May 31st, 2009
A river is never lazy. It pretends. Meandering through, glassy water primps and prepares for summertime company. Underneath currents fish glide and wiggle and get fat. They make room for splashing. Rock bluffs like natural metallic skyscrapers blink in sunshine, echoing shrill laughter, accommodating sun, bursts of wind, clouds and birds, gliding, passing, chattering.
Icy coolers bursting with sandwiches and soda complete the outing, along with lawn chairs lacing river banks like colored presents. If you don’t have a grand time, blame yourself. This natural host has gone all out.
All year we wait for the river and the river waits for us.
Nothing cracks open my imagination more than floating down a crisp, lazy river. Here in Texas, specifically the Frio. On that slick, black inner-tube or puffy yellow raft, sitting under azure sky, I feel like the wealthiest woman on earth.
My happiest memories have sprung from water. Maybe yours too. As a child, Swan Creek, and Rome Creek and Rippie Creek, all complete with swinging ropes, crawdads, and family. When my dad asked mom if she wanted to go to Rome on certain weekends, she gave him a sloppy grin and said she’d love to. Then we’d pack up and head to Rome Creek.
Water is for the living, but I once saw an old man die in the Buffalo River. One minute sitting in his neon green lawn chair, dipping toes in water like chocolate to a strawberry, and the next, stiffening and face first in the water. The river seemed to shout, “Leaving so soon? Well, if you must, I’ll receive you like I always have.” I’d like to believe he died right where he’d lived the best.
Despite this, my best times have been lived in and around water. After a day spent there, thoughts are crisp, appetite ravenous, and sleep strong. The air smells fresher, life seems deeper. Sweeter. It’s as though these things have never been experienced properly before.
Summer is here. A lazy river awaits.
May 25th, 2009
Dearly beloved, we gather together on this summer’s night to celebrate a union. Observe there are no chairs. The lawn is strewn with blankets. Please choose one which suits you. Lye back and view our natural lighting, black velvet glittered with stars. Listen, natures orchestra just arrived, frog bassoons and whippoorwill violins, flying from trees to hands and nesting there like wild poetry.
On our blankets, the world proposes. An onyx sky flecked with diamonds, the ring. Proudly wear your jewels, for you are now married to eternity. Until death do us part does not apply. Who’s to say when we depart we are not flung into the sky? Permanent jewels at long last.
Flaming up night.
And by day, lolling on soft cloudy beds.
Look at the billions of stars! Shall we not all gather there? The wild ones, streaking, bold blinking, meek, holding down sky as they held down earth. Finally coming into your own, you crazy, exotic stars.
On earth the lucky are flushed from obscurity, you embedding them on lavish settings, the self imposed coal admiring and polishing them. They sparkle and sparkle, yet desire more. When earth opens its mouth, there they are, rioting with gleam, you mesmerized. Move along unaware jewel. Prepare yourself for unveiling.
The earth awaits your fanciful arrival. Sky sees your vivid hues and says shine. It knows who you are and has admired you for the longest time. Diamonds, like stars, belong to all.
I now pronounce you men, women and destiny. Night sky makes the declaration, stars sliding over.
May 18th, 2009
For those who write novels, you know ideas, although plentiful, are not always zipping up and introducing themselves. We look for original, fresh material, yet knowing everything is old and wrinkled. Once we make peace with this, those worn out ideas can be whipped into something new; a magical concoction infused with our unique personalities and life experience.
Novel writing is brutal work. I’ve recently finished a second one, and for those who believe otherwise, go ahead and write one and then we’ll chat. Heck, I’ll even buy you lunch, although you will have earned a Caribbean cruise and more.
To complete a novel, you’ll need to spend at least a year or two, and sometimes ten, working alone. Characters will need created, as well as setting. You get to boss people around on the page, telling them how to act, what to say, how to dress, where to live, who to see, etc… For the slight control freak this is the ultimate rush.
Hmm… think I just made a confession.
Your imagination will also be on call twenty- four-seven, sometimes jarring you awake in the dead of night, and you, half blinking, fumbling for paper and pencil. Lights off, I write the idea down, although I’ll need a translator next morning to read it.
Even the most passionate writer wonders sometimes why they do this. You are basically entertaining yourself, hoping eventually to entertain others. Every day the white computer screen shows up, waiting for you to fill with black words straight from your red hot muse. This if you’re lucky. Some days words are dry and cracked and you wonder if the monsoon will ever come again.
But when the storm does arrive, and it usually does, we sing, off key, on key, any key as long as words flow. In the funnel of story, a writer could care less if non-writing neighbors and friends whisper under their breath, speculating about what we do all day. They spot us walking dogs, or eating the occasional lunch at Panera’s, or sneaking a Mocha Frap at Starbucks when we can dig up extra change, and think we’re goofing off. They don’t realize we might be doing a little PR, such as leaving book fliers on a bulletin board. Or viewing life in action, the wild material we need for writing up a good thunderstorm. Maybe we’re just getting out so we don’t go nuts. Those of us who are highly social (me) have to strike a balance here.
