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  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.