Under the Open Sky: Thanks to You, Chronicle Readers

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
It takes me a full month to travel from the “Bah, humbug!” feelings I experience in the early Christmas season to the joy of the season. It is at about this time every year when the deep and earnest love and heartfelt appreciation I have for our community generally overtakes and overwhelms.
By the time everyone else is done celebrating the season, I’m just beginning. And the start of a new year always tends to make me a little weepy with the remembering of the joys and the struggles of years past.

Three years ago this month I began my journey into the real world of freelance journalism with The Chronicle.
In my first story assignment I covered the grand opening of the Tillman Arts Center in Morton. My knees knocked together in fear as I stood amongst the Morton arts enthusiasts. I had no idea what I was doing. I was sure that everyone could see ineptitude written all over my face, and I could only hope they wouldn’t end up seeing it all over the pages of the newspaper.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. The Merlin isn't much bigger than an American Kestrel, a falcon from the same family of birds. The Merlin uses great bursts of speed to snatch their songbird prey from mid-air. They are seen from coast to coast, but are somewhat uncommon to the Pacific Northwest region and had, in the past, been left out of many older birding books.

But I got through that moment in time, that first adventure into the journalistic endeavors, and I got through that moment because of the people of the Morton community.
Their love for their community, their devotion to the arts, and their willingness to share their enthusiasm for both so drew me into their story that I forgot all of the fears and anxiety of the moment.
It has been like that with nearly every story I have written since then. I become lost in the love of the story — in your story and our story together as a community.
I have interviewed a few famous people, such as author Ann Rule and Olympic skier Steve Mahre. Meeting and talking with them both were highlights of my short writing career. But it has been the people of our own Lewis County community that have made the most valuable and positive impact on my life.
People like Dorothy Miller of Chehalis, who I spent four long hours interviewing for a short retirement profile story. Listening to the story of her life and hearing of her courage and persistence gave me strength and courage.
It is in meeting men like Glenn Thompson of Vader, a World War II veteran and fellow bird lover, who has worked — both at home and across the seas — to make this world a better, safer, more interesting place to be. But would he see himself in that light? Would he see himself as a hero? Probably not. But that is what makes small town heroes so amazing, so interesting, so beloved.
The community of Toledo continues to be one of my all-time favorite places to visit for a story. Toledo is a town that has been through so much, but continues to survive and thrive and pull together to accomplish community goals. From farmers markets to Cheese Days, Toledo never gives up, never gives in, always does what needs to be done.
It is a great privilege, as a journalist, to be invited along for the ride in the events of our community, to ask questions of people and get answers they’re not sure they want to give, to experience for just a few hours what it might be like to live in their family, their town, their school.
Last week I wrote about Jay Pattee and his dual purpose dog, Lucie. The response from the readers of the story has been overwhelmingly kind.
Over the weekend I received an emailed offer of help from Randy and Carol Thomas of Scatter Creek Animal Clinic in Rochester. The Thomas’ had a neoprene vest, one that their own hunting dog had worn in years past, that they wanted to offer to Jay and Lucie.
Jay and Lucie picked up their gift from the Thomas’ yesterday. When I spoke with Jay about the visit he had at the Scatter Creek Animal Clinic and heard about how much he had enjoyed meeting them, I realized that the gift from the Thomas’ was so much more than I had imagined it could be. It was a gift of experience, a gift of welcome and community, a gift of love. You can’t put that kind of gift in a box and give it away.
It is the shared experience in community, in your community, for which I have been and will always be grateful.
Thank you Lewis County and thank you Chronicle readers. You are an inspiration.
Now, go outside and play. It’s going to be a beautiful day in Lewis County.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website at almostdailynews.com, find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.