson for the last few years and drive anywhere from 32 to 70 miles a day to take our walks where we can enjoy solitude. 



On one of the last days Atticus and I walked in Jackson, we were stopped eleven times on a mile and a half loop. People wanted photos. They wanted to hang out. They felt we were friends. 



Although this is a compliment to my writing, it isn’t my style. And it’s not in my comfort zone.



It does, however, come with the territory. I understand that. 



However, for a person who mostly stays to himself, it can be daunting.



During the last days of my Aunt Marijane’s life, she was in hospice. My cell coverage in the house was not very clear, so I talked with her as I walked with Atti. Two couples saw us and pulled over while I was saying what would turn out to be my last words with Marijane.

The tourists were extremely excited about getting a group photo. I explained to them that I was on the phone. They said they'd wait. I politely told them it was an important call and I would be on it for a while and went to walk way. They asked a third time. Once again I let them know it was not a good time.



I was stunned by their vitriol and the four-letter words. 



That’s when I understood then it was time to take most of our walks elsewhere. 



I treat our strolls as I used to handle our hikes. I have three destinations in mind. If one is crowded, we go to another. If the second is also busy, it’s off to a third location.

I do not have a problem with any of this. 



But one thing I’ll never get used to is having people stalking us.

Last year, on several occasions, folks noted Bill parked outside of our home and pulled over to take photos and/or videos of us in the backyard.



I felt exposed. I felt tracked. It seemed like so many people who had read so much of what I’d written hadn’t taken it to heart.



For years, readers have waited for us to pull up at the Jackson post office and when we have, they’ve descended upon us.



It’s always awkward when this occurs because it catches me off guard. I don’t think of myself as anyone special. I like our quiet lives, its gentle ways, and the rhythm that comes with it.

In the first chapter of Will’s Red Coat I confessed to being an introvert. A sudden in-your-face greeting from an excitable reader is always a shock, unless it takes place at a book event.

Last year, while leaving a store’s parking lot, a woman rushed up to see Samwise. When I explained we were on our way to a meeting and had to go she swore at me. Later that night she posted nasty comments on our Facebook page. 



I can list too many examples of this type, but none of it is out of the ordinary. “It is”, as Bill Belichick states, “what it is.” 



However, over the past year things have changed in a dramatic manner. But the trouble started before then.



I trace it back to the first Atticus M. Finch Walk for the Animals in September of 2016. I was moved by the number of people who showed up from around the country for the event and the subsequent book signing that followed.

Rachael Kleidon, our friend, and vet walked with us that day. We had not seen each other in months since she had her baby Silvia. What a joy it was to spend time with them both. And how important it was for Rachael to be there to honor the late Atticus. She had gone out of her way to make time to be with us that day.



As the walk was coming to an end, Rachael and I were talking when we were interrupted by one of my readers, who had come from several hours away. Both Rachael and I were taken aback, but it did not matter to this woman. She had questions for Rachael about her dog, and it was clear that my time with the good doctor was over.

I would later learn that Rachael was stuck there with little Sylvia for an incredible length of time answering questions about a dog who was in another state.  



Throughout the next hours, while I was signing books outside of White Birch Books, I saw this same woman, constantly within feet of us. 



My poor brother Eddie was at his first event for "Following Atticus" and the same woman glommed onto him. It was a big deal for him to be there since he was heroic in stepping into a public situation while suffering from PTSD from his time in the service. He'd overcome much to be there for us that day.

For two hours, she shadowed him and even when he excused himself to walk to his car she followed. 



We would later joke about how trapped he felt. 



Fast forward to last May and an event in Vermont for “Will’s Red Coat.” It was when I next saw this same woman. She’d driven several hours to be there. After the talk, she waited in line, and when I signed her books she wanted to talk endlessly, and I gently reminded her that others we were waiting.

This is not unusual, and I do my best to give as much time as possible to those in the greeting line. But this interaction was reminiscent of the previous September. 



After everyone else had left, I looked up and waiting by the door was the same woman. For the first time ever I asked a store manager to walk me out to my car and explained why.



Fast forward to this past September. Samwise and I pulled up to the post office, as we do every day, and shockingly the same woman was standing there waiting for… I won’t pretend to know.

But I recognized her immediately and instead of stopping to get my mail, I pulled in and then turned right around again and left. I have no doubt she saw us. Over the following days, I saw her standing in front of the post office repeatedly. Each time I pulled out without getting my mail.

Shortly after, I was informed by stores that I frequent, that this woman, had now moved to the Mount Washington Valley. Each of them gave me warnings. Other businesses I don’t frequent reached out to let me know she asked if we ever came there.

On the day of last September’s Atticus M. Finch Memorial Walk for the Animals, there she was again. A friend who works in a bakery warned me that the woman had moved to Jackson, not too far from our home. 



Shit. 



My brother Eddie made the trek to North Conway again, which is still a big deal for him. Once again he wanted to be there to honor Atticus. He and I walked together. The entire time this woman hovered near.

Alas, Eddie and I became separated, and I would later learn that she attached herself to him for the remainder of the walk.

