Forty years ago, returning to our house in Roundup after touring every bioregion of Montana with the troupe of the first New Western Energy Show, Elizabeth and I had to settle in and produce our third Sun Sign Almanac.
Scott Crichton was surprised to see it. “How did you get the time?” Having traveled with the Show all that summer, we had no food from our backyard garden to harvest. And because we’d started the Almanac for reasons A, B, C, and D–A being “do what you believe…” and (hopping over B-C) D being “…and the money will come” we did it out of love and the need for some money.
We could’ve kept going with Sun Sign Almanacs (1975 through 1983) but wanted to work on projects less bound by marketing schedules. And we had a child to raise, Rhiannon Summer Hughes Wood, born in the same house and same room where her grandmother Annie was born. Annie (my mother) appeared in that room, just before 8:00 a.m. on the 3rd of July, 1979, in time to witness the birth of her granddaughter.
E and I, two of the founders of AERO (in June 1974), have continued supporting and working with AERO as if we are parents of another kind of child. E and I wrote for, later edited and produced, AERO Sun-Times (non-electronically—this was the era of page proofs, cut’n’paste layouts, and the IBM Selectric). A lot of our work over the years, both voluntary and paid, has been media work with various regional (sometimes national) non-profit organizations, generally with aims like AERO’s.
Our desire to enrich Rhiannon’s education led us into more local involvement than we had thought likely: slide shows of our trips in the schools, helping form an arts & culture committee, a local community foundation, through which a group of us created a RiverWalk Trail along the Musselshell. I served ten years on the combined city-county-school library board. Elizabeth did her 16-year stint coaching speech and drama at Roundup High School. I started teaching writing courses in 1994, part-time, at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, and still am doing it. From 2005 to 2014 I was a governor-appointee to the board of the Montana Arts Council.
In 2001 Rhiannon graduated from Scripps College with a degree in environmental science, and since then has lived in Portland, Oregon; Flagstaff, Arizona; then back to Portland, where we visit her more often than she visits us here.
Still anchored in Roundup, we also still travel widely. Some beyond- the-“Lower 48” places that one or both of us have visited include Maui (multiple times, with family), Mexico (several times), Guatemala, China, France, some Caribbean islands, Italy (W), Kazakhstan (W), Kenya (E), and Uruguay-Argentina-Chile (E).
Our house and various outbuildings are full of things we’ve collected with the thought they’d someday be useful. We are winnowing. Both of us are going through forty-plus years of our writings–for me, poems, essays, journals, journalism, rants and devotions). We meet monthly with our local writers’ circle. We intend to return to publishing, including (in its various modern guises) self-publishing.
We slip into pools where the water comforts, dive into streams where the current challenges. We find our tribe, and various sub-tribes. We do the work; we do the play.