Orri Jay Putnam, January 9th, 1946 – November 30th, 2008: Lessons in Gratitude, Friendship, and Family

Yesterday Meg and I worked on Orri’s obituary, knowing he had only a few hours left.  Here is what Meg wrote:

Mr. Putnam, of Lake Wylie, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, diagnosed just eight weeks ago. A native of Charlotte, he was born on Jan. 9, 1946, the son of Harry and Nona Putnam. He leaves his wife, Dianne Waldron Putnam, a sister, Myra, his in-laws, Don and Meg Kimmel, as well as many nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, and a wide family of lifelong and newfound friends.

A graduate of the University of Georgia, Orri owned and managed the Plaza School of Beauty Culture following his mother’s death in 1981. He was successful in business, but his true occupation was friendship, one he tended with talent and steady care. Intensely proud of his heritage, he loved to entertain with homemade Lebanese treats. His interests were many—old cars and boats, model trains, history, architecture, and travel. He could tell tales, and did, and was likely to show up on your doorstep at any time, usually bearing a gift. A unusually generous man, he offered help in ways that meant the most, supporting educational goals and medical needs. He volunteered at an adoption center. Orri brought fun, life, and laughter into any gathering. His friend Haven Kimmel captures his particular grace and compassion in “Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House,” a children’s book that features a hero named Osiris Putnaminski. He took care of business, but his legacy is one of joy, delight, and love. Orri, we are missing you from here.


I added: Orri had one of the most unique and pleasurable gifts one can find in a friend:  he was an elegant conversationalist, and one could never discern, from how a story began, how on earth it might end.  A story of his might start with how he acquired a certain rare car, and end up in a tiny saloon in a desert and a story he was told by the toothless barkeep.

Orri had refined tastes in all areas of life:  at the annual Kimmel/Boykin beach trip, he loved nothing more than to listen to live music played by his various family members.  He dressed impeccably, and could always choose the best entrée on a menu, as well as the best wine.  Merely by the life he lived, Orri taught invaluable lessons.  He taught that we choose our family, and then we love them as fiercely as possible.  He had what seemed an infinite number of friends, because he was a friend, rather than a man who expected friendship to come to him.  Most of all, Orri Putnam was an easy man:  he had an easy laugh, he was easy to love, he didn’t hold tight to a dollar.  His favorite saying was, “My heart soars like an eagle to see you again.”  Whatever blue sky holds his spirit now, we were all blessed to have known him as a brother, an uncle, a dear friend, the heart of our gathered tribe.

Here are a few of my favorite Christmas photos from a few years back.  Orri is carrying the full-grown Jeff Boykin on his back without breaking a sweat:


And I love these group photos because so many of us are gone now.  For instance, in the first photograph you’ll notice Obadiah standing at the edge of the photo:


. . . and in this photograph he is missing altogether, because he has fallen off into the bushes.  Please note the massive jocularity at poor O’s expense.


In that photograph are Meg’s dear, dear parents, Dick and Peggy, and since there is only room for one hagiography in each blog post, I will suffice it to say that they were beautiful, fine people who gave the world four of the best children imaginable.  They were old-fashioned and gracious, wonderful wits, and they adored one another all the days of their marriage.  We miss them terribly, as well.


Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”  I asked you to remember my mother in any small way to offset the unbearable pain she has suffered for two years, and this is the letter I received from her yesterday:

Dear one,

I have received some of the dearest, most touching messages from your blog babies. I am moved to tears by their kindness. Flowers were delivered from Caryl, Jack, Charlie Hayes, and they are beautiful. Right now they grace the room divider and brighten up the space with joy. It was such a sweet thing to do, especially since I love flowers so much.

I received a box of the most amazing sweets from Katharine McKinney of Evansville, and I think they are probably illegal they are so delicious. Thank god I’m not diabetic!! If I were I would still have to taste such scrumptious treats. Wasn’t that the dearest thing for Katharine to do?

I got a lovely card from Polly Kahl in Pennsylvania, and one from Liz Holmes in Virginia. Can you imagine hearing from strangers in such different places who send thoughts and prayers because they know you through your blog.

Sarah from PA sent a letter and a beautiful poem dedicated to her mother that touched me deeply. Clearly she is also a talented writer.

Brenda Diller from Prescott Valley AZ sent a gorgeous card and a Navajo Healing Prayer that I plan to recite often.

Gloria Geisendorfer from Washington state had a prayer for healing done by the priests of Sacred Heart at a Lakota Indian school. Beautiful. Gloria isn’t one of your blog babies, but her daughter is–how touching is that!  Gloria isn’t even Catholic, which made the prayer even more meaningful.

Linda Carter from Nashville TN sent a beautiful card and note, and her handwriting is so much like yours it made my heart stop for a second. It was a moving note.

Finally I got a card from John MacMullen at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

Haven, these are the dearest, most precious people in the world, and clearly they are not only fans of yours, but also friends of the heart.  I can’t tell you how much the cards, letters, flowers and sweets have meant to me. I don’t feel like a stranger to these dear friends, your blog babies.

I love you, little girl, and I appreciate the kindness of your friends to your mother who long since ceased being brave. I would prefer to be more valiant in the face of this ongoing pain, which resists all treatments, pills, potions, powders, lotions, gels, salves and creams.




Here is Delonda at her most queenly, with one of my oldest friends Kent Shuff and me.  And she has never been more right:  you are friends of my heart – you have the same gift Orri had, of choosing whom to love and loving with all your goodwill.  I have said it before and I’ll say it again:  thank you, thank you, thank you.

Published in: on November 30, 2008 at 4:07 pm  Comments (135)  


  1. Oh Haven, I am crying. And you know this is something I don’t do much of anymore.

    Dear, Dear Orri. They don’t make them like him anymore, do they? I’m grateful to have “met” him through Kaline Klattermaster. What an amazing human being you have had the pleasure of knowing. I know the world will be less without him, but Haven, I’m glad we have you to make it more.

    Pancreatic Cancer…it’s an ugly, ugly thing, and it always seems to take away the best people. I submit my Grandpa, Don Christmas, the one of the world’s most darling men. Oh no, now I’m crying again. Not kidding.