Have you ever heard these comments from friends or family?
“Oh, you work? Yea, the book thing.” Or “We thought of you for this project because you’re at home and have extra time.”
“Why thank you for your kind thoughts,” I say. “But, yes, I do work, and I’ll have to pass on that.”
Maybe you can relate to the “YES MAN” syndrome. If you can, I hope you’ve passed the torch like I have. Practice saying, “No thank you” in the mirror until your voice cracks. Yes now comes when I find something important and not the other way around. Writers must carve out time to work like everyone else.
These occasions are also opportunities to practice grinning skills. Once the work some forgot you were doing comes to fruition, you’ll be smiling until your face aches; at book signings, even if only one person shows up, workshops, neighbors and friends. Prior to publishing, you might also want to hang out with car salesmen.
Did I hear groaning?
Despite their reputations, they have pesky sales skills which will come in handy when attempting to chit-chat your way into people’s hearts and wallets.
The truth is, novel writing is hard work, and so is selling, but I wouldn’t trade either for the world. You know as well as I do, we writers sometimes, eh, often, work for years on a wing and prayer before anyone notices our writing bloom. We do this because writing has chosen us and not the other way around. And if lucky, we touch many with our words.
In the end, that’s why we show up day after day, and year after year, writing up a storm.
That and we’re control freaks!
May 11th, 2009
Remember the little cardinal I mentioned in an earlier blog post? Well, I’ve named her Emily D. Why? Like Emily Dickinson, she has everything she needs and wants right where she is. She is now big enough to fend for herself but prefers to spend her days hiding among mint and rosemary, peering at the world.
The other day I watered the plant she has taken up residence in, flushing her out in the process. On strong wings Emily flew to the rim of the garbage can, squawking with mouth wide as a mason jar. Mother arrived, seed in mouth, landing on the fence behind her. Together they flew over the fence, and I sat with book in hand, a few feet away from her home, waiting to see what would happen next.
First came mother, peering around the house with her sunflower seed, then cautiously hopping to Emily’s house. Once there, she flew in, dropped off the seed, and flew out.
And here came Emily, arriving first underneath the car, hop, hop, hopping around the wheel. “I know you,” she seemed to say. “You’re alright.” She then hopped alongside the house and to her pot where she promptly flew in. Now this pot is right by our back door, so she is accustomed to racket, but it doesn’t seem to phase her. The kids play basketball a few feet from her home and she doesn’t stir. You can’t see her there, but if you rattle the leaves she will dart out before making her way back in.
I could be wrong, but I think her plans are different from other birds. She takes in the world right where she is.
Emily Dickinson did also. The material she needed for her inspirational poetry was right on property. Without leaving the nest she flew. Beth in little women was a homebody, too. She couldn’t understand why her sisters went off into the world to discover themselves. Everything she needed and wanted was right there.
I suspect the bird version of Emily Dickinson will be around awhile. Seeds are close, the huge pot shaded. Neighborhood cats are not onto her, and even if they were she could fend for herself. Why the mother still feeds her is a mystery.
But then so was Emily Dickinson.
May 8th, 2009
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like wind chimes and those who don’t.
And apparently so do little old ladies and squirrels. Let me explain. My sister mentioned she once got behind a much older woman in a fast food drive thru line who had a wind chime suspended from the inside ceiling of her rusty Buick, visible from the back window. It was Spring, windows rolled down, wind chime swaying in the breeze.
They tinkled. And tinkled. A mini symphony before the main cheeseburger and french fry act. This I thought charming enough to use. I don’t waste much. In my newest novel is the sweet yet spicy Dottie Campbell, who happens to drive a car with wind chime in tow. Life is stranger than fiction as we well know.
Regarding wind chime loving squirrels: my birdseed was disappearing at alarming speed, and I caught a particular squirrel, lets call him Greedy Gus, using my chime as a springboard to the bird feeder. First he climbed up the kitchen window. It was like watching a big pinball, pinging from window, to chime, to feeder. Once there, he devoured seed as though he were a ravenous child attacking candy from a busted pinata.
The birds were glaring at me, so I moved the wind chime. That and I didn’t want to take on a part time job for seed money.
South Texas has a thing for wind chimes, too. When we first moved here, I did a double take when passing a cemetery on the way to the grocery store. Scratching my head, I mumbled, “What on earth is hanging from those trees?” On the way back, I did a triple gawk. Yep, wind chimes, just as I suspected. They were everywhere, dripping from trees.
Apparently being wild for wind chimes carries over to the hereafter.
Someone should tell the squirrel.
May 5th, 2009
Yes, these are my children. An altered version of course, but there is something primitive here that captures their personalities. Now it may be fairly painful for me when they see this here.
I may have to relocate.
But as you might have already guessed, this post is about growing up and growing out. I’m actually going to use a bird illustration here, so picture them with wings. Is it working? Yeah, not for me either, although they are bird-like in the form of angels at times.
Don’t quote me on this as it depends on the day!
