Book Giveaway and Excerpt: Elk Love

Dear KOM-ers!

We’re so happy to feature a new book giveaway!

Please enjoy this excerpt from “Elk Love” by Lynne Spriggs O’Connor.

There are 2 ways to enter to win a FREE copy:

  1. Leave a comment below with your email address (so we can contact you)
  2. Email us at KOMWriting@gmail.com with the Subject: Elk Love giveaway entry

The winner will be randomly selected on 3/25/24 and announced on our website and social media. *

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Having spent ten summers on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation near Glacier National Park, forty-two-year-old Lynne Spriggs thinks of Montana as her healing place. When she moves to “Big Sky Country” from the East Coast in a quest to reset her life, she has high hopes for what awaits her.
Great Falls, a farming and military town in central Montana, is not what Lynne imagined when she decided to leave city life behind. But her dream of being more connected to nature in the American West comes alive when she meets Harrison, a handsome rancher thirteen years her senior. Wary but curious, with her dog Willow by her side, she leans into the seasonal rhythms of Harrison’s hidden valley and opens her heart to a wild language that moves beyond words. Elk Love explores an intimate place where loneliness gives way to wonder, where the natural world speaks of what matters most.

Excerpt: Chapter 2 – AMADOU  

Summer, 2006. This is my second summer floating the river with Harrison. I still don’t care much about catching fish. But learning to fly-cast interests me. Standing in waders with water up to my hips one horribly windy day, I try and try and try. Harrison fishes quietly downriver, each cast perfect. Upriver, I’m exasperated, cursing yet an- other rosary of gnarled wind knots.

Harrison notices and inquires kindly, “Do you need some help?”

“No!” I snap back, beginning to weep. He casts again and leaves me with my difficulties until I explode. The sound of an ancient desperation inside me echoes from the riverbanks. “I just can’t do this!”

Harrison wades upriver and stands in front of me. “Will you hand your line to me? I bet I can help.” He starts to unravel the line, one knot at a time. “It’s miserable, I know,” he says. “Men don’t do anything unless it’s miserable.”

“I don’t understand. Why?”

He shrugs his shoulders. “We have to tame misery . . . I’ve lived this misery myself so many times . . . this is just part of it.” He smiles. His blue eyes are gentle. Knots loosen. “Everybody comes unglued on fishing,” he assures me.

We stand side by side, the river’s current pushes against my legs, wraps itself around my waders until they squeeze tight against the flesh of my thighs like skin.

“I remember being sent to a neighbor’s house to ask if I might learn how to fish as a boy. I was handed a bamboo rod and put to work casting a leader into a wash bucket. A gentleman named Murray Dyer took me under his wing. He was my father’s best friend. I think he wrote a book called The Weapon on the Wall: Rethinking Psychological Warfare, or something like that. Anyway, he was a son of missionaries in China and a self-created Englishman. He always wore a necktie whenever he was hunting or fishing.”

“Really?”

“That was how it was done in the thirties. I practiced casting to that bucket for hours and hours. As a graduation gift, Mr. Dyer gave me what could have easily been a 1910 setup for any fisherman in England: a bamboo Hardy fly rod, a silk fly line, a box to keep natural gut leaders wet, a Wheatley dry fly box, and a piece of amadou.”

“Amadou? What’s that?”

“A piece of moss that fly fishermen used to dry their flies.” Harrison cranks the reel and shortens my line a bit.

“Okay, you’re all set. Here you go.” He hands the rod back to me as he reaches up with his other hand to wipe a tear from my cheek. “Feel better?”

I nod, rolling my eyes.

“Want to try another cast or two, before we head home?”

I like the word amadou. The sound of it keeps pulling at my mind like a splendid puzzle, a strange melody I cannot forget. I discover that the species of bracket or shelf fungi found on birch trees generally used to harvest amadou is called Fomes fomentarius; in English it is also known as horse’s hoof fungus or tinder fungus. The amadou layer is the fibrous section found on top of the fungus, just below the outer skin and above the pores. I find curious recipes for its processing. One suggests soaking the amadou layer in washing soda for a week, beating it gently from time to time. Then it has to be dried and pounded with a blunt object to soften and flatten it. The finished product is said to have great tactile appeal: a fluffy, felt-like material, pleasant to the touch like soft buckskin.

Back at home, I learn this spongy substance was historically used as an absorbent in medicine to stanch bleeding and served as a wound dressing; hence, there’s another name for it: “wound sponge.” But the origins of the name amadou, found in late-eighteenth-century French, lead me to perhaps its most important role as a precious resource. Coming from the Latin amator meaning “lover,” amadou easily ignites. I find out that early peoples around the world carried and used this substance for at least five thousand years, precisely because it allowed them to start a fire easily, catching sparks from flint with this light- weight fuel. I imagine Indigenous North Americans appreciating the properties of this fungus.

“What a wild thing amadou is,” I say to Harrison, over lunch in town a few days later. “A tree fungus that combines the properties of fire and water. Something in nature that burns, absorbs, and heals? And its name means love.” I am too embarrassed to say lover.

“I know.” He nods. “It’s like the connections of Spirit that twist and braid.”

I gaze into his eyes. “That’s so lovely.”

“It’s that fire that lights everything.”

 

* By entering this contest, you give consent to Kind Over Matter to use your name for promotional purposes on our website and on all social media. 

NOTE: You can pre-order Lynne’s book on Amazon.

lynne spriggs o'connor
Before moving to the rural West at age forty-two, Lynne Spriggs O'Connor curated exhibitions of folk and self-taught art at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA. She spent ten summers on northern Montana’s Blackfeet Indian reservation while pursuing fieldwork for her PhD in Native American Art History at Columbia University. She also worked in the film industry as Production Coordinator for Spalding Gray and Jonathan Demme on the iconic "Swimming to Cambodia." After landing in Montana, she curated Bison: American Icon, a major permanent exhibit for the Charlie Russell Museum on bison in the Northern Plains. "Elk Love" is her first memoir. For the past fifteen years she and her husband have lived on a cattle ranch in an isolated Montana mountain valley east of the Rockies, where her life centers on writing, animals and family.

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