    I’m so glad Mother Delonda enjoyed her gifts. I feel as though she is as dear and prcious to me as my own mother, and the fact that I could do anything for her at all just leaves me stunned with a feeling that is more painful and tender than mere happiness. I suppose we could call it joy, but it’s nothing like what that dishwashing liquid would have you believe.

    Love. Love. Love.

  2. My husband just woke up to see me weeping. And I am. I love it. I love feeling things.

  3. Your mother is one of my heroes.

  4. Haven- thank YOU and, of course, Delonda, for helping to create you as you have created such a loving and caring place in your writing and through this blog. I have been so enriched by my new friends here. Some days I really believe you all were God’s gift to me for finally getting sober. With all the new found sober time on my hands at night I started reading. And by reading, I found Haven. Hurray!

  5. “He taught that we choose our family, and then we love them as fiercely as possible.” Orri was an amazing man, one of those that seem to come around once in a lifetime. I am sure you are grieving, and my warmest thoughts and prayers are of your family. I love some of my friends as much as my siblings. That is family to me, and i always try to give and never take something that i wasn’t willing to give. family is an umbrella term for incredible friends, some related by blood, others just by love.

  6. On behalf of all our family, I can say that your support–all of you–is as big a blessing as any other. For those of you not living in North Carolina, today has been ugly: hovering between 40 and 45 degrees, so gray you can’t see more than 100 feet in front of you, drizzling and stark. But really, it has been more beautiful than I could have expected, because it feels like a gift from the universe to stay inside, warm up by the light of the fire or the computer screen with all these beautiful messages, and mourn the loss of this incredible man while also getting in touch with the joy of his life. Thank you all so much for your kindness and thoughtful narratives, every day you give it.

    And Mother Delonda, who is STILL tough as nails no matter what she says, is a light in this world (which you all have no doubt come to understand). You may not know this, but she and I once took a two-week tour of Europe together, just the two of us, and it was just the best time of my life, and such a gift. The stories that came out of that trip still make me laugh til I ache, and ache separately for something very nostalgic. Nana, I love you so much and always wish you were closer.

    Alright, I’m done–time to put away the hanky, put on some Springsteen and have a beer.

  7. This is so moving, Haven. I loved getting to know Orri in Kaline Klattermaster. What a special person to have had in your life. The pictures above are wonderful, esp the one with Orri and Obadiah. Orri’s compassion and kindness is evident in his face and the sweet attention he is giving your son.

    I am also glad your mom got her card and has been graced with other cards and goodies as well. It’s been such a pleasure learning about and getting to know Delonda here. I hope she is well and that we can continue to enjoy her many gifts here, when she is able to share with us.

    Love to you both.

  8. Daughter Kat, speaking of heroes: you sure are one in my world.

  9. Polly, I got your card about how much better you understood Orri after reading KALINE, and it meant the world to me. Thank you.

  10. I’m so sorry for the loss of this wonderful man, Haven. Rest assured that you and yours are in my thoughts and prayers. A co-worker of mine lost his mother unexpectedly a week before Thanksgiving, and in the card we, as a store, put together for him, I wrote something to the effect that however insuffucient we might be as a support, he must remember that we remain just that: a support.

    There is something extraordinary about how the internet has weirdly left the world a shrunken and more intimate place — we are blessed as a result.

  11. Hi Haven!
    It’s so nice to hear/see/read your voice again. Thank you for sharing your mom with us in your books. She has taken her place next to Caroline Ingalls in my hall of literary foster moms.
    I must get a copy of Kaline so I can know Orri better. I saw his warm-hearted letter on the Plaza Beauty School site, and I know from working at an occupational education center myself where Cosmetology is the most popular program that a lot of love and a huge heart are necessary tools of the educational trade. Thanks for creating this great place where so many can come so close at such great distances from each other.

  12. I just want to offer prayers of love, support and strength for all of you as you grieve Orri’s death. He was no doubt a special man who brought a tremendous amount of light and laughter into the world. I know you will all continue to carry that in your hearts. You have already shared it with us.

  13. I am speechless, but my thoughts are with all of the loved ones Orri left behind. And although I got it in the mail late just after Thanksgiving, something artsy is on its way to Mother Delonda. And, Maureen, that is so true about having literary ‘foster mothers’ – also Mrs. Pepper from the Five Little Peppers & How They Grew . . .

  14. PS I loved the obituary you all wrote, it truly captured (although I never met this angel) his vivacious spirit. I wish all obituaries could truly represent the spirit of the person and honor their lives in such a celebratory manner.

  15. Kaline Klattermaster is pure. I read twopages a night to Pablo, and I do all the voices. ORRI LIVES.

    love you.

    please send me mother DEE’s address via my email, lovey. i cannot be outdone by these DO GOODERS! no!

    although i DO buy She Got Off The Couch for everyone i know. it’s … well, i just don’t know. it somehow is a living, breathing testament. more than a book. you know how i love it, but does Delonda know how much i think of her? DELONDA! you’re a shining star! i want you to feel love and joy every day. and oh my god, to think that you gave us haven AND THROUGH her, Kat and O and that cute little Hawthorne? well. it’s too much good, but it came RIGHT from you. and you inspire and make people laugh in tiny dark kitchens and big hotel suites and in dorm room and in prisons. well, you may be a saint, but do not ascend! stay here with us, forever. we love us sum delonda. xo suzanne fennimore cooper

  16. haven’s characters are not “characters.” they occupy us. they stay with, like John Donne’s definition of love.”… a full, or growing light.” if i got that wrong, haven do correct me. you are the dictionary for many of our hearts.

  17. We should all have an Orri in our lives, and you were so blessed to have known him. Jack is the number one Kaline fan, and I will share with him how this man inspired that story.
    Love, love the picture of Delonda. We are working on some projects for her to keep her smiling. Does she email?
    My sister in law was here from England all month, and she read Zippy this weekend before she left. This morning she handed it back to me and said” this is one charming book”. I am now going to have to find all of your books and send them off to England so she can stay on the Haven high.
    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, hope it was wonderful to all.