He and I had made plans to get away to Thorne Pond for some privacy after the memorial walk, but by the time it was over he decided he’d had enough and he could not get away from the event and the stifling woman soon enough. 

Unfortunately, he drove home, and we never did get to take our quiet walk together.

I would later learn that Eddie lost his phone that day in his hurry to escape.

I apologized for what he had to endure, and he was kind about it all. But still, I knew my life had entered into a strange place where I was no longer the only one inconvenienced.



As autumn came, I received regular reports from my friends at the different shops I’ve often written about that she often lingered there and asked about us. Then it became just lingering. 



I’d continue to see her at the post office, sometimes see her driving into a business we had just pulled into, always was updated by how often she was in the various shops. She even began volunteering at an organization we raise money for. 



I told a state trooper that I do not feel in danger and she has never entered our yard, but how I now feel the need to look around before I get out of my car. Not a day goes by where I am not aware of her presence. Alas, there is nothing the authorities can do. It’s not like she’s in my face, but knowing she has pretty much insinuated herself into my life in the area has been stressful. 



She’s one of the reasons we went away for close to two months this winter. 



Physically, I continue to make peace with my kidneys, heart, blood clots, and assorted health issues. I’m bloated and overweight. I have no illusion that I’m a good catch or even the object of someone’s fantasies. And yet how strange it is to have a person impact our lives as she does. 



As friends and I talk about her impact, they realize I’ve stopped coming into their stores as I used to. Some have attempted to laugh it off, but until someone haunts your life like this one never knows what it feels like.

I understand I am an ambassador of sorts for this region. We lead a quiet but attractive life. It’s terrific that people want to come here to see what it is like for themselves. It’s grand that some have even moved here. But there’s a difference between moving to the mountains or to the Mount Washington Valley as compared to moving right down the street in our little town an adopting much of my lifestyle. 



Today, I informed friends that over the next year I will be looking to move from this part of the mountains. 

That day may have come sooner or later, but because of one specific person the time has come to start planning. 



I cannot tell you what is in this person’s head. But I can tell you that from the people who stalk us that I’ve conversed with, they feel bad that I have to put up with it, but always they think I’m talking about others when I address stalkers. It seems most stalkers do not realize what they are doing. Perhaps she doesn’t.

She is considered a pleasant enough person, I guess. Awkward and tone deaf, but not dangerous. 



As I was telling a shop owner about this today he confessed to not opening his store on time one recently when he saw her in the parking lot. Instead, he waited until she left. 



Years ago, when Atticus and I took a week each winter in Provincetown, I noted on our Facebook page that the poet Mary Oliver lived there at the time. “I wouldn’t mind running into her by chance on the beach,” I wrote.



I was surprised by the number of people who suggested I look up the poet’s address and just knock on her door. 

Just because a person writes books we read, it does not give us a right to intrude upon them.

Earlier today Eddie summed it up well. "She may not be breaking any law but what an intrusion on your life!"

I write this in hopes that people will understand that I am mostly a private person. It’s the reason I got rid of ATTI 48 license plate. I didn't enjoy exiting the woods only to have folks waiting for us.

It’s the reason we drive as many miles as we do each day to go for ordinary walks. 



What I wish for everyone is that they can find some of the peace we have worked hard to attain. But I hope in so doing that ours is also respected. 



Thank you for reading.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Appalachian Trail Name: Atticus

Years ago, when Atticus and I were hiking several times a week, I gave some thought to hiking the Appalachian Trail with him. I was excited by the endurance challenge of through-hiking the entire 2,100-plus miles in one attempt. I've always been fascinated by the A.T., even before we started hiking. 

Reality set in, though, and I decided against it. Atticus could hike in the snow, but he didn't like hiking in the rain. Because it rains so often on the A.T. during the months we'd be hiking, I decided it would not be fair to him. 

Although I've not regretted the decision, through-hiking the A.T. is something that still holds an abundance of romance for me.

This spring, however, there will be an Atticus on the trail, and the thought has me smiling while considering it. 

The following email came in this weekend, and I'm sharing it with permission. Here's wishing Jerry Wheeler success during his attempt.  

Hi Tom, 

I met you at the Will's Red Coat event at Hub City Bookstore and Press. Thank you again for coming to South Carolina. As I told you I am hiking the Appalachian Trail beginning on April 30 due in a great part to your vivid descriptions of the White Mountains and the adventures you and Atticus shared. 

Your books have changed my life in a positive and uplifting manner, and I want to honor you and Atticus. 

Because your books and one little dog inspired me to do my "soul work" as Atticus did after his eye surgery, I have taken the trail name "Atticus." With your permission, of course. 


Warmest regards,  

Jerry Wheeler

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ten Years On: "Following Atticus" Debuts in Japan

The Japanese version of "Following Atticus."

Today, in subzero temperatures, I was drawn back to ten years ago. It was the year when Atticus and I set out to summit each of the 48 4,000-foot-peaks in the White Mountains twice in a single calendar winter. It had been accomplished before, but only once. The storied Cath Goodwin, longtime White Mountain legend had succeeded. But that was it. As far anyone knows, no one else had even attempted it. 


