Enchantment might describe it. Or perhaps something within me failed to develop, thus making room for the portion that fetes the senses, all five of them. On road trips while my companions are charting time and distance to the next town, or looking for a good restaurant, I'm noting the way light washes a hillside before the twilight claims it. Others may grumble about the poky little burgs we drive through, or the rain that's slowing us down, but I'm lowering my window to smell that particular scent the spring shower kicks up when the first droplets hit the dusty sidewalks. If I pay attention, I may be rewarded by the sight of a ragamuffin boy rattling along on his bike, mongrel dog in tow. And if I listen hard enough, I might hear the distant voices of mothers calling their children to supper.
This allegiance to the senses has a downside. I'm not a good material witness. If I should happen upon a bank heist, I would not be able to describe the getaway car. I might, however, tell you of the storm of crows that rose and obscured the sun for an instant as the robbers' auto careened around the corner. And maybe I'd mention the scent of bread baking somewhere, none of these observations particularly helpful.
Admittedly, I and similarly afflicted souls are more like the cat that starts across the backyard to investigate a rustling in the fence row. On the way, a grasshopper plops down in front of her and she stays to study it for a long moment, its fragility coupled with strength, its greeness beyond all greens (if cats see color, and how do we know they don't)? Eventually the grasshopper takes another leap and disappears; the cat continues her journey to the fence. A mockingbird spies her and starts a delightful wrangle that could last half the day. There's a tussle with the new puppy, so that by dusk the cat turns back to the open kitchen door, never having reached the fencerow, but nevertheless content.
So goes my life. Looking back, I could have, probably should have concentrated on one or two interests such as watercolor, poetry, book design, fiction, essays, animal rescue, teaching…the list goes on. I’ve tried my hand at so many endeavors, savored them, had reasonable success (if you don't count making pie crust), and moved to other things. Maybe that's one reason you’ll never see my name emblazoned in neon lights. To me, focus is a dull word.
I've been privileged to participate in the lives of my patient, devoted husband, our two beautiful children and a superb son-in-law, all having blessed my life in more ways than I can count. I’d like to think that a little part of me is present in those I count as my beloveds, and if so, that’s more than enough for me.
Joan Shaddox Isom is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma. Her MFA is from the University of Arkansas. She is a former assistant professor of English at Northeastern State University (in Oklahoma), and was artist/writer-in residence for the Arts Council of Oklahoma.
Joan claims that her affinity for the natural world probably comes from her parents, who, long before “ecology,” were stewards of the land, the water, the flora and fauna.
Joan has a penchant for people who don’t take themselves too seriously, for animals, wild and domesticated, with the exception of opossums which she tolerates but does not exult over; she pulls for the underdog, loved teaching, and misses her students now that she’s no longer in the classroom.
A few favorite things: cornfields, pumpkins, crows, rain, twilight (gloaming), peanut butter, laughing with the few people who share her slightly twisted sense of humor, cats that cuddle and hum barely audible little tunes, dogs that roll their eyes and try to look innocent, chocolate in any form, and strawberry/rhubarb pie.
She's had painful losses, joyful experiences, and occasionally, a goose-bumper epiphany.
Joan's latest book, released in August 2005, is a novel, Offerings in the Snow, a Christmas Story, set in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
AWARDS AND HONORS
• Oklahoma Literary Award for Fiction
• Pegasus Award (Best poetry collection by an Oklahoman)
• Crème de la crème, Oklahoma Writers Federation,
best in all categories
• Plays, Inc. (Boston), award for one-act play
• Indian Historian Award Nominee (Oklahoma)
• Short story included in top ten, storySouth’s One-Million
Writers Competition 2005
• Sigma Tau Delta Faculty Appreciation Award
Northeastern State University