  18. I forgot to say how beautiful Orri’s obit is. As was said above, we should all have words like these that truly capture our spirits. You were blessed by having Orri in your lives, but he was blessed by having you as well. I’m glad you got the card, Haven. I wish I was closer so I could give you a big warm hug.
    You too, Kat (and Delonda.) You’re all so special.

  19. Dear Haven-

    Thank you for the lovely pictures of Orri.(and my dear parents as well) I’m sorry to have missed that particular party, but I remember the retelling of O’s mishap, and I’m happy it’s captured forever on film, as well as those great Orri pictures, which is how we all shall remember him. The vision of him on Saturday is quietly leaving my mind as I look at these pictures and many of my own. Good memories, a wonderful and unique man. It’s nice to read these letters on your blog from your readers, comforting to know there are thoughts of Orri in many places and many hearts. It’s a sad day today.

  20. Suzy, the Donne quote is . . . “love is a full constant, or growing light.” So perfect.

  21. The Kate above (welcome, sweetest K.!) is my mother-in-law Meg’s sister, Meg who I call Mimi or sometimes Meems, and when she appears on the blog I get all atwitter and say, “That my Meg!” Well, this is my Kate! And she is one of the people Orri most loved to hear sing. She plays the guitar and has the most gorgeous, earth contralto. Their brother Dick plays all kinds of things, and their cousin Billy plays mandolin, and then of course my Kat plays guitar and can stop your heart with her voice. I hope everyone will bring their instruments to South Carolina. Kate would be my . . . I have no idea how we are related.

  22. Hi friends…<i am checking in from a computer site at the Sacred Valley near Cusco. When <i get up to <machu picchu, <i will send out every kind of loving and healing thoughts for you on this blog and <i have a special thing to recite for <mother Delonda. Everyone, know that my thoughts are with you.

  23. haven, i am going to read what you wrote for <orri…may we all begin stories without having any idea where they end…that, my friend is a great and wonderful blessing

  24. Speaking of George, I got an interesting present in the mail Saturday — a Jung action figure. Of course I nearly screamed with delight (I didn’t scream, as I’m a Quaker), but Gus said, “Hmmm, look little like Gawge.” Now remember: he has never SEEN George. When G. was here visiting, the baby was asleep. So it’s all magic and I now believe Jung came from Macchu Picchu.

  25. Accept my sincere condolences for Orri. This hits home with me as I had a dear friend in Pennsylvania, Craig Stull, who just died from pancreatic cancer within a few days of his diagnosis. It was quite shocking to me and has haunted me ever since. I didn’t get to say good-by to him. Those who are left bereft of their loved ones can take some small comfort in the expressions of support from kindred spirits.
    I wish all of you who knew and loved Orri healing and renewal.

  26. Haven,

    I am so sorry to hear about your Orri.


    I’ve sent you an email via your @yahoo.com (blogbaby) address, regarding the poem sent to your mother.

    Sarah S.

  27. thanks for the nice words Haven, I hope my voice holds together long enough to sing for Orri this week, I am feeling anxious- I guess technically speaking, the daughter in law of my sister would be sorta like a neice in law. But I really just think of you as a sister friend-

  28. Terri, isn’t it amazing how that cancer grows? First he was given 6-9 months and we all nearly fainted, because that would never, ever be enough time with Orri. And when the first chemo failed after three weeks he was given 3 months, and he died eight weeks from the diagnosis. My father-in-law (who is actually Kate’s brother-in-law, no matter how you look at it), is an MD-PhD, and oh yes I’ve told him he’s an overachiever, explained how the cancer works as we were driving to Charlotte and I couldn’t believe it. Remarkably — and I hope this was the case with your friend, too, Orri died virtually pain-free. That’s the best we could have hoped for here.

  29. Sarah, with a loaded skunk to my head I couldn’t access that yahoo address. Would you mind re-sending to havenkimmel@mac.com? Apple doesn’t have much wildlife at their disposal, it would seem.

  30. Could someone smart teach Sister-Friend Kate how to use the blog babies site? K., it’s really fun — all of YOU get to go post pictures and tell stories and whatnot and I am not the woman in her union suit behind the curtain.

  31. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/havenblogbabies/

    Here you go Sister K…of course, I love your name.

    Let me know if you have any questions and I will walk you through it…I AM the woman in the thermal underpants behind the curtain!

  32. Well, I have been carrying around Delonda’s address in my car while waiting to find a great card. I guess that doesn’t help at all, does it? Today is the day.

    I am so sorry for your loss. It’s the most surreal thing in the world to lose someone so dear. My dad died this past July. It was somewhat sudden in that he had cancer but died quickly of pneumonia. He went to the hospital on Weds. and died Friday night. They best you can hope for is that Orri knew how much he was loved and treasured. My sincerest sympathy to you and your family.

  33. I hope mother Delonda got my card…I spent so long looking for the perfect one to get across what I wanted to send, which was love and positive thoughts.
    I miss you all over the holiday weekend!!

  34. Haven, and all who loved him — I’m so sorry for the terrible loss of this cherished and beloved man, your Orri. From these posts about him, and from Kaline, it’s clear that his absence will leave an enormous void in so many lives. That he leaves behind so many extraordinary lessons in how to live, and live well, will keep him with you in all your days.

    I know your gorgeous, soulful tribute will be balm for those who are missing this lovely man. It also gifts those of us that are the poorer for never having met him.

    much love —

  35. Thank you all so much. Today Meg sent me a photograph of him at the beach with Don — he was in the element at the beach — and I burst into tears because I realized how I had failed to say, in all those words I’d written, that he was a gorgeous man. He had the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen, on anyone. Isn’t that odd? They were mesmerizingly lovely. He was stunningly graceful. Even his feet looked like they belonged on a model. Isn’t that odd, that I would forget to say he was beautiful?

  36. Everything else you said pointed in that direction…

  37. Thanks, Cupcake. That helps.

  38. You are welcome, Haven-Of-Rest.

  39. I’m actually going to put up a real Thanksgiving post tomorrow. I promise. Without all the grief-stricken crazy to go along with it. Christopher took some photographs out in the barn that sent us into fits of wheezing, we were laughing so hard.