What made me think little Atticus and I could accomplish such a feat?



Truthfully, I had no idea whether we could or not. The previous winter, we fell short of my goal of hiking each of the 48 in winter. At the time, I believe only 14 known people had ever accomplished a single round in winter. We fell short by two hikes.



But there we were on the night of the winter solstice entering the unknown and preparing to push beyond what either one of us had ever been. 



It’s almost comical when I look back at it now. I was fighting Lyme disease, weighing 260 lbs., obviously not in shape, and Atticus weighed only about 25 lbs. He was not your typical winter hiking dog.

Recently, while driving across the Kancamagus highway, I took note of the new snow piled up along the side of the road, the various trailheads Atticus and I parked at that winter a decade ago, and at my young passengers in the car. There was little Emily, with me for only a month and aged seven months, and Samwise, aged two years. 



The juxtaposition of fragrant memories; my current life where heart, kidney, and other ailments keep me from hiking up; and the company of young Samwise and Emily washed over me. Suddenly, I could not see, and I had to pull into the parking lot of the Oliverian Brook trailhead. As I let Samwise and Emily scamper out into the snow and the first yards of the trail, I could have sworn I’d seen a little black and white dog there with me again.

In December of 2007, when we’d only been hiking for a year and a half, there was hardly a trek we started in winter when I was not draped in fear. It didn’t help that many of those longer hikes over several peaks at a time began in the bone-chilling pre-dawn hours. We often ended our longer hikes after the sun went down as well. 



Fear. 



It gnawed at me. The cold and darkness were forbidding. I felt isolated and alone. The idea of hiking 14 or 18 or 27 miles through deep snow and across the dangerous ice, through winds biting and cruel, far away from anyone else, rattled me.

So why did we do it? 

Robert Frost wrote in a letter, “A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”

Not a lot made sense that winter. Our audacity was nourished by our friendship, and the idea that we would be safe was connected to the understanding that I would keep Atticus safe. There was a wordless communication between us and a sacred trust. Sure, we’d face uncomfortable situations and endure the unimaginable, but we were in it together.



As for that fear each time I entered the woods? It was indeed a lump in my throat.




For ninety days we pushed ourselves beyond the limits sets for us by others, and those I also put on myself. That winter adventure was itself a poem for us, a dance between souls connected by all that mattered in life.



It’s funny, while Atticus knew his limitations, he never showed the fear I felt. No matter how frigid it became. No matter how unrelenting the wind. Not even in blizzard conditions when we were surprised on a trek across the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Not when we were so tired we could have fallen asleep wherever we sat down and never woken up again in the cold.



There were many nights we were out on the trails alone, the only light coming from the heavens above and the beam from my headlamp. In my unease, I’d ask myself, Why are we doing this? Goodness knows I longed for home and friends and hot tea and a good book so often it ached. And yet we continued. 



This all returns to me today because the Japanese version of Following Atticus showed up in my mailbox. 



I last held my friend in my arms a year and a half ago as he took his final breaths in a rain so gentle it felt like the surrounding pine trees were weeping. Still, Atticus visits me without warning and I know that winter will be one of the highlights of my life.

It lies at the heart of Following Atticus, and that little dog with the big soul, that little Buddha, is still touching people with his authentic and unfettered life. Our story has now been published here in the U.S., of course, and in Canada, the U.K., Italy, Germany, Hungary, and Japan. 



As I type this, it is currently -3 degrees. Samwise is in the bedroom, his head on the pillow where dreams and memories come to me. Emily is under my desk, resting innocently on top of my slipper. It is a comfort to listen to Mozart while the wind rattles the windows of our warm home as I tap-tap-tap on the keyboard.



The other day a person who does not know me, other than through my writing, sent me a Christmas card. She wrote: “I know how much you must miss Atticus?”

When I get comments like this, I understand that my acceptance of death is a bit different than most other folks. Talking about one I loved can bring up emotions that spill out of my heart, but otherwise, I’m okay with death. I made friends with her long ago and find kinship in something attributed to Marcus Aurelius long ago: “Death smiles at us all; all we can do is smile back.”



This week I had some clenching chest pain. It is something I never worried about in the past, but in my new reality, I have to pay attention to it. After it passed, I talked to a friend about it, and she asked if I was afraid.



“No. I’m ready. Whenever she’s ready to dance, I’ll go.”



Of course, I have no desire to die right yet, but when that moment comes, I’ll smile warmly and take her hand as we enter another unknown path for a new adventure. 



But until then there is so much to do that I don’t have time to miss Atticus. Life is a verb. Each day I open my eyes. Each day life and lessons come at me. Samwise and Emily keep me on my toes. We live in the now. (Yes, occasionally there are those visits to yesterdays I had cherished, but I wouldn’t wish away what I now have for anything.)

I’m moved by Atticus. Moved by Will and by Max and inspired to continue growing. I cherish what we shared and what we taught each other. But how can I miss Atticus when he is a part of me?

On days like this, when faced with a version of our story that is now being read in a different part of the world, I feel it all the more.