The spread-out life women lead in the rural West poses unique challenges, not the least of which would be steering through the vagaries of friendship. When complicated by distance and spotty populations, that sterling necessity in any woman's day often resembles the ubiquitous sage plant that covers the prairie, hanging on by its roots wherever it's able to take hold.
That's one conclusion the Wyoming-based editors (Gaydell Collier, Nancy Curtis and Linda Hasselstrom) of a new anthology titled Woven on the Wind: Women Write About Friendship in the Sagebrush West hold to be true. The proof -- a diverse profusion of essays, letters and reminiscences by more than 150 authors -- is full of unexpected surprises, rendered in language that varies from homespun to poetic. Denverites will have a chance to hear excerpts from the book, introduced by its editors, Saturday at the LoDo Tattered Cover.
"In the West, friendships are very diverse, more than we expected," Collier notes. "There are no barriers of age, race, culture, politics or economic or professional status. Proximity counts for a lot; if no one else is around, you find ways to make connections with the women who are around." That may be why Western women are reluctant to write about their friends: One doesn't mess with a good thing. Like small-town gossip, the wrong choice of words could prove destructive in a place where relationships might be tenuous at best.
Still, those ties are no less strong: In the West, Collier says, one has "friendships that might not be what you normally aim for." Details are often more poignant in rural settings, recalling the simple things women do for one another. "Sometimes friendship is just about being there, just hanging in -- simple acceptance," she says. And, fellow editor Curtis adds, "When you have a good relationship in the West, you try and hold on to it. It's not something that's easily replaceable -- there are no disposable friends. When the women were writing, they conveyed that feeling of how important relationships were. The writing style is not always as polished, but it's just as heartfelt."