Hello, everyone –

For the first time in a really long time, I feel as if I have no words.

Recent regional, national and world events aside, my family has been in a state of upheaval. As you might have read in an earlier newsletter, we unmoored ourselves at the beginning of September from what we once thought was our forever home in Vancouver, Washington, and now are setting up house in my hometown in Minnesota, the place of so many of my memories and dreams, the place against which I measure all others. 

It is surreal to be making a home in the place I spent most of my first eighteen years, the place I have lived away from for twenty-eight of the past thirty-three years, the place that has become a summer vacation destination. (The fact that I think of it as "the place I have lived away from" probably reveals how deeply embedded it is in my psyche.)

Now I live less than a mile from where I started out, in a house that vaguely resembles the one I grew up in. My family goes on bike rides and urban hikes past my elementary school, through neighborhoods where I used to go to birthday and slumber parties, past houses and buildings where I studied piano and violin and the German language. Memories flood back:
  • Cross-country skiing in the park when I was too little for actual ski poles, stabbing at the snow with wooden dowels, trying to keep up with my parents.
  • Bicycle rides that took my friends and me all over the city, observing turtles and birds and people, stopping for Wendy's Frosties and fries before returning home for supper. 
  • Trick-or-treating, I as a boxer (Dad's bathrobe and Mom's makeup-black eye) and my friend as a television set (cardboard box and tinfoil antenna-hat), older bullies in a car throwing a cherry bomb at us.
  • The awful winter when two of my elementary school classmates lost family members, and I learned how unpredictable and unforgiving life can be.
I revel in the fond memories and belatedly process the sad ones, surprised at how fresh they still feel. And I watch the faces of those I pass on the street, feeling a sense of familiarity with many of them -- and sometimes find in them old friends and acquaintances, like the former co-worker who recognized me from behind ("Sarah?") as I wandered through Menards, our local home improvement store. ("You have a distinctive look," he explained.)

From that early summer day in Washington when we decided to move "home" to our first days back here, in Minnesota, the geese have been our companions. They soared over us, calling, in flocks of three, flocks of many and as solo fliers, as if echoing our situation, their homing instincts illustrating in some way our own. Once we reached a certain age and stage ... or was it once we encountered the crisis of a pandemic, racial unrest and unpredictable leadership? ... we could not help but feel the magnetic pull of what once was most familiar -- our families, our People, our place on the flat prairie -- and it seemed the most natural, most predictable act in the world to embark on the hell that is packing up an established home, saying farewell to our West Coast friends and "framily" and setting ourselves up to create something new but familiar half a continent away.

So OK, I realize now I do have some words for what has been happening, but organizing them is a whole other thing. This is the best I can do. If you're reading this in Washington and Oregon, I'm probably missing you terribly (and I'm so sorry about the awful wildfires and smoke). If you're reading this in Minnesota or North Dakota, I'm delighted to be back with you (but why didn't you tell me how bad the mosquitoes are this year?).

Not long ago, I heard Ram Dass' quote, that "We're all just walking each other home." And that, in some ways, describes how this move has felt to me. As we prepared to return home to our extended family, we sold our house to a family who was relocating from California to return home to their family in Vancouver. I began to wonder whether our move is part of a whole chain of families returning to the places where we have always belonged, so in these times we can be with those we have always belonged to. 

Wherever you are, my prayer is that you are staying well and hopeful in this very strange time, and that wherever you are feels like home. 

In this issue of "The Same Loon," I'm including:
  • an upcoming virtual event!
  • a writing prompt
  • recent reviews of The Same Moon and Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan 
  • a recent book club photo 
With hope and best wishes,
Upcoming event
I'm excited to be part of Courtyard Fountains' popular Power of the Pen author series! Please join us Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 2 pm Pacific (4 pm Central) time. I plan to talk about how writing can help us navigate challenging times ... and how working on The Same Moon offered me multiple escape hatches.

To get the Zoom link, please call Courtyard Fountains (Gresham, Oregon) at 503-667-4500 or email

Living the dream -- book groups!

It's such an honor that people want to read my memoir about the two strangely healing years I spent in Japan. Then to be invited to discuss it with them? Amazing. This is the Washington book group I'm a member of, and this indomitable group of women met even in the midst of wildfires and smoke. Thank you, Paula, Gretchen, Eva, Kari, Grace and Helen! 

If your book group is interested in reading The Same Moon, I invite you to check out my book group page for discussion questions and visit information.

Write your story 


Here's a quick question that could take volumes to answer. Or maybe just a word.

If you had to pick one thing that lets you know you're home (whatever that means to you), what would it be?

Photo by Zoran Borojevic on Unsplash
A certain sight? 
A sound?
A smell?
A sensation?
A person? 
An object?
A taste?
A color?
A feeling?
Something else?


Thanks to you, we are up to 39 reviews on Amazon for The Same Moon! It's wonderful to learn what my story says to readers, and your words help other readers know whether this is a book for them. (Can we get 11 more reviews there? It could open up more marketing opportunities for TSM!)

Also, if you find yourself craving more stories of rural Japan (who doesn't? ;) ), the anthology Inaka: Portraits of Life in Rural Japan has gotten some ink recently. Check out reviews from the Taipei Times and the Asian Review of Books. (Inaka includes my essay, "Unexpected Retreat.")

From the blog

Return trip

A few posts featuring images and confessions from our moving adventure are on my blog
Thank you for your interest in The Same Moon and sharing stories! You are welcome to share this email with others who might be interested.

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The Same Loon was forwarded to you, I invite you to subscribe here.
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Copyright © 2020 Sarah Coomber -- writer, All rights reserved.

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