|Shakespeare's Sonnet 75|
It is now twenty years later, and I’ve begun to outline the last book in the series, entitled So Are You to My Thoughts. It makes me extremely happy to have gotten this far. The penultimate book, A Moon Every Night, is written, waiting for its last edits, and I’ve gone ahead with planning the last.
The books are full of characters, but they tell the stories of three protagonists, Line, Marty and Paul Mikkelson. I’m interested in how the arcs of these three stories play out as over against each other. It isn’t exactly planned. It is just how things happen. One person may be in a dynamic situation which energizes and grows them, while another is in a quieter part of their life.
Line’s story is intense at the beginning, when she and her husband are impacted by the violent student protests of the late 1960’s while quickly having four kids. She is able to do much good as she gains experience working across many spectrums of health care. Later in life things settle for Line, and keeping track of her kids, who make the most of their excellent educations and resources, occupies her.
The reverse is true for Marty, who doesn’t blossom until later. Though she has good jobs and a lively intellectual life in San Francisco, she has married an emotionally deprived man, who never really recovers. Only in the last books do we see the full flowering of her abilities and her taste for beauty, when she finds a partner who loves being a father to his four kids and needs her to complete his family.
Paul’s journey is steady. He successfully settles in wilderness places he wants to study. His achievements turn to ashes in his hands, however. His beloved wife does not live long and he finds himself back where he perhaps wanted to be in the first place: resident at Lake Michigami, the lakeside home built by Mother and Dad, with the long-term help of family and their hard work. He is left with his own task of getting to the bottom of things, his own search for truth.
In all of them, the Mikkelson values for balance and a sort of human ecology can be seen. Excellence often comes at a cost, skewing everything around it and often requiring many people and resources to shore it up while one person gets the glory. Though each of the Mikkelsons is unique and takes their own path (just off the mainstream!), their aims are often modest. In their family culture, Dad’s insistence on right relationship, to God and to all of his creatures as well as each other, is of the highest importance.
I try to look at these stories, which are of course those of me and my family, though fictional, from the outside. They are a saga, an evolving tale of what was possible in particular cultures in the second half of the 20th century in the United States. It is a time when technology, particularly communications, accelerated. The Mikkelsons grew up in North Dakota, with 19th century technology and only each other to entertain themselves, however. They have grown rich and fertile inner lives with which to combat Baudrillard’s “desert of the real,” which makes up life in the 21st century.
I hope that the books are anthropology, as well as story. E.O. Wilson’s great salvo on socio-biology, On Human Nature posits that “soft core” altruism, as opposed to “hard core,” is the key to human society. “The genius of human society is the ease with which alliances are formed, broken and reconstituted. There is in us a flawed capacity for a social contract, combined with a perpetually renewing, optimistic cynicism with which rational people can accomplish a great deal. Human behavior is the technique by which human genetic material is kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.” The Mikkelsons, keeping themselves simple and their minds open, are the proverbial “salt of the earth.”
The idea that I would have to give up worrying what the world might think about the project was prophetic. I publish the books myself under the imprint Lightly Held Books. But I have had some wonderful comments. On Amazon.com, a “Concerned Citi-zen” writes: “With her photographer's eye, poet's mind and compassionate disposition, Kronlokken steps into and guides us, book after book, through the intimate intricacies of her character's lives and times. Weaving a tale often more akin to a symphony than a story, her novels are rich with a zen-like sensitivity that leaves one quietly fulfilled, yet wanting more. Highly recommended.”