• Nora Koch

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

December 13, 2018

I watched Manchester by the Sea, for the second time last night. It is on my list of best movies, ever. So subtly, it captures regular men and women, their deep feelings, and the way they grapple with them. All of the characters are believable.

Through the pace of the movie, as well as masterful use of classical music, we begin to comprehend the devastation that has crashed upon the protagonist. By the end, though he has said very little, we know him and understand his pain; we begin to see that even he has hope, that even for him there is redemption.  

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

May 8, 2018

“I just made dinner. Do you want some?”

The young volunteer canvasser for a now defunct Wisconsin environmental group was at the door at the bottom of the steps, and I had made plenty of tomatoes, onions, fresh basil, Parmesan and pasta.  Accepting my offer, he launched up the stairs into my second floor apartment, we shared dinner, and conversation. He went off to finish his rounds; I never saw him again.

I started Gravel Pit Publications in that second story apartment of an old house in River Falls. I used my bed as a surface on which to lay papers as I worked on my computer across the room sitting at an old library table. As a designer, typesetter, sometimes illustrator, and producer of books, I worked freelance; I could accommodate spontaneity. I loved the lifestyle, but it was very precarious. I was frugal, had no health insurance, making a lot of money over a month or two, I'd live off it for months.

Leaving the apartment, I purchased a hundred year old + house across the road from the Rush River in Western Wisconsin. I worked part time at the Co-op in River Falls, initially to keep from being completely isolated while still living at the apartment. Being an introvert, this was an easy situation in which to find myself if I didn’t consciously take steps to avoid it. Living alone in the country made it even more essential.

Cashiering was my favorite job at the Co-op, though I also served as a manager. I loved helping customers figure out what they were having for dinner. I had a regular set who came in counting on me to give them ideas. Because I was there several times a week, I rarely went to a regular grocery store and even in the winter always had fresh food on hand. I’d figure out what I was making for dinner  based on random conversations I’d had during the day and what produce, no longer suitable for sale was just about to go bad.

I had a kitchen garden out the back door of my house, including asparagus and berry bushes. Raspberry pie served to neighbors because they stopped by right when I took it from the oven, avgolemono soup shared with a young friend who often happened to be driving by at supper time, this was the kind of random hospitality I loved. Living alone for over twenty years, it happened frequently.

One of the hardest parts of getting used to being married (at 52!), was to accept not being as spontaneous. My husband, though generous, is a private person. I struggled as I learned to be hospitable toward him. Back in River Falls, we still have people drop in; our friends Jerry and Barb often found themselves at our house unexpectedly as they were out for a walk while they were courting. Just last night a neighbor who we don’t know was driving by on his scooter with his little dog in the basket attached to the front. Our cat, sprawled in the front yard, attracted their attention. Peter struck up a conversation with him over our fence, and we ended up getting to know him in the setting sunlight.

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  • Nora Koch

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

April 30, 2018

Back in the late 1980s I walked every night for a couple of miles from my house in the country. As the season wound into winter the light failed and I walked in the dark. I was fearless then. One night on a foggy night I met two dogs in the dark, a German Shepard and an Irish setter. My sister, who knew them, later told me they were dangerous. It was so dark that they suddenly appeared in front of me out of nowhere. Then, as if a voice came out from the back of my head, much louder and with more force than I could muster, I ordered them to go home. I heard them click, click, click as they ran away down the road. Then I turned around and went back home.

One night as I started out, north as usual, it suddenly occurred to me that the tail end of the big dipper had moved around in the sky over the passage of nights I had been walking. Of course, I knew intellectually that this happened – there was nothing new about this information. The difference was that I’d experienced it. I had not been keeping track of the movement of the big dipper; I suddenly realized that it had moved over time. I felt kinship with the people who constructed Stonehenge; wondering how they felt when they realized the heavens moved.

There is speculation that Stonehenge might have been constructed to somehow ensure that light would not go out completely; that spring would come. Those of us who live in Wisconsin pride ourselves in going through the long, dark winter, but we can only do that knowing winter will eventually end. This year I felt kinship with the primitives again as winter refused to relent to spring. I began to think about how awful it would be if it didn’t. Ice ages have come and gone here, what if we were suddenly at the beginning of a new one? I was in the process of reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which Hell is frozen, not burning. Having everything remain frozen would be hellish. The movie, The Day After Tomorrow, came to mind. God promised us there would not ever be another huge flood, but he didn’t promise us there would never be unrelenting winter.

I truly did begin to get anxious about spring returning.

It has. Praise God! 

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