Friday, August 30, 2013

Climbing a Mountain

Every day (I like to think of this as true and some weeks it is, but often it's most days), I take a walk that includes a trail through a park that weaves from below to over a hundred foot gain to above in less than five minutes.  I call this my mountain.  Some days I breeze along, noting the burly barks on the pine trees that break the solid line of the newly installed redwood fence.  I smell imagined campfires instead of the sweet pine needle scent on the breeze and imagine myself in Yosemite Valley in the summer.  I pad along switch back to switch back climbing effortlessly, breathing in the day.  If I pass a fellow traveler, I say "good morning", hoping for an acknowledgement in return.  Most times people are friendly on this mountain.  When I reach the top I balance across three beams set up as part of the par course on the mountain.  I ignore the other stations.  Public displays of attempted sit ups, chin ups, push ups, and any other kind of ups besides walking up, are in the past for me.  After a time on the beams and a brief walk around the children's playground at the top of the park, I turn to head down.  I walk along the redwood fence with no pines, and look out over the stunning display of housing tracts, mountains, and freeways below.  I see an airplane on its approach to Burbank Airport, slowly descending, its distinctive coloring informing me that the skies are friendly. I briefly consider the occupants of the plane and wish them a silent good morning.  And now time to descend the mountain.  Back across the beams, down the path.  Good mornings again, unless our paths have crossed before and the greeting already given, then we nod and smile, old friends.  Some days when I breeze along the mountain is welcoming and friendly.  Most days are those some days.  But a few days I plod.  My feet feeling connected to the ground by invisible blocks of granite that I pull along with each step.  I am on the sand dunes carrying a backpack filled with cannonballs.  My back feels numb, but my mind is still nimble.  I wonder if I will ever get to the top.  I give myself permission to shorten my walk today.  There will be tomorrow.  My good mornings are solid but a question lurks at the end.  I remind myself of the small wisdoms I've offered other struggling travelers, especially, I just put my head down and go for it.  And as I do, even though on those days I feel my heart asking, why are you pushing, I find myself next to the balance beams.  With permission to fail, I have given myself time to succeed.  I often think of my writing as a mountain.  Some days I breeze along.  Some days I plod giving myself permission to not go as far, to turn back, to pause.  I wonder, what kind of day will this day of my writer's life be.  I do know the skies will be friendly.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Whether in the Sunset or the Sunrise

         Home and settled once again, in some ways.  I've restocked the nutritious food (Trader Joe's), the junk food (Target) and the bulk food (Costco).  I've vacuumed the house and washed and dried the clothes (that await repopulation to my closet, 2 out of 3 not so bad).  I've cleaned out the pond and refilled it.  I'm awaiting the cool of the evening to enjoy sitting in my courtyard again, the heat wave coupled with humidity not inviting me to do so quite yet.  I've been to the library and checked out a book to end run paying $30.00.  Reminded me of my childhood when, not being able to afford books, I borrowed them and brought them home, balancing wobbly stacks with my left hand while steering my bike with my right.  Now, I can afford them, but not the space they take up in my house.  I have enough books.  At least that's what I tell myself now.  I have reacquainted myself with many routines, including hanging out with my dog, or does she hang out with me?  We mostly stay in the same room, near one another, connected in that way.  She sleeps, a dream away from popping awake when I move from one place to another.  I attempted to resume my walking routine the other day but the mosquito bites, which are settling nicely, protested when rubbed against my shoe, so I decided to give them the week off.  Mondays are good start days. I'll try again on Monday.
         My mind still spins with thoughts of people I met, what I want to do now, how I will put into practice my new and old and middle ideas.  Integrate the past with the present to create my future.  Do I go to the writing conference I had planned in September?  Do I stay near home and take a day away and write?  And my journal class, how will I market that?  How can I help others?  What about my writing?  Do I continue onward with the new work or revise and resubmit the older work?  Will I ever find that one other? I wonder about so many things.  And in the wonder there is life.  The sun sets every night, but the sun rises every morning.  The sun rises every morning and the sun sets every night.  What different ways to look at the world it seems.  I prefer the former.  I like the end to lead to a new beginning.  A week ago I lived in a special place with special people who I wish to keep connected in my life.  My time with them in that special place came to an end, but for me that ending created the start.  My questions push me forward.  The answers will come eventually, whether in the sunset or the sunrise.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ghost Ranch

