At times like this, I silently thank the taxidermists.

This is a life-size diorama of musk oxen at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. The musk ox embodies certain truths about the life of a writer. A musk ox lives in a harsh environment and survives with a shaggy coat and rounded feet that stay on top of the snow. A writer must develop a kind of thick coat against the realities of loneliness in the craft and obstacles to publication.

A male musk ox has horns. So does a female; the Arctic cannot support a double standard. A good writer is a good writer no matter the gender or appearance. But just like a musk ox, a writer must develop horns.

Finally, musk oxen know when they must help each other. Say a wolf creeps nearby, hoping to eat them. They plod those giant furry bodies into a circle, butts in, and their babies inside. They face out, ready to charge the wolf and use those horns.

At times, writers join into a circle with other writers and learn how to become stronger at the craft. They don’t stare at each other, but they make a kind of circle, facing out. I came to Los Angeles to visit my daughter. I gained connection with this young woman I love so much. And I also received this reminder from the musk ox diorama.

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