Home of Michael Perry – New York Times Bestselling Author, Humorist, Singer/Songwriter, Intermittent Pig Farmer

Posts Tagged ‘photos’



(Originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal.)

Due to the calendar contortions required to arrange and navigate the holiday publishing schedule, I am composing this column during the single digit dates of December. This is tricky, as I have no way of anticipating what grief or joy will have transpired in the interim. Or, to put it in contemporary terms: How many Twitter hashtags will have risen and fallen?

In light of this uncertainty, I choose for my subject today a word that will apply whatever the state of things—or the state of me—when this little essay is published: gratitude.

Gratitude. Such a lovely word. Humble and warm. Humble, because it’s not a word you use if you think you did everything yourself. Humble, because no matter how hard you did work at whatever it is you’re grateful for, you know—and more importantly, acknowledge—there was some luck involved. Warm, because gratitude is not compatible with a cold soul. Warm, because gratitude radiates, like the gentle rays of a heart-sized sun. Gratitude goes softly out and does good works—which generate more gratitude. Gratitude is renewable energy.

Gratitude, because to offer anything less would be to ignore all privilege. The privilege of existence. The privilege of health. The privilege of privilege. And now we are back at humility—or ought to be.

Gratitude, because the world is awash with the sour surf of opposing sentiments.

Gratitude, for those who show us the same.

Gratitude, even in grumpiness. Which is to say I am not talking all hosannas, hugs, and puppies here, I am talking about perspective and preponderance and relativity and a sideways glance into the cosmic mirror, where behind me I spy millions of souls who would give all they own for just one of my disappointing Tuesdays. Gratitude as my moral duty.

Gratitude, because it’s so easy. A note. A word. You don’t even have to talk. Gratitude can be soundless. You can speak it with your eyes. Share it with a smile. Weave it into your works. You can kneel down and offer it up.

Gratitude. A triple-syllabic salutation to the six directions, whichever way you’re pointing. The echoes go on and on. The echoes are gratitude returning. There is the idea among psychologists that gratitude can be cultivated. Put it out there and it comes back to you.

Gratitude as a practice. As an intentional act. Gratitude in the form of reflection. A quiet moment. A look back.

Gratitude, not as obligation but as celebration.

Gratitude, with our loved ones in mind. The ones who suffer our ingratitudes with grace, and that grace yet another reason for gratitude. Grace: cousin and catalyst to gratitude.

Gratitude, because as this year draws to a close I am reminded it was another year granted, not guaranteed, and therefore not taken for granted.

Gratitude, no matter the season.


Posts from the Box: Tooling Along

Even at my non-famous level (9 out of 10 times no one recognizes me at the Farm & Fleet) (and then half the time it’s a relative, neighbor, or Moose Country 106.7 listener), my calendar is such that I meet many, many thoughtful people in passing and simply cannot do justice to their kindnesses or adequately recognize their hard work or support their latest project the way they might hope. I keep a box of books and notes and CDs and miscellaneous objects given to me on the road, and when I can I jot a note or make a mention. Thus, Posts from the Box.


People do nice things. These are hand-tooled and hand-made by a reader. As a teetotal I use the can coozies to hold my sparkling water while I’m working in the pole barn (I’m just a rough boy) and as a non-gambler I use the dice cup to…well, you see. It’s over there on my desk right now.

I’m Not Thirsty. You?


After an evening speaking engagement, I stopped at a gas station and bought the drink pictured above. During the short drive home, I drank about half of it. Parked the van in the garage and left the beverage in the cupholder. The next day I was up early to speak at a local school. When I finished doing two presentations I was a tad dry, so just as I was about to drive off I reached down for the drink and took an absentminded swig. The weight of the bottle shifted oddly as I lowered it. I looked, and was surprised to see a used tea bag suspended in the liquid. My wife and daughters sometimes take tea for the drive to school, but it still seemed an odd thing to do.

Then I looked closer. Yah. That’s a drowned mouse.

I bailed out of the van. Aware that I was in full view of a school full of impressionable children, I ducked down beside the back bumper and blew that mouthful of bad pop all over the blacktop. Even as I was spitting like a mad cat with a mouthful of stinkbugs, I was offering prayers of gratitude that I had discovered the mouse before I swallowed. As discreetly as I could, I got back in the van, found a mouseless bottle of water and commenced to swish and spit like I was in some sort of dental appointment Olympics.

I also looked more closely at the contaminated bottle. Yah. Not one, but two mice.

If you wanna, I got closeups after the break. (more…)

Thank You, Young, Old, and In Between


Sometimes I hit stretches where there are so many deadlines, so many miles to travel, so many home and work duties, and so little time, that I get a tad whiny, short of breath, and borderline surly. Then someone shares a photo like this–a young reader I’ve never met, in a hammock with The Scavengers during a weekend hiking trip in the mountains–and I’m reminded that whenever someone settles in with a book, that person is giving time to the writer. And time is the rarest of gifts.

So a heartfelt thank you to all the readers. I never take any of this for granted.

And P.S., for you Scavengers insiders, I am told that the young reader in the photograph also made her own SpitStick.

Why I Love Indies

If you’re planning a whitewater rafting trip down an alligator-infested lava flow without a life preserver, may I suggest you retain the manager of your local independent bookstore as a guide? In the world of books and publishing, few have been more buffeted by change and circumstance than your local “indie,” and if there’s one still standing in your neighborhood, I can pretty much guarantee its run by hard-working optimistic survivors with one potentially fatal weakness: they love books, and just won’t quit.

And thank goodness for that. Thirteen years ago, when Population 485 was released, it was hand-sold into existence by independent booksellers–but they just won’t quit.

How do I know?

Because thirteen years later, out of the blue, I get an email with proof that the indie crew is still out there, hand-selling every day:

2015 MIBA list

I don’t know why it’s back on the list. But I know it didn’t pop back up there on its own. Thank you, indies.