Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A tribute to Margaret Maron

She will be missed by many.

for forty years
the sheets of white paper have
passed under my hands and I have tried
    to improve their peaceful

emptiness putting down
little curls little shafts
of letters words
    little flames leaping

not one page
was less to me than fascinating
discursive full of cadence
    its pale nerves hiding

in the curves of the Qs
behind the soldierly Hs
in the webbed feet of the Ws
    forty years

and again this morning as always
I am stopped as the world comes back
wet and beautiful I am thinking
    that language

is not even a river
is not a tree is not a green field
is not even a black ant traveling
    briskly modestly

from day to day from one
golden page to another.

-Forty Years by Mary Oliver, West Wind, (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997)

2015 Guest of Honor/Lifetime Achievement Honoree - Bouchercon, Raleigh, NC

Margaret with husband Joe, son John, daughter-in-law Andrea,
granddaughters Julia and Natalie
Bouchercon 2015

My heart is broken.

I know many of you feel the same way.

Margaret Maron was loved, admired and respected in the mystery community, and she will never be forgotten.

She was always accessible, always ready to reach out to new writers and always happy to meet her readers.  And always humble.  And always, always gracious.

I'm so thankful to have several pieces she wrote for Meanderings and Muses to share with you.

As many of you will remember, I would send out an invite to writers in December of each year to get the next year's Meanderings and Muses schedule set, and she was always one of the first to respond.

She wrote about everything from her mother's cookbook to over-sexed pine trees.

Those pieces she shared with us between 2009 and 2015 are still getting hits.

You can read them here:

http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2009/08/serendipity-by-margaret-maron.html - - - "Which is how Kaye Barley came into my life and will be in my life forever."






Like many of you, when my heart is broken, I write.

I have so many wonderful memories of Margaret Maron.

I may write for days.

Don Barley and I loved sitting around this table with Margaret and Joe.  

Oh, if this table could talk.  

It has served as a place of welcome for many.  

Home cooked meals, drinks, conversation, laughter, and tears.

One day sitting around that table, Margaret allowed me to interview her.  I was tickled pink that she had agreed, but a little worried knowing Margaret to be one of the most private people in the world.  But, i had no reason to be concerned, she was gracious, clever and witty, as always.

You can read the interview here:  (It was first posted at Jungle Red Writers back when I was  posting as "Oh, Kaye!")   https://www.jungleredwriters.com/2015/09/oh-kaye-interview-with-margaret-maron.html

We cannot wrap our hearts around the fact that we won't be able to spend time hearing her side of the wonderful stories she and Joe would share with us ever again.

Whether it was a meal, a drink, or pouring over photo albums of some of the trips they had taken, there was always conversation, stories, and laughter.

Because home is important to me, I always love visiting friends' homes so I can be nosey and observe how their homes reflect their personalities.

I've been in a lot of homes over the years; big and grand, small and humble.   I can very honestly say I have never loved one as much as I love Joe and Margaret Maron's.

When I've said this to them, Joe has looked at me in puzzlement and reminded me "it's just a house we've added on to a few times; rather haphazardly."  

And in Margaret's words, it is "scruffy comfort." 

To me, it's perfect. 

From that table that has welcomed so many, to the bookshelves Margaret built, to the exquisite paintings on the wall done by Joe, to the room Margaret calls her office, but I call "the room where the magic happens."

Favorite memories include some nights after Joe and Donald have turned in, and are sound asleep while Margaret and I, in our jammies, are playing Scrabble around "the table," and then move into the room where the magic happens.  Me snuggled in a comfy chair at 2:00 a.m. with an afghan tossed over my feet by Margaret while we talk about everything.  Everything.  Cooking, writing, people we knew (those we loved/those we didn't), mystery cons we had just been to, places we loved, food we loved, books (those we loved/those we didn't), poetry, politics, and what trauma I must have suffered to hate Cribbage so much (Margaret loved it).

She and Joe would always take us around for a tour outside to see what was growing (and to say "Hey!" to the flamingos).

Another fun memory is the weekend we spent in Seagrove, NC where Margaret introduced me to many of the potters who were so helpful with research she did for her "Common Clay."  I came home with a few pieces of pottery that I cherish for their beauty and for the memories attached.

She surprised, and honored, me more than once by putting me in her books as a very minor character, but you should have seen the look on Donald's face when he found out he was mentioned in "Designated Daughters" (more than once) as "the handsome Donald Barley."

A true highlight was to be at The Weymouth Center for the Arts to see Margaret inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame - along with Carl Sandburg and Clyde Edgerton.  

I wrote about it here (along with a LOT of photos!):   http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2016/10/north-carolina-literary-hall-of-fame.html

You'll find lots of little stories I've written about Margaret and Joe here at Meanderings and Muses.  Some of those include the book launches we attended.  One of which (again, with LOTS of photos) was her last book launch at Quail Ridge for "Take Out."   http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2017/07/sigrid-harald-news-and-margaret-maron.html

One of the things I most admired about Margaret was her willingness to stand by her beliefs.  She did so without proselytizing, but she stood proudly and firmly for the things she strongly believed in.  She loved her home state of North Carolina.  Enough that she felt she needed to speak up along with dozens of other well-known North Carolina writers when they gathered at the state Capitol to protest policies they said were hurting public education, access to health care and voting rights.  http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/2016/03/some-north-carollina-writerssome-north.html

One of my favorite passages:


Barb Goffman said...

That was lovely, Kaye.

JMaron said...

Thank you, Kaye, for that very sweet tribute to Mom. You made me cry ... again!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Thank you, Barb.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

John, I've been coming here in the evenings after reading your updates and writing through tears that your sweet words caused. It has been a week for tears, hasn't it? You have earned a rest, my friend. <3

Kathy Reel said...

Oh my dear Kaye. I am just learning of Margaret's passing now. I am so sorry that you have lost your precious friend. I know how much you enjoyed being with her and how much you loved her. You have written a beautiful tribute here, and I plan on going back and reading the posts she did on Meanderings and Muses. I wish I could hold your hand or hug you or just sit with you. Love you.

Dru Ann said...

Kaye, what a lovely tribute to a lovely lady. I will miss her. Every time I saw her at a conference we would chat and then Joe would ask me about Brooklyn. I'm so sorry for your loss and may your memories hold with all the good times you had.

Dru Ann

Annette said...

Such a lovely tribute, Kaye. Sending you my deepest condolences. The conferences will never be the same.

Deborah Crombie said...

That was so lovely, Kaye. Thank you for sharing with us. Wish I could give you a big hug!