Last week I saw a flying lesson of the bird variety which reminded me how we all must begin as babes. Outside, a few feet from me, a wee cardinal flopped into a bush. Immediately Mom and Pop were there. They chirped and coaxed. Then flapped higher and came back. This was a team effort.
The wee one hopped up a notch, then another. Flopped down and tried again. Slowly she grew confident enough to flap to the next highest tree, where parents waited, twittering for her to come. When she reached that level they flew higher and the process repeated.
The sheer grit, faith and determination of that little bird reminded me of our own journeys, and those of our children. In nature you can clearly see how animals get nowhere without the help of others and without helping others.
This is true for us as well.
Now the story doesn’t end here. Just yesterday I was watering a potted plant, brimming with mint and rosemary. That same baby bird zipped right out, startling me so bad I fell backwards. On further examination, a small nest had been constructed on top of the soil, mint hiding the bird. Apparently she was the runt of the litter.
She is still there, the parents bringing food and encouragement. Don’t we all feel like that baby bird at times? There are days we don’t feel much like flying, let alone teaching our children how to soar. We want to stay in our cozy nests. Other times we are like eagles riding the sky in a downwind.
Rather young, old, animal or vegetable, we all need people watching our back. When ready, we’ll soar.
May 4th, 2009
You know spring is here when winter slinks away, leaving a fresh scent clinging to your hair. People are grinning more, that old fire back in steps. The earth, hyper-charged once again. And the best perk is, you can sit outside without freezing your rear end off. That and step outside bare-footed.
On a recent trip to southern Louisiana, we stayed on the two hundred acre grounds of a plantation. The cottage digs weren’t fancy, one bathroom between three girls, but that ample back porch, complete with iron tables and soft sitting areas, was primo. Knew I’d gotten it right when a collective squeal went up.
The view from there was heavenly: two hundred year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss which resembled wiry hair. To the right, a pond, complete with ducks, quacking, flapping and gliding. And land to roam as far as your little eyes could devour.
The old Missouri farm girl in heaven.
Shoes popped off. Cards and books materialized. The good old days reincarnated. Maybe you had your own back porch growing up, or a grandparent did. Remember when people actually spent time outside, visiting with family, neighbors and friends, nothing more on the agenda than sipping tart lemonade and shooting the breeze? Call me old fashioned but this still appeals to me. Big time.
We wandered from the porch that day only to retrieve dinner and walk the grounds where we discovered an ancient family graveyard, complete with eerie stone wall and iron gate. Of course the girls wanted to visit at night, but the chicken in me squawked, No thanks, don’t want to. With flashlights wobbling, they took off, me sitting on the back porch clutching coffee, breeze in my hair, a sloppy grin on my face. “Have fun,” I yelled. “Say hi to the ghosts for me.”
Not two minutes later, lights flickered on and off. “Wait for me,” I whispered, lip quivering, but they were long gone. The next night they didn’t have to talk me into going. I was so there. I even took my cheesy camera, which turned up pictures that would make your hair stand on end. Stay tuned for that story in an upcoming series I’ll be weaving.
All the while the porch waited; for us to sit, savor, to make memories on. I do hope you’re out making your own memories. Life is short and that back porch is waiting!
May 2nd, 2009
An adventure filled life. Don’t we all want that? I don’t know about you, but when growing up Jonny Quest was high on my Saturday morning agenda. I’d sit glassy-eyed in front of the TV watching the Quest team explore the globe, using Dr. Quest’s particular brand of scientific genius to flush out Monsters and madmen. Remember Dr. Benton Quest, ten-year-old Jonny, Race Bannon, mystical Hodji, and the extraordinary adorable Bandit? Maybe, uh hem…if you are old enough, we shared those same lazy Saturday mornings.
This cartoon never played down to children. You could sit cross-legged in heart or bunny pajamas, climbing up sharp mountains of political intrigue in places you only drooled about in history books.
Now I’m not saying you must be a globe-trotting world explorer to snag adventures. My thoughts on this are as ordinary as a summer’s day, which isn’t ordinary at all when you really experience it. Every day is a adventure as long as you’re alive.
Sigh… now isn’t that great news?
Now if you do happen to be a writer like me, who has yet to visit most of the intriguing places the Quest team frequented, the news is not horrible. We have harnessed something that doesn’t require the almighty dollar or the tick of time to claim. As kids we already figured this out. Writer or not, if your imagination is keen you still travel right alongside Jonny, holding your breath when Bandit barks at shadows. You are right down the Nile River, fighting off unseen watery forces. A blooming imagination can and does take you places. And don’t look now, but one day, when you have college tuition payed off, and if you’re lucky enough to still see, hear and walk, you might visit those places yet.
What I’m really getting at here is we make our own adventures. When we’re knee deep in dishes and laundry, kids rampaging through the house, or sassy pants teenagers claiming we know zero about life, all while spending our last dollar for clothes, flat irons, etc… it’s hard to yank up those adventures. But I swear, if you examine things closely enough, you’ll find them right smack in the swirl of activity. And if that doesn’t work, go lock yourself in the bathroom with a bottle of wine!