An Index to the Website
may be found by clicking here
Now on Facebook.
If you "Like" me on this Facebook page you'll get notifications of my newly-posted blogs as well as announcements about my books, writing retreats, and other events to do with Windbreak House.
No kitten videos, but I will post some writing-related jokes and grammar tips.
In the center of the nation, deep in the grasslands of western South Dakota, essayist and poet Linda M. Hasselstrom grew up as an only child on a family cattle ranch homesteaded by a Swedish cobbler in 1899.
Today she invites you to benefit from a writing retreat on that same ranch. Come to the house where she discovered the Great Plains outside her windows, where she began to write the poetry and non-fiction books that have established her as one of the strongest voices on behalf of the prairie.
Linda holds a BA in English and Journalism, an MA in American Literature, and has been a teacher of writing for more than 40 years. She has hosted writing retreats at her ranch since 1996.
Not a writer but a reader? Enjoy Linda's vivid descriptions of her life and work on the ranch, as a writer, and as an advocate for the preservation of the prairies and the people and wildlife who inhabit them.
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Listen to Linda:
A Venue of Vultures
Linda reads her poem "A Venue of Vultures" from her book Dirt Songs
, published by The Backwaters Press, 2011.
This reading was recorded and produced by the multi-talented Barry Wick
, of Rapid City, South Dakota.
This photo by renowned photographer Sid Spelts
, shows Linda during a recent recording session.
Major Construction Project Underway
The BOOKS & MORE page is having a major overhaul which has broken many of the links within this entire website.
When you click on a link, there's a good chance you'll be taken on a detour to an unanticipated location-- try to enjoy the trip. :-)
We are poring over each page, sanding down the rough spots, and sticking the links back together one at a time. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Yes, that's Linda in the photo above, at a playground in Sheridan, Wyoming, 2008.
Stories and Essays by Linda
may be found on this website.
* Linda's Blog
Linda covers a wide range of topics.
* Home Page Message archives
Many of these essays have writing advice. All have photos, some have recipes, a few have poems.
* Poetry Page essays
Read suggestions for writing and performing poetry and the stories behind some of Linda's poems.
* Critter Stories
Brief stories and photos of birds and wildlife seen on Linda's ranch may be found on this page.
* Gallimaufry Page
Stories and photos that don't fit anywhere else.
Linda on YouTube
Nancy Curtis, publisher and owner of High Plains Press, recorded a couple of videos of Linda reading her poetry and posted them on YouTube.
To see Linda read "Where the Stories Come From"
To see Linda read her poem "Make a Hand"
Or go to www.YouTube.com
and search for Linda Hasselstrom.
You may also want to visit the High Plains Press facebook page
where you will find these two poetry videos and much more about the many great western books-- poetry and non-fiction-- published by High Plains Press.
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click here to send an e-mail message to Linda.
If this link does not work-- some web-browsers are incompatible or perhaps your computer is blocking pop-ups-- copy and paste this email address into your email system:
or send Linda a letter:
Linda M. Hasselstrom
PO Box 169
Hermosa SD 57744
Linda M. Hasselstrom, mid-winter 2014, with butter that celebrates "the return of the bringer of bounty."
. . .
Brigid's Day: Celebrating the Precarious Season Midway Between Winter and Spring
A Home Page Message from Linda
February 2, 2014
Outside the window, the prairie stretches golden-brown to the horizon, dotted with black cows. A few leafless trees stand along dry watercourses. Monochrome. Beige, sandy, fawn, buff, oatmeal, biscuit, camel, ecru, grayish brown, yellowish brown, grayish yellow.
Our senses are dulled by frost and plugged sinuses; our ears are clogged by whatever illness is making the rounds. Cold at night, chilly in the daytime. Wind pokes icy fingers into our ears and lungs. Bleah!
In this season, it’s more important than ever to remind ourselves that spring is well on her way. The ancient Celts, understanding that this midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox could be deadly, exercised their creativity to cheer themselves. They dedicated February 2nd to Brigid, the young maiden of spring, who grew in power as the sun returned to the earth, known to other cultures as the Goddess Brighet, Brigantia, Bride, Brighet, Brigandu, Bridey and Briggidda.
In her aspect as the Bringer of Light, Brigid may have been adopted by the Catholic Church as St. Brigid, becoming part of the festival of Candlemas. “The Lives of the Saints” in the Book of Lismore
predicted, “She shall arise like a shining sun.”
I’m intrigued to note that Brigid’s cross, also known as the sun cross or the circle cross, combines Christian symbolism-- the cross-- with older images that recognized the importance of light and heat to spring’s rebirth: the sun. Such crosses are sold today on websites offering, “Huge selection of Catholic gifts,” though many people make their own cross; directions are easy to find.
In contrast to the jubilation and pageantry of older festivals, the American public celebrates this precarious season with Ground Hog Day. If the groundhog sees his shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. Like so many American traditions, the custom comes directly from Europe, and Scotland in particular, where an old couplet goes:
A Saint Brigid Cross made of woven rushes.
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
there'll be two winters in the year.
Instead of the pudgy rodent, who probably prefers to hibernate, I dedicate the day to Brigid in her various aspects. She gives us hope, reminds us that spring will bring the rebirth in our lives of light, color, laughter. One ancient song about her ran:
Most Holy Brighid, Excellent Woman, Bright Arrow, Sudden Flame;
May your bright fiery Sun take us swiftly to your lasting kingdom.
In Christian Britain, February 2, Brigid’s day, became Candlemas, celebrated with a festival of lights: “Candle Mass.” In the dark and gloomy days of February, the shadowy recesses of medieval churches twinkled brightly as each member of the congregation carried a lighted candle in procession around the church, to be blessed by the priest. Afterwards, the candles were brought home and believed to keep away storms, demons and other evils.