  40. That sounds about like my Thanksgiving with friends, only I gave myself a severe headache. The good kind.

  41. Hello Blog Babies . . . thought of you all today as I decked the halls, we enjoyed some fluffy snowflurries and I can feel the change of season as it shifts from harvest into dormancy . . . hope you are all coping alright and know my thoughts are with you . . .

  42. haven, i think it is incredible when you remember certain parts of a great friend. just like orri’s…hands and feet. i have friends who make me think of certain parts of them that are seared into my brain, and are beautiful. hands, feet, teeth, chins, smiles, the way someone stands or walks or runs…there are so many little details that make ALL the difference. orri sounds like a one of kind–one that everyone aspires to emulate. that is a gift and i think he gave it to you and everyone he touched. i hope you are doing ok and having some laughs celebrating his spirit. he sounds like a boatload of fun and purity. it doesn’t get better than that.

  43. Wow, for him to have died in that short of time is horrible. I am sorry for your loss, and I wanted to say how nice your blog babies are to you and your people.

    On a side note: I am so mad that I could not find Iodine in any airport bookstore this weekend. I finally am getting around to buy it, and I couldn’t find it while traveling this weekend. What is the matter with booksellers?

  44. Orri will always be remembered in my heart as the gentle man family friend at Sunset Beach who was kind, considerate, and who embodied and demonstrated respect and true goodness to me. Orri was the calming catalyst in my life. His gentle and respectful friendship in essence helped to guide my life. Orri was my touchstone for what defines a very good and true man.
    Since meeting Orri Putnam in 1994, I have had my soothing and recurring dreams of returning to Sunset Beach and seeing Orri. My heart is always filled with comforting anticipation in these dreams.

    Then this past August I dreamt the same dream but with a quiet ending …. I dreamt that I arrived at Sunset Beach, but was told under the nightfall that Orri would not be able to make it.

    Orri will be greatly missed by so many people whose lives he touched. I know in my heart he is walking on the beaches of Heaven, and is at peace. My thoughts and prayers go to his wife and extended family, and all those who will always carry Orri in their hearts.


    Though they go mad they shall be sane
    Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again
    Though lovers be lost love shall not
    And death shall have no dominion.

    Dylan Thomas, from the poem And death shall have no dominion

    Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death
    hath no more dominion over him.
    For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that
    He liveth, he liveth unto God.

    Romans 6:9

  46. perfect – Dylan Thomas! he’s just perfect.

  47. Sweet Haven
    I’m so sad for you. I know how hard you love your friends and how hard it is to lose one. Please know you’re in my heart, Dear Angel.

  48. Haven – you changed the quote and now I am dying to see the new posting . . . oi vey, I have to go eat dinner and I know you will post it while I am gone . . .

    hope you are feeling more peaceful today!

  49. There is a family of genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker’s yeast) called Ori. It is involved in DNA replication – the process that helps keep us alive by continuously making new DNA. I used it as an example in my class today during a database searching exercise. I bet he would have found that amusing.

  50. Words simply cannot condense the vastness of Orri’s personality onto paper. I sit and I stare and I think, but there is no one story that describes Orri. The man WAS a story. A living legend, a national treasure – yet even these lofty epithets do not do him justice. Yes! his gentle hands. Yes! his perpetually browned skin. Yes! his trademark ponytail – all these things allude to Orri-sama, just like his easy smile or his gentle wit. But he was more than his characteristics, just as he was more than his hobbies (model train-building, vehicle restoration, and perpetual boat maintenance, to name a few). He was quick to laugh and equally quick to sit right down, look you in the eye, and listen – really listen – to you. I’m talking about the kind of listening where you could tell him about your latest clothing purchase or tell him about your heartfelt relationship issues. He was all ears. More than that, he genuinely wanted to know. And after you spoke with him, he would impart his wisdom like wind whistling across a still body of water – his words would continue to impact you long after he left. Even his simple catch-phrases left you with that warm feeling of being a part of exactly the right place at exactly the right time. And for our family (and our extended family and friends, and THEIR extended family and friends), there was ALWAYS time for Orri.

    Thank you Haven, for helping everyone to share in the knowledge of this great man, because I think everyone should have an Orri in their lives.

    – Jeff

  51. My deepest condolences. Orri sounds like a wonderful, wonderful man.

  52. Hi Haven…thinking of you and yours tonight.

  53. Jeff, thank you, angel. You described him perfectly. Tomorrow is going to be impossibly hard, but at least we’ll all be together.

    Thank you, Patty, too, for your memories of him.


  54. Dear Haven, I hope tomorrow goes well, or as well as can be expected. You wrote a beautiful tribute which will be appreciated and echoed by everyone, and you’ll be with others who understand. I hope that helps.

  55. dearest one

    i will be with you in spirit tomorrow. i encourage you to weep openly and laugh if someone strikes the right note, as well. you can do both at once. please be gentle with yourself and wear comfortable shoes. it’s going to be Orri’s show, and therefore it will be fullsome.

    i’m cradling KALINE to my breast at night. i am. i love knowing who Orri is.

    to be known is to be loved and to be loved is to be honored and never forgotten.

    he knows.


  56. my son pablo said something tonight . he was explaining about 10-year old boys. i asked him if his best friend ever talked about Feelings.

    pablo said yes, but only if the feelings are Excitement or Frustration, not Sadness.

    why don’t boys talk to each other about sadness? i asked/

    “it ruins them inside…” he said.

    see, now, i never knew that. yet it explains why so many men i know can simply not talk about their deepest sadnesses. also it explains why the saddest men are often heavy drinkers/addicts who become maudlin or isolated. it;s a release and a sanctuary for their sadness. perhaps it’s why men of god who carry so much of their parishiner’s sadnesses may also need to drink, or long periods of solitude.

    “they feel like wusses,” pablo explained.

    ahhhh, i said.

    i think men like Orri can talk about anything. but were they always that way? or did they learn to unlock their genetic codes. it’s food for thought. i think the gentle great listener men are good at listening at others’ hardships, while seeming to have none of their own, 99% of the time. it;s a saintly quality.

    and saints arent supposed to die. this of course adds to the great grief and the hardship losing the earthly presence of Orri visits upon his loved ones. a light has gone out.

    but it will reappear in other forms. he will make himself known to you. probably tomorrow, i’d think. he doesnt seem like the type to stand on ceremony.

    sfc and son

  57. My thoughts and prayers are with you today, Haven, and with Orri’s family and multitudes of friends. May you celebrate his life and may your spirits be lifted as his is lifted up to the heavens. Peace be with you.

