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Down Darby Lane

A Warm Winter Shelter

library winona Minnesota

This past week up here at 4000 feet in the Sierra and under the tall pines, the weather has turned cold. It’s in the high 30s and mid-40s. Now, I know better than most people that these are not freezing temperatures. Nonetheless, I am wearing my down parka, furry hood up, snow pants (without the snow), and warm gloves. For someone raised in Minnesota (International Falls, Minn., is often the coldest place in the continental U.S.) I have remarkably little tolerance for the cold. I have to wear multiple layers and cover up every square inch of skin to be warm. I wonder how I made it through childhood.

Life in the upper Midwest produces hardy people because I believe our survival instincts were carefully honed. It’s a fact that it’s quite easy to die in a Minnesota winter - freeze to death, break through the ice on a lake and drown, any number of grim scenarios that are drilled into little heads by parents who respect the power of winter.

As a child, I used to ice skate in the gutters around the neighborhood. The streets were thick with packed snow that prevented cars from speeding, and it was a relatively safe activity. There also was skating on the wicked Mississippi and placid Lake Winona. Winter temperatures were generally somewhere between zero and 20 degrees unless there was a wind chill, in which case it would be 20 to 30 below zero. And now I’m cold when it’s a mere 32 degrees? Something is wrong here!

Of course, most favorite winter activities took place indoors. Bowling was big back then; beating up my kid brother was also amusing. But, I think the bitter cold also fostered creativity. There was always some art project – like paint-by-number, or gluing one’s fingers together making models, or painting mustaches on your little brother. Most importantly, winter was the season for the voracious reading of books. In those days, it wasn’t common to go to a bookstore and purchase books – I don’t think there even was a bookstore in my hometown. But we did have a library – and a grand one it was.

The Winona Public Library was a granite edifice three-stories tall. Many of the floors in the upper level were made of solid glass blocks that let light filter through from below. There was a big common room with grand leather chairs and long, ornate wood tables. This room held reference books and multi-volume collections. Altogether, it was a place of mystery with a tinge of dangerous. This room was carefully monitored by librarians dedicated to total silence. This was not one of my skills.

I liked the stacks on the upper floors the best. I would hide there during the junior high school experience of being tormented by the ‘cool’ clique of girls and boys. It was a sure bet they would not go near the library, and I was safe among the books.

It was also the beginning of my life with words. Had I not been chased into the sanctuary of the library, I may have been off giggling with the girls and flirting with boys. But no, I was with thousands of books that held secrets from places I’d never been, a world far beyond little Winona where bullies and cheerleaders reigned.

Like so many victims of bullies, I still bear some scars from that experience. But when I consider their cruel behavior helped me flee toward books, writing, and art, I feel gratitude. My children’s mystery book –, The Cat-Napping Caper, has echoes of that experience. Four youngsters, each of whom is 'different' in a way that attracts bullying, ban together to solve the mystery dozens of cats disappearing from their homes. The book has been used in a number of special education schools and mainstream classes. My intention was two-fold - help bullied kids recognize their own self-worth and, at the same time, let potential bullies know that all people have value and talents. It's been fun to hear what young readers have to say - they always 'get it!'

Up here in the Sierra, I am as cold outdoors as I ever was in sub-zero Minnesota winters. But inside but I am warm and comfortable, doing things that I was born to do. In a odd twist I think I owe those bullies some gratitude for chasing me to the shelter of that library. After all, they brought me to today.

Wishing you a healthy, optimistic, and hopeful New Year.

Darby Lee Patterson


Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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My Mountain Mystery

My book has gotten fab reviews on Amazon! I am so excited readers like the characters, the setting, the plot - minus lots of graphic violence. 

If you are fond of 'cozy' mysteries please read The Song of Jackass Creek. Check out Reviews HERE.

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Short Story Collection 

Twisted is - twisted! And Gypsy's Wedding - well, you just have to be there!  Click on the books to see more ... 

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard


Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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