In Ireland, similar joyous rituals were enacted to welcome back the light on Lá Fhéile Bríde
, St. Brigit’s Day. An 18th century account tells how every farmer’s wife made a special cake, brought out ale, and invited the neighbors for a festive evening. Freshly churned butter always formed part of the meal. The more wealthy farmers gave gifts of butter to poorer neighbors, along with some roast meat, to celebrate the return of the bringer of bounty.
I love this aspect of the tradition because I can see our ancestors’ practicality at work, combining the festive with the sensible, learned from experience. How many people do you know who have had colds or the flu during the past couple of months? During the dark cold of this season, people may grow ill as well as depressed. Most of us stay shut up in our houses, trading germs. In ancient times, people would be suffering, too, from the lack of greens in their diet, perhaps even hunger as they tried to make stored supplies last until spring.
Like the ancient Celts, Linda celebrates Brigid by making rhubarb bread with fruit stored for winter, in this case frozen in August.
By the beginning of February, they could estimate how much winter they might yet have to endure and calculate how much food they needed to survive until warm weather brought green grass and grazing for their animals. To raise their spirits, and heal their illnesses, they could carefully raid the larder to prepare rich food such as cakes, buttered bread and milk. Joyfully, they might eat their fill, turning a season that might have overwhelmed them with illness and depression into a celebration of the certainty that spring would come.
On her day, Brigid herself was believed to travel about the countryside, blessing the people and their livestock, and so an offering of cake or bread and butter was left outside on the window sill for her. Sometimes they left a sheaf of corn too, as sustenance for the white cow who traveled with her (source of all that milk and butter). Or a bundle of straw or fresh rushes were laid on the threshold for her to kneel upon to bless the house, or possibly so she – or the cow! – could wipe their feet before entering.
So how can we modern folk invoke Brigid and renew our faith in Spring?
I vary my celebration every year. And since these Home Page messages, as well as my life, center around writing, I make writing a key part of my celebration.
By this time, if my plans work out, I’ve been working steadily since autumn on a writing project and it’s easy to become discouraged, easy to think that publication is a foolish dream. (I submitted a book manuscript in October and am still waiting for a response.) So I pause in my daily writing to re-evaluate where I’m going. I may re-read some of my own work to remind myself that I have written well; rejection may mean I need to rewrite, or rethink where I send submissions.
Because Brigid is also the Goddess of Poetry, I will try, for perhaps the millionth time, to write a satisfying sonnet, or clerihew, or tercet. (Yes, poets, look up those forms if you aren’t familiar with them and try one!)
I will challenge my partner to another game of Quiddler, Big Boggle or Bananagrams. Or Woker.
I will challenge myself in any way that occurs to me. Since one kind of creativity may inspire another, I sometimes try a new and difficult recipe with ingredients I have to find at the store rather than pulling from my pantry. Though we no longer live on stored food for the entire winter, it’s easy to fall into habits of eating. My brain seems to work more creatively while I’m sautéing, chopping or braising than when I stare at the computer screen. (Today I’m making fresh turnip fries: raw turnip sliced into thin sticks, tossed with olive oil and parmesan cheese and baked in a hot oven.)
Usually as I slice or braise or stir, I am thinking about my latest draft, mentally revising. I burn things when I drop the spoon and rush downstairs to revise a line-- and forget I’m cooking.
Stained glass at Windbreak House catches and reflects the deep winter light.
Because I know that it’s possible as well as healthy and wise to trick oneself into good cheer, I dust and polish the glassware and stained glass I keep in south-facing windows where it catches and reflects every splinter of winter’s light. I light candles for warm light and scent. I soak in a hot bath scented with a mixture of eucalyptus, wintergreen, juniper and peppermint that kills germs and soothes muscles. (www.olbas.com
) I sit outside facing the sun to soak up Vitamin D from its healing rays.
Some folks imitate spring by decorating their houses with bouquets of flowers; I hesitate to spend money on such short-lived décor. Besides I remember a friend who said of bouquets, “Killed some flowers, eh?” Instead, I prune my indoor plants, repotting if necessary, appreciating the way they clean the air of my rooms. I make sure I’ve burned the Christmas greenery or consigned it to mulch. Honoring Brigid’s hearthcraft aspect, which I interpret as house-keeping, I dust everywhere, vacuum, scrub the shower and the kitchen floor. The beauty of these tasks is that they require little thought, so my mind is often revising lines of poetry or nonfiction while I work. Brigid would be pleased.
Because everyone around me is snorting, sneezing, coughing and wheezing, I honor Brigid as the goddess of healing by drinking tomato juice with lemon, and echinecea tea with honey. Lately I’ve been having fresh cocoa at midmorning because I read recently it can be a memory aid; of course I don’t remember where I read that.
Poetry, healing, hearthcraft: Brigid's blessing flames into the cold sky, speaking to the stars above us.
Imagine a circle of healers around a cauldron of transformation. Think of those who keep the flame of hope alive around the world, through wars and storms of disbelief and hatred.
Light a red candle to symbolize the eternal fire of creativity. Bless your tools: your computer, your pens and pencils, your herbs and your fragile self, especially that creative brain. Then get back to your writing.
And Blessed Be.
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Brigid's Day -- February 2, 2014
Hermosa, South Dakota
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These Home Page Essays Are Archived ---
Linda posts a new message on her Home Page a number of times each year. We've archived the essays (click here)
so you can read the ones you missed and re-read the ones you enjoyed. Some of them include recipes or poems or writing suggestions. All of them have photos.
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