  58. haven and family, thinking of you all today. i didn’t know orri, but i do know the pain of grief and i thought this poem was just right.

    To laugh often and much;
    to win the respect of the intelligent people
    and the affection of children;
    to earn the appreciation of honest critics
    and endure the betrayal of false friends;
    to appreciate beauty;
    to find the best in others;
    to leave the world a bit better
    whether by a healthy child,
    a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
    to know that one life has breathed easier
    because you lived here.
    This is to have succeeded.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    i KNOW orri succeeded.

  59. I just read Orri’s obituary and it included instructions for memorial gifts:

    “The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, memorials should go to Hospice and Community Center, P.O. Box 993, Rock Hill, SC 29731 or to Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, 2990 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 300C, Los Angeles, CA 90064”

    So, if anyone is inclined, we can make gifts in Orri’s memory to one of these organizations.

  60. Here is a link:


  61. He was only 61…that is SO YOUNG. And to find out your life is slipping away so quickly…

    Your grief is has become my grief.

  62. Suzanne–I think you are right about our loved ones making themselves known to us. My father just died in July at age 72 after a few months of chemo. Just recently I had a dream where I was surprised to see him sitting in our living room. He looked happy and healthy. I said, “Dad! You’re here! Are you okay?” He smiled and said, “I’m just fine.” That has given me a lot of comfort. The holidays will stink but I look forward to more peaceful dreams.

    I wish peace for Orri’s family and friends. You have my deepest sympathy. And thanks for the beautiful tributes you have shared on Haven’s blog.

  63. Many prayers and thoughts with our Haven this evening.

  64. I’m weeping for a man I never knew. And a part of it is selfish sadness for wishing I had known him.

    Haven, my prayers are with you and your family tonight.


  65. HAVEN: hand pie? i have been thinkin on you, darling one, all day and still now. i love you haven. i hope you have the comfort of that darling boy of yours to hold right now.

    in my car i listened to TUW again today. boy was i surprised when hazel’s mom said:

    “YOUR TWELVE MINUTES IN JEWELRY ARE UP,MISS FENNIMORE COOPER.” i felt such shock and joy. indescribable. we will speak of this later, but for now i just have to say: there was a reason i hoarded TUW until now. i think i needed to be clear enough to hear every syllable. and i dont want it to end, but i am committed to finishing it now. i have to. but i still replay every scene on the cd in my car. i have to do that as well. i must savor.

    today i was also shocked and loving the scene wher rebecca is just missing peter so much and hazel cuts on through: “feeling isn’t fact. it’s just feeling.” hazel is talking to becca about reality. hazel seems very wise to me. i love the Cronies, too. they are all necessary. well, it;s just a perfect novel, is all. and so much more. there are LESSONS in TUW. i am learning a lot.

    you may grow weary of hearing praise on this site, but i must once again declare: you are brilliant, your characters and dialogue are impeccable, your voice is true, and i cannot believe how generous auggie was to introduce us. he gave me a great gift that day. i can’t imagine my life w/o you and your books. it’s just that simple, darlin.

    ps i call Haven ” hand pie” because since long long ago, people have made small,self-contained pies that you hold in your hand that are warm and delicious and smart and ideal, they nurture a person…and haven is like that. so i call her Hand Pie. plus i felt she needed a name that was JUST for her.

    pss pablo’s father used to call me Butter Bean. it melted my heart. there is power in nicknames,isn’t there? i find names magical. orri is a magic name, as is haven. and miss cake. and delonda, or mother dee. there’s just a few examples.

  66. VANESSA:
    ” Just recently I had a dream where I was surprised to see him sitting in our living room. He looked happy and healthy. I said, “Dad! You’re here! Are you okay?” He smiled and said, “I’m just fine.””

    that was no dream. you were in the country of truth.

  67. Vanessa and Suzanne –

    I also had the grace of a visit to the “country of truth” a few months after my dad died. He had already slipped into a coma when I had arrived after my sister called, so I never got to hear him or talk to him, though I knew he could hear me in his last few days.

    In my “dream,” which felt like no dream I had ever had, I saw him in a very green and light-filled place and he walked to me and looked very healthy and at his best. He just smiled and gave me an enormous hug and I felt it, in my real body.
    I do believe we are given access to this place. I have a friend who had a very similar experience after her husband died.

    Haven, thinking of you and your family and reading Kaline.

  68. Here is a little poem that may cheer you all up. It was written by one of my students, an 11 year old boy named Luke. He was comparing two incongruous things: love and a crown.

    He sits on his throne wearing his shiny crown
    Down below a couple are enjoying a meal.
    He thinks of how they are they same
    And finds they both involve jewelry.

    Take heart, Haven and you other grieving blog babies. There is light ahead.

  69. love u lightning bug.

    yes, there is grieving going down. i kept my son home today. i needed him.


  70. oh suzanne. love you too. if i have leared anything in these dreadful last 7 months, it’s that eventually it gets better.

    Here’s another poem that may make you all giggle. 12 year old Christopher. He was comparing love to a fire extinguisher (basically, the kids drew lots…)

    Love is a happy feeling…
    It can set your heart reeling
    It comes in many forms
    It can help you weather storms
    But when it gets too hot….

    A fire extinguisher is all you got.

    How true, eh?

  71. Those poems are fantastic! Children say the most wonderful things.
    How lucky is Pablo to have such an expressive, artistic mother who talk with him!!! He is so blessed, as are you!

  72. Both of those poems are fantastic, Molly. Kids that age are still so free to think with open minds and hearts.

  73. amy: you’re a dear to say so. i feel so lucky to have pablo. he’s a good one, alright.

    you are all good ones too.

    hi polly!!!! looking forward to your trip to SF.

    hey jim shue!

    it’s been chickens w/o heads around here. i’ll be writing yall soon.

    haven is grieving. orri’s passing is very terribly hard. i dont know what to add to that, except to send you big hugs, haven. wish i were closer. i lost a very close friend in 96. i was cored. i ended up surrendering all other pursuits and writing it into the novel i was writing. i recall just weeping and keening and typing. it helped a tiny bit.

    i just hate death. who does death think it fucking IS????



