Darrell Berkheimer: Experiencing life with Lucille and Molly
Writing essays is my shtick. And I often enjoy taking photos to accompany my essays.
So it should seem natural to everyone when I report that I read nearly every essay and commentary that appears on Pages 4 and 5 in The Union.
But my reading of local essayists is not limited to The Union. I have been thoroughly enjoying the essays in the books written by two Nevada County women. And I look forward to meeting one of them sometime in the future as I continue to read her work. Only that’s not possible with the other, who is no longer with us.
Lucille Lovestedt was the author of many essays published by The Union during her 80s. And it is most appropriate that I mention her in today’s column — because she would have turned 97 years old yesterday, had she not died on March 22 of last year.
Some months back, I acquired and read Lucille’s book titled “Doing Eighty.” It includes 63 essays that are quite entertaining for all readers — but particularly to us older and retired folks who can identify with most, if not all, of her observations.
We get a good indication of her sense of humor with the very first essay in her book, on Page 1. It’s only two paragraphs long under the title “I Have This to Say About That.” She writes:
I have noticed that when you reach a certain age (80-plus!) people are apt to look at you in a startled way if you say something intelligent or even witty. You’ve been stereotyped as a befuddled old dear who is still unaccountably doddering about in public. At some social gatherings, you may be either totally ignored, or else fussed over by a patronizing altruist who feels duty bound to compliment you on being “alert.”
Although I show signs of wear, I’m not a mental wreck, and I still have a few opinions I wish to express. So listen up!
And I did. I paid close attention to what she wrote. She wrote of everyday events that might have involved any of us. And I wanted more. I so much wish that I could have known her.
I look at that back cover of her book — at the gray-haired lady in sunglasses driving that sporty little red convertible, and I think: “She must have been a real hoot.”
The other lady whose essays I am continuing to enjoy is Molly Fisk, who has been dubbed the Poet Laureate of Nevada County.
As I read from her three essay books, she frequently provides me with the urge to hug her. There are times when I feel I could hug her because of what she has written about her thoughts. And then there are times when I feel I could use a hug from her because of what she has made me feel and think.
(The titles of her three books are: “Blow-Drying A Chicken,” “Using Your Turn Signal Promotes World Peace,” and “Houston, We Have A Possum.”)
Although I am not a lover of poems, I find poetry in her essays and thoroughly enjoy that style of poetry through prose.
Standard poems — if there is such a category — often tend to leave me with feelings of confusion — wondering just what the writer is trying to tell me. Many poems contain too much symbolism open to a variety of interpretations.
Instead I prefer Molly’s essays, which provide simply flat statements like the ones that resulted in my editorial writing awards in Utah and Texas. In Utah I was cited for “demonstrating that use of the simple declarative sentence is not a lost art.”
Molly also writes of the pride we have in our accomplishments — regardless of how large or small they might be. She notes how we sometimes struggle and actually suffer through that creative ordeal, and how many of our efforts leave us only half satisfied with the results.
But it all seems worth it when we create one of those few items that provide us with a warmth of ecstatic pride in our chests.
I revere her for her persistent struggle to earn a living through her writing and verbal talents. She deserves that reverence from me after I walked away from the writing industry, feeling burned out and disgusted with bottom-line mentality.
That was in 1991 — after 28 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist. A year later I began the first of 13 years driving 18-wheelers coast-to-coast. That work provided a mixture of mental relaxation and thoroughly enjoyable learning experiences as I toured our contiguous 48 states. But with retirement and a reliable monthly income, I’ve been able to return to writing without the need to earn a living from it.
Very few writers earn what they are worth for the efforts they expend. The same is true with the artists of all types in our midst; and we obviously have an abundance of them here in western Nevada County.
So hugs to you Molly. And I would relish the opportunity to hug Lucille, too, if she were still here to receive. What a memorable lady.
Both ladies have created a direct connection with me through their writing — and probably with almost everyone else who has read their essays.
And finally, I consider this an appropriate opportunity to issue best wishes to all our local artists. May they reap some rewards toward what their efforts deserve.
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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