Driving this morning home from Natchez, the rain falling steadily, the green hills rolling southward as far as the eye could see, I thought, “I need to check in with Ruthie.” And then I remembered that she was dead. This still happens to me sometimes. Even though we’re six weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of her passing.

I thought for a while on the drive this morning about the book, which is finished, and what it will tell the world about her. I have no distance from the narrative, so I honestly don’t know how good it is. I hope it shows people who she was. Not a plaster saint, but a complicated, vital, life-loving, big-hearted country girl.

I’ve been looking at a lot of posed photographs of Ruthie — formal shots taken over the years — that are lovely, but really don’t capture her spirit. My mother passed the one above to me the other day. Of the hundreds of images I’ve seen, this is the one that made me think, “That’s her!” The spirited laughter. The big smile. The blue jean jacket.