  74. does anyone else have any Country of Truth stories?

    after my aforementioned friend Dusty died, i heard his texan voice in my head cracking jokes for several months. oh, and the day he died? the hotel room we were staying in blew all its fuses. my hair dryer cord was BLACKENED. only our room, in a hotel of 200 rooms. well, i knew, of course. twas he.

  75. My friend’s husband fell off a billboard he was working on and was killed. She was pregnant with their fourth child at the time. We were living in their old apartment and we had a large, framed poster of him. It’s a screenprint image of him, and it was sold at a benefit concert for the family. A few months after he died I came home and it was ON THE FLOOR, and there was something strange about it. Like it had just rolled off the wall. I think it was possibly standing on end or something strange.

    I believe this might have happened right around the time she eloped with his best friend. This was a good thing, definitely…but it gave me pause.

  76. where’s george? GEORGE????

  77. George is in…Peru?

  78. Haven–be on the look out for a little pick-me-up-thank-you. I’m mailing it after school today.

  79. HI everyone and dear Haven. I know it’s hard Haven but just let yourself cry cry cry. And ask for lots of hugs hugs hugs too. Take all the time you need. I’m sorry. This is so hard.

    Can’t wait to see you Suzanne! For the uninitiated, I’m going to San Fran to visit Suzanne and help her sell some of her valuables on that great big invisible marketplace, the Bay of E. We plan to make money and raise a little hell. I’m also hoping to soak up some little boy energy with Pablo, since my boys are both either entered or are veering dangerously near adolescent territory.

    I agree Suzanne, who the hell does Death think he is? Coming along and intercepting our lives this way, sometimes creeping up slowly and robbing us of our bone density and cartilidge and other things along the way. Or just sneaking up behind and grabbing us when it’s least expected. What the hell is THAT about?

    I console myself by reminding myself it’s all just the circle of life. Sure, we’re capable of insights about our insights, but when it all comes down to it we’re living creatures like the deer, the flowers and the grass. Everything is born, grows and dies. We all need to leave to make way for new babies. It hurts and it’s infuriating, but it is as it should be according to our mother, Earth. She is wise, even though we don’t always understand her decisions.

  80. Hi everyone…I am back from Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and am spending the next couple of days in Lima. I want everyone to know that to the best of my ability I sent my clearest and most transcendent thoughts and blessings and affirmations I could think of while at the top at that sacred ground, literally with my hand touching a quartz-laden stylus that the Incas placed at the top of that site and called the Hitching Post of the Sun.

    More later, I am dog-tired and getting used to normal sea level air pressure.

  81. Sounds magical, George. Can’t wait to see the pictures.

  82. Hello precious blog babies….I am just back from my husband’s mother’s funeral in Iowa, so our grieving extends out to you all also….so very hard, even if you are expecting it. Bless you all and Haven’s comments about Orri’s hands made me cry…Dana’s mother had beautiful hands also and we all commented on that at the funeral…all us girls have a ring of hers to remember her by. We are so very lucky to be surrounded by loving family and friends.

  83. George, thank you for sending out your clearest and most transcedndant thoughts. I practice meditating each night on Haven’s idea as God’s power being the Lure to Truth, Beauty and Goodness. I also mentioned to Him that industrial strength-draw would probably be necessary to tear me away from myself.

    Brenda, I am so sorry about your mother-in-law.

    My aunt/godmother died in April. She had a stomachache which turned out to be, of all things, a heart attack. She slipped into a coma and passed away 4 days after initially feeling sick. It’s a shock no matter how Death comes, but this Emily Dickinsn has always been a comfort to me. I’ll only put the first verse because it’s the one I like the best. I love the idea of my aunt taking a carriage ride with Immortality.

    Because I could not stop for Death,
    He kindly stopped for me;
    The carriage held but just ourselves
    And Immortality.

    I hope it comforts you all too.

  84. Sadness so often seems to coincide with joyous events such as holidays. My sister once wrote a beautiful piece after she had come home for a friend’s wedding and just before, another friend was killed. People in the wedding also served as pall bearers.

    Death is strong and takes what we would keep. But love is as strong or stronger. From The Song of Solomon: “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death.” The love that binds us to each other overcomes death and allows us to love across its divide until we are reunited.

    I also wanted to send some thanks to everyone. I ordered Apples to Apples after hearing about it here (because I live under a rock), and it has brought my family of adolescent boys together as nothing else could. Thanks, Polly, for the game night idea – I thought we had outgrown board games but they are loving this. Have fun in San Francisco.

  85. After my grandfather died in 1985 I had a dream he visited me at my parent’s house (which he had never done) and I fixed him a big country breakfast with bread slices – he cleaned his plate with his bread and said – “I’m headin’ on down the road, Sissy Kay” . . . It was a long cozy breakfast and was glad he stopped by on his way out . . .

    My father-in-law visited me lots in my dreams after he died, we went to dolphin (my totem) exhibitions, visited bars (like we did when he was alive) and drank with his WWII buddies and ate burgers, also we picked warm peapods in the garden and stood there and ate them, still warm from the sun . . .

    love you all, crazy buzy with company, headaches, and major deadline on Monday, but – love and miss you all!

    for art’s sake,

  86. Maureen – yes Apples to Apples is a great TEEN game . . . we play with my grown neices and nephews all the time . . . fun, fun, fun.!

  87. lordy george. you came back just in the nick. i realised i was missing you a coupla days ago, and it was MOST UNPLEASANT.


    ps you had a peak experience trip. that’s the only kind to have. far out.

  88. Glad you’re back, George! We missed you.

    Did anyone else’s avatar magically change with the new wordpress dashboard? I suddenly reverted to a one-year-old covered with pudding, and I did not do that. Odd. Maybe it’s a message for me to remember my inner child or something.

