Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A friend came up to me today, laughing because my name had just appeared in the Young Achievers section of the local newspaper. I had no idea about the mention before she told me--I think it's hilarious. People often tell me I look young for my age, but I don't think I look that young (I'm grouped with high school and college students.) The article mentions my not-so-recent honorable mention in the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred contest. I imagine a press release must have surfaced from a tall, dusty pile.

Speaking of delightfully-belated honors, last week I received my actual physical Bellwether Prize. Barbara Kingsolver had talked about wanting to have some sort of object to go along with the award; it was a great surprise to find a big box from her on my doorstep, four years after I found out I had won the Bellwether. Inside, I found a wonderful triangular iron bell hanging from a stand emblazoned by a plaque (I will post a photo when Blogger allows me to post pictures again.) Here is part of Barbara's accompanying letter:
Dear Gayle,

This might seem ridiculously late, but I've been thinking for a long time about a design for a physical award to represent the Bellwether Prize. Our own "Oscar." It seemed obvious that it should be some kind of bell. Finally last winter I was taken with a wind chime manufactured in the blacksmith shop of Berea College, a very old college in Kentucky where all the students work in creative arts or services in lieu of tuition. I asked if they could make a smaller bell with a stand, which we could engrave with the prize information. They were wonderfully cooperative--your little object helped put some kid through another day of college. We have four of them lined up in the office now, ready to send out--all but one of them very late, but still carrying my warmest congratulations. If it doesn't fit on your mantel, you can hang it outside as a wind chime--the sound is pretty nice. Or tie it to your best cow. (Or to be perfectly correct, a neutered sheep.)
I'm afraid I don't have any neutered sheep around here, so for now the bell has taken up residence on the corner of my desk. Everyone who walks past can't help but clang it. I love looking over at it and remembering my connection to Barbara, my responsibility to make my words ring true.

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