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Teacher left job to help parents, shares feelings in her ‘Oz’ inspired poems

Diane Buckman, 66, of Belfield, left her long-time first-grade teaching career in Minnesota about 11 years ago to care for her parents in Belfield and has recently written a book of poems that reflects her desired approach to life. She will give a reading from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Dickinson Area Public Library, 139 Third St. W. Sept. 29, 2015. (Photo by Virginia Grantier)

A teaching career was what she daydreamed about as a child, what she always wanted to do, and did.

But, 11 years ago, her long career in Minnesota ended after getting a phone call from her dad, Diane Buckman said.

“I never thought I would stop teaching,” she said.

But her dad, Bill Buckman, then in his 80s, was having health issues and asked her to move back home to Belfield. He had rarely asked her for anything, so she knew how important this was to him.

She was the only unmarried sibling with no family obligations, and she didn’t hesitate to come home, she said.

“I knew I wouldn’t be peaceful (if I didn’t),” Buckman said. “...There’s more to life than a paycheck.”

Buckman, a 66-year-old longtime first-grade and second-grade teacher at a private Christian school in Blaine, Minn., sold her townhome, her furniture, and most of her possessions -- save for several treasured belongings. She kept the beaded deerskin moccasins a grandmother made for her when Buckman was a young teacher working for two years at Cannon Ball Elementary on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

She said she sold her belongings to beef up her retirement account. That, and there wasn’t wasn’t room in her childhood home.

Buckman said that when she got back to Belfield it was refreshing “to be back in the wide-open spaces.”

But not long after she moved in, her father, owner of Buckman Plumbing & Heating, was diagnosed with cancer and died.

She said she thinks her dad, when he had called and asked her to come home, had somehow known this was going to happen and wanted Diane to be there for his wife of 63 years -- her mom, Sara May Buckman.

Diane Buckman is still there for her mom, now 96.

The former teacher also wants to help herself and others, too, and maybe has found a new way to do that.

Buckman, inspired by past writing workshops she attended in Dickinson, wrote a piece on her brother’s experiences in the Army during the Vietnam war. In May she started writing a poetry book, “Ruby Shoes.” She finished the 28-page book in August and it was printed locally.

Buckman said she hopes the book bolsters spirits and encourages living a life of grace -- keeping the faith, finding courage, being joyful and so on -- and has already heard comments to that effect. One reader wrote to her stating, “... Your book should speak to the hearts of many as it has spoken to my heart.”

Buckman will give a reading and have an open house with refreshments at the Dickinson Area Public Library and plans to honor a couple of important people in her life -- her long-ago Belfield teachers, Virginia Loffelmacher and 98-year-old Ann Dolyniuk, who both live in Dickinson. Loffelmacher taught first grade and Dolyniuk taught sixth grade.

“I want to honor them for being my teachers,” she said. “I’m so thankful for the education they gave me. … They taught me how to read. To me, that’s very important.”

Buckman said she was inspired to write the poems after seeing a local production of Wizard of Oz. She said she related to the characters and their challenges, the fear of obstacles, and she ended up creating poems such as “Heart of True Love,” which starts like so:

Love matters

I would give anything to live here on this earth in love.

When evil comes

I react peacefully.

When troubles come

I react joyfully with acceptance.

When sorrow comes

I am patient.

When pain comes

I trust unswervingly…

Buckman said, as a teacher, she believed in field trips and getting kids into the community, and had her students do such things as present their handmade valentines to military veterans at a veteran’s hospital.

“I’ve lived my life like a field trip,” she said. “I guess I’m really hands-on.”

Now, she’s doing that for her mom.

Buckman returned to a Bellfield community where many people she had known had never left --  and she helps her mom remain part of it. She drives her to nearby Trapper’s Kettle restaurant every morning, seven days a week, for breakfast, and they join friends there.

“We’re expected to be there,” Buckman said and smiled.

Five days a week, they are at West River Community Center exercising for an hour or more. One recent morning, her mom put in two miles on an exercise bike, said Buckman, a runner who sometimes competes in 5K races.

Her life is now anchored in the childhood home her parents built in 1952 and that she is now helping renovate.

She can go on and on about the memories.

It’s the house where Buckman, as a child, once played teacher and staged math classes for neighbor kids. In the midst of that, she said she also truly helped a German-speaking child learn English.

Now she has other careers: caretaker, cook, chauffeur -- and now writer and poet.

And remaining dependable, always there, for Sara May.

From her poem, “Click Those Ruby Shoes Together,” there’s this:

Click those ruby shoes together

Home is always available to you at your command.

Recover from being lost.

the loss and longing are gone forever.

There is nothing to work for

Nothing to earn.

A click of those ruby shoes

Arriving home

Obtaining love like none other could give.

The embrace of a loved one.

There is no place like home.

Home Sweet Home