    I have two funny videos that I keep trying to upload for you all as a pick-me-up. Nothing will take them! Not yahoo, not wordpress. Any suggestions? They are Windows Media Player files, rather large.

    I’m heading to New York City Wednesday with 28 eighteen-year-olds to see Katie Holmes and John Lithgow and Diane Wiest and some good-looking guy in “All My Sons.” Pretty excited.
    Has anybody been to the NASDAQ visitors center in Times Square? That’s our other stop (I teach English and Economics) Would appreciate any tips. Check their live webcam on Dec 10 around 11 AM and we’ll wave.

    The electricity outlay for such a scene horrifies me. It’s mind-blowing for us hicks to visit the big city once in a while. Maureen




  90. So glad you’re enjoying board games, newVT. We’ve been experiencing a board game fruit emergency as our Apples To Apples is nowhere to be found. Our twelve year old is insisting we go buy a new one right away as he cannot wait until we locate the lost one. Isn’t this great? Our kids demanding that we play intelligent games with them rather than sneaking off to play video games? Ya gotta love it!

    Carrie Link got a literary agent?!? That’s fantastic and exactly where I want to be soon! Please Do Tell!

    I’m in the throes of decorating for Festivus (for the rest of us.) Anyone else going wild? I’ll Yahoo the pix when I’m spent. And probably need a cigarette. Yippeee!

  91. WOOHOO!

  92. Congratulations Carrie!!!

  93. Congratulations to Carrie! Excellent news!

  94. And yes, Maureen — I noticed the avatar slippage too. Though this one should work.

    I’d love to go wild along with you Polly, but all clients have decided they need everything yesterday. I will have to be extremely creative with my time to get any decorating up. Can’t wait to see your pictures, though!

  95. Yay Carrie!!

  96. Yay, Carrie!

  97. Re: Apples to Apples

    A favorite among all ages here in Raleigh. I didn’t think I would enjoy “variations” as much, but I was wrong. The most favorite variant so far is as follows…

    Lay out the green card (adjective) and have everyone play their red cards (nouns). Then one player/the dealer (taking turns) shuffles all the cards and hands them back out to the rest of the players. Whatever card you are dealt you must attempt to argue as the best match. The dealer/judge decides who wins. Whoever plays the card gets a point and whoever argued for the winning card gets a point. If you argued and won your own card you get both points.

  98. yipee! Go carrie, go carrie, wut? wut? wut? shiz-am!

  99. Wow, Apples to Apples minuetae. There’s a whole new fruity world out there I didn’t know about. Fun!

    Give us a C, give us an A, give us an R-R-I-E. What’s that spell? Carrie! (visualize splits in mid-air here)

    I took our older son and his best friend out to a comedy club tonight. Had a GREAT time. It’s snowing here and the world is beautiful. I hope your world is beautiful too, all of you.

  100. Especially you, dear silent Haven.
    Good night all.

  101. babies haven is okay but she resting. we need to let her rest.

    oh and you know what else?

    CARRIE LINK GOT AN AGENT!! this means all u writers out there who truly have a manuscript and want to write (god help you) this means it is POSSIBLE. yay!!!!!!!!

  102. and yes, i realise iposted carrie’s new earlier. but it BEARS REPEATING.

    GEORGE??? you’ve rested long enough. we need a man named george to commence on his trip to Peru. It’s your civic duty, george. get ova hyea.

  103. Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow. And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

    Kahlil Gibran
    The Prophet

  104. Thank you for that Suzanne, couldn’t come at a better time. Congratulations Carrie, fantastic news.

  105. well, i guess i’m illegally guest hosting for haven. nt that anyone ever could. she is unparalleled. that said? here is what i found to be the key to the act of writing and the ways of editing and publishing


    two things you must, must read. well – one of them is only on audio tape. but still. one book to read and one tape to listen to. they are the reason i am able to write and get published AT ALL

    2. WORD BY WORD read by anne lamott, availabe only on audio


  106. kudos suzanne – the prophet – no truer words have i before read

    good on tips on publishing, I’ve been thinking of expanding myself


  107. I’m on the case, Suzanne. I also got Puffball and some of the other books you recommended. Thanks.

  108. Hugs and love to all of you who are suffering. I’m so sorry.

    Suzanne – thank you for those two books to read concerning writing. I’ll be going out and getting those soon. 🙂

  109. Nothing to do with anything, but I just finished an amazing little novel that I thought I would pass on to you all. Disquiet, by Julia Leigh. A really different, very unsettling book, but so worth the read.

  110. Hi everyone. Suzanne, thanks for filling in and for the writing tips. I love Bird by Bird, well anything by Anne Lamott, but I didn’t know about Word by Word.

    I just finished Kaline Klattermaster’s Treehouse and I’m currently reading Otherwise Engaged along with All the Kings’ Men, In This House of Brede, and waiting for my own copy of Iodine from Amazon so I can read it again. Caryl, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll add it to my list.

    Can’t wait until Christmas break when I’ll have some sustained reading and writing time.

    It is cold, cold, cold here! Ten degrees. Time to pull out my copy of The Shipping News for some romanticizing of foul weather: “Weather here beyond anything you could imagine.”

  111. the shipping news is Amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

  112. Suzanne –
    Isn’t it? (meaning The Shipping News) We own two copies and my husband and I each reread it every year. I have probably read it twelve times at least. I can recite huge portions from memory. It makes dairy farming in Central New York seem somehow more logical. Like Quoyle, we needed something to brace against.
    We have a little divey restaurant in a nearby city called Doug’s Fish Fry and we usually make one trip there in the winter sometime. It feels like being at Skipper Will’s.
    Off to the barn.

  113. I have been working on Owen Meany and I am enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would when I started it. I look forward to reading more each night to see what is going to happen next.

  114. owen! owen! owen! such a brilliant book. have i mentioned that to date, A Prayer for Owen Meany is my FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE? i just love it.

  115. Linda,

    Aren’t books amazing that way? I feel embarassed to admit that Ive had a copy of The Shipping News for at least 5 years and have never read it! I will start as soon as I finish The Time Travelers Wife, which I am so enjoying.
    Hugs to you all!!

