We didn’t need to remember a house number. Sheryl’s yard is like the best piece of jewelry on the street, the lawn studded with wildflower stems popping through the snow. A horse blanket is flopped over the gate. When I got to the door, it was already opening and Buttercup the pug was snuffling up on me, while Sheryl and Bob ushered me in.
Sheryl is Montana’s newest Poet Laureate. You are my daughter, she told me on this visit, writing a note on her most recent book and insisting it into my hands. Then she said, I’m sick, otherwise I would cover you with kisses and pull your hair. She showed me necklaces she was making for an upcoming show, and looped one with colored glass beads around my neck. It’s called Flying Whimsy. Every time I see her, it is like this; a whirlwind of giving.
There is no doubt Sheryl is unusual. She is the person who roots always for the underdog. She turns children into poets – really – even the ones who sit in the back, who cross their arms or glare and refuse to participate in the exuberant examples of how to write poems involving Mike Tyson, her cat without an eye, and her husband Bob the Fireman. Later, these will become the most dedicated writers, awaiting her weekly arrival like puppies left at home.
You would probably not expect Sheryl if you were going to meet a state’s Poet Laureate, but very quickly, you would begin to see why she is so deserving of this title. Her presence explodes around you. Soon, you want to tell her every secret because you know not only that she drinks Peach Snapple and rescues dogs, but also that her life has not been easy, either.
To me, Sheryl is a reminder of the way I want to be in the world. Whatever I may do, whatever may matter to me most, if I do my work with honesty and passion, good will come, whether or not it was just what I was expecting.