Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Before my daughter, Kate, was born, twenty-three years ago on this Saturday, January 23, I went out for one last hurrah. It would be a long time before I'd be traveling solo for quite a while. A friend and fellow writer, Dan O'Brien, who lived on a ranch in South Dakota invited me to visit. I recall little of where I slept or what we ate except that conditions were rustic. And Dan lived on this vast, seemingly endless expanse of plain.

I once spent a fair amount of time in the West, riding, traveling. And I had a certain nostalgic, and I'd have to add romantic, notion about what the West was. Or what it had been. For a time I fancied myself a free spirit and I would have just hopped on a horse and ridden across the plains. But that was behind me now. I certainly wasn't going to get on a horse, given that I was seven months pregnant. Instead I walked.

For days I walked around Dan's ranch. His ranchhand, Ernie, was there and the two of them enjoyed regaling me with gruesome farm and ranching stories, then would laugh their heads off as I winced. Dan had a hawk named Dolly. He wrote a book about her. He would take her out and I'd watch her fly. It was a lonely time for me. I wanted a baby. But I was having her alone. And I felt very alone at this time. The future was full of doubt. I didn't know where we'd live or how'd we manage. I had no idea what to do with a baby (I would soon learn).

But there was no turning back now. Still I felt as if my life was suddenly going to be divided into two halves. Before and after. And I knew that nothing would ever be the same. Friends had warned me not to have a child. One told me that my life would never be my own again. Just that past year in '86 I had gone from Beijing to Berlin by rail - a journey of several months. Basically around the world. Now I thought I was grounded. I'd never go anywhere again. My head was filled with these fears.

One afternoon when Dan and Ernie were out doing chores, I went for a walk. I had my camera with me and, as I was roaming, feeling a little sorry for myself, I came upon Blackie - Dan's horse - standing alone in this golden field, before a storm came. It was this beautiful magical moment and something settled over me. I felt that everything would turn out all right. The next day I returned to New York. This is the last image I took before Kate was born.


  1. a lovely photo and a reminder that life turns us unexpectedly in just the right direction.

  2. This is such a beautiful post Mary! Really appreciated reading it.


  3. Wow. And will there be an After post next, I hope? Love the photo and what it represents.

  4. Thanks so much for your comments! Ha I hadn't thought of an AFTER post, but I guess I must do one. I'm so glad you liked this post. And the picture has always been so special to me. Thank you again. xoMary