  116. When I started reading Owen when we first discussed doing a review of it here, I thought that I would never be able to finish it. I am not the intellectually gifted scholar that many of you guys are and this book seemed extra dense to me. But, then I got into it and realized it was not a hard read – I just needed to read it slow and steady and now I am about 1/3 of the way through it. I have really been struck by the characters and I am finding myself getting attached to them the same way I do with Haven’s characters. I think Haven suggested we read this book so I should not be surprised at how much I am enjoying it!

  117. I loved Owen too. What a character.

  118. Thanks, Suzanne, for guest hosting and also for the beautiful turn of phrase you used for my Dad dream. Country of truth. Even in a loved one’s death there are things to comfort us.

    I’m one of the Owen Meany lovers and just couldn’t put it down. The all caps style is a bit disconcerting at first but you get used to it.

    The one I had trouble with is Time Traveler’s Wife. Maybe I was in a difficult place when I tried to read it but it just made my head hurt.

    Anyone else an Ellen Gilchrist fan?

  119. I loved both Owen Meany and The Time Travelers Wife.

  120. I’ve been away for awhile. Computer at home is broke, and I’ve been to busy at work. I had to just say I loved the Time Ravelers Wife! I’ll admit the book was pardon my french, but a bit of a mind fuck at first. Once you get into the groove though that book just takes you away. That was one that Steph and I had a lot of fun disecting.

  121. I guess I’d better try again with The Traveler’s Wife. It’s been several years since my last attempt. Maybe I’ve gotten smarter or at least more patient.


  122. Whew! Is this a challenge? I have the same guilt about Time Traveler’s Wife as Amy-in-Ohio has about The Shipping News. It sits on my bookshelf after I got about thirty pages in and lost concentration.
    Maybe I’ll try Owen Meany first. Claudia was reading that in TUW, yes?

  123. Yup, 30 pages was about all I could get through then the headache made me put the book down. I think I’ll just go back to Something Rising and TUW which I am somehow reading simultaneously.

  124. Vanessa, I’ve been looking at Ellen Gilchrist books on Amazon because a neighbor recommended her to me. What do you recommend for a first read?

  125. Excellent. You guys give me more books to read when I should be reading my children’s lackluster descriptive essays. These books sound good enough to make me go return my overdue books, pay the ridiculous fine so that I can get these ones out…

    Damn you.

    Just kidding. You rock.

  126. Amy–I liked her journal called Falling Through Space, loved The Annunciation, Drunk With Love and I Cannot Get You Close Enough. There are some newer ones I haven’t picked up yet. I’ll have to look through my books since I haven’t read her stuff lately. Let me know if you get one and what you think.

  127. Amy,

    I’m a big Ellen Gilchrist fan as well, and would recommend two of her short story collections as good places to start: ‘In the Land of Dreamy Dreams’ or ‘Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle’.

    She captures the child’s perspective of the world very well, in almost a Zippy kind of way, with her recurring character Rhoda. Here’s a quote from the story ‘The Time Capsule’ in ‘Light Can Be Both Wave and Particle’:

    My name is Rhoda Katherine Manning. I weigh 82. We are in a war. They might come at any minute. I have auburn hair and brown eyes. I was born on a plantation in the Delta and as soon as the war is over I’ll be going back. Mrs. Allen’s son died in the war. She has a gold star in the window and I go and visit her quite frequently. The pope wouldn’t let her be my brother’s godmother. She isn’t allowed to go inside our church. No one tells me what to do. I am just like my father.

    Well, I see I am running out of paper. When you find this think of me. It is summer and the sun is shining and everything is fine around here so far. I will include my fingerprints.

    Yours truly,
    Rhoda Manning

  128. Thanks Vanessa and John! John, the quote you provided brings to mind Kaye Gibbons novel ‘Ellen Foster’. I loved that book.

  129. Hi babies…I just got back to Alexandria, Va. today after the trip to Peru…more later. I just wanted to check in…

  130. Welcome home, George. You have been missed.

  131. Hi George! Welcome home!

    The stack of books next to my bed is toppling, people!! Though I better add Ellen Gilchrist to the stack.

    Amy – I’m with you on Ellen Foster: I used to teach that to my tenth-graders, so I know it inside-out.

    Ah, Molly Bug. I have a stack of persuasive essays to grade and it’s gotten so I would rather do ANYTHING than grade papers. I would do the farm accounting, clean the calf nursery. Sigh. I wish my writing career would begin so I could quit my teaching job. I love the teaching part but hate the paperwork part. We have a TWO-WEEK break for Christmas for the first time since I remember in 20 years!! I am so excited!!!

    Hey, if anyone is looking for a good writing conference, I would recommend the one at Colgate University, which is close by where I live. You can be in a workshop or just hang out on the beautiful campus and write and attend all the public sessions. Here’s the link:


    I went in 2007 and had Jennifer Vanderbes as my workshop teacher. She wrote Easter Island. If you come, I’ll bring you to our farm!

  132. Welcome back, George. Did you bring us presents?


  133. It is a truly bizarre coincidence, but I was telling an Orri Putnam story to someone today, and so I just decided to check on the internet to see if I could find him. I lived in an apartment over his in Athens, GA, where we were both students – we’re talking 40 years ago. I haven’t seen him since, but he was one of those characters that you just don’t forget – a bit of a wheeler-dealer at the time, but with a huge sense of humor. It is sad to read here of his rapid demise, but it is wonderful to know how many friends he had and what an impact his life had on others. I wish we had kept in touch.

  134. It’s Christmas Day and all day I have been thinking of Orri. Orri would always dress as Santa and make the rounds bringing joy to children and adults alike. I was fortunate to be able to accompany him many times and marvel at how he loved doing this more than others enjoyed his arrival. Merry Christmas, Orri, I hope you will visit us tonight.

  135. go to the link above.

    it features Susan Boyle, a timely goddess. a GODDESS. CRAFTILY DISGUISED by the baby Jesus as a 47 year old unemployed women from a village in England.

    i saw this and at once i felt lifted into something very wise and wry and magic…like the


    this lifted me to a very high place. it is the time of hope. miracles will come. we must be ready and prepared, as was Susan Boyle. xoxsfc

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