     I'm on the train, it's seven hours late, but I don't mind, it's process time.  I've been away from my home for just a day more than a week and I have to look at a calendar to prove that.  The neverland of my time was Ghost Ranch, where the clouds are three dimensional (and hanging in the sky is not a cliche), the sky is ocean clean deep blue, and the friendships created are more than circumstantial friends.  We have shared this time, this space, and the hundred or so of us, have formed a bond in that, through mosquito bites and camp food and rustic sleeping arrangements and talking and listening and smiling and being.  While personal, the experience is a collective energy that enhances and challenges each of us.  We are writers, no matter of production, or resume, or degrees, or kinds, or speed, or place, or purpose.  We have connected, we are connected.  Hope is our focus.  To carry this place, these people forward, longer than the mosquito bites itch, is my intent, for this is to my benefit, to our benefit.  Our lives have touched, I am enriched.  Our shadows are still there on the land, our ghosts, to add to the many who once having been there, leaving something, taking something.  Connecting.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Path

   I’ve been pondering a bit more than usual lately  and avoiding pondering a bit by trying to catch up on some television programs I’ve recorded.  But I know, underneath the trying to avoid it, the pondering continues.  I know because here and there and from time to time a thoughtburst occurs that usually begins a puzzling inner dialogue that leads to more questions than it does answers and I am in touch with anxiety.  The dominant pondering lately is connected to questions of where I want to devote my energies.  This is very familiar. It’s all about the path taken and not taken.
     I remember when I was in Washington and was walking up a path into the woods by myself.  I was taking pictures of light and shade and plants and trees and flowers and hoping to see a bee or two and try to capture that in a photograph.  I started to walk straight up the hill and when I came to a path on the right I kept walking straight.  I am a go-left person. Political?   The right path didn’t appeal to me.  I proceeded up the fairly steep hill. If I spoke like a mathematician or an engineer I'd offer a degree to the incline, but to me, steep. I knew because I felt the burn in my calves. 
     Dense stands of trees lined both sides of the path subduing the sunlight.  I like sunlight.  I saw no one and suddenly wondered if this was a safe path to take.  I decided to go to the next curve of the path.  In front of me lay another steeper incline, more trees, and another curve much further up the road.  Feeling alone, frustrated, and now a bit unsafe, I turned back towards the other path.  As I approached it from uphill, this path was now the right path, because it was on the left.  I turned and followed the more gentle slope up and up.  I paused taking pictures on the more sun-filled trail.  I followed the path to the top, where I stood overlooking the Straits of Juan de Fuca, overlooking the lighthouse. I smiled, sunlight enveloping me, on the bluff.
       My pondering often leads me up a steep hill where I pass by the right path, ignoring it because I don’t prefer the right path. If I’d just let the pondering go underground, away from conscious thought, if I’d just be patient and have faith,  I might just get the feeling that I need to turn around and go back down the hill and take the path on the left.  After all, it just may be the right path.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Garden Trolls

          When I was a kid a friend of mine had three little plastic monkeys that sat together on a plastic log, knees bent to their chests, long arms over eyes or ears or mouth. Their wide white rimmed with red eyes gave me the impression that they were really trying to hold something in---something that they wanted out, not something they prevented from penetrating them. The monkeys made me laugh, and I didn't know why.
          We used to chant: “Monkey’s in the court, speak, monkey speak,”  when I was with my friends.  Every must get quiet and then finally one person would say something and no one could interrupt.  Who were the original monkeys, I wonder.
          I  interpreted the monkeys on a log, with their piercing red-rimmed eyes, as “Don’t look, don’t listen, don’t talk.”  My  learned home language was interpretive informational, and that was my interpretation of the monkeys on a log.   Although it really didn’t make sense until one of my friends said, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”  Then the monkeys made sense. As did the understanding of why the chained together monkeys on a log were humorous to me.  Even at that age I understood there was no way to avoid evil, whether seen, heard, or spoken.  
        When I was looking around for ‘stuff’ to add to my courtyard garden, I saw the trolls, remembered the monkeys and the saying, remembered how they’d made me smile and hoped they would add not only good luck but a bit of humor to my garden.  They’re so kick back and chillin’.  Not only their eyes but their faces are impish and holding back, not holding out.  Not so scary-funny as the monkeys.  Makes it difficult to believe that these trolls actually would ever be able to not do what they profess to do.  The hear no evil troll probably listens to a lot of hot gossip.  The see no evil troll spends his nights in the strip clubs, peeking through his fingers. The speak no evil troll lets his misspeaks dribble out of the side of his mouth so that his friends are constantly asking him what he said.
         Besides keeping the trolls hanging out above the pond for luck and humor, they’re there to remind me that even though evil exists, it can be met with impishness and a smile.  I hear it, I see it, I speak it, I’m not perfect.  I can put my hand over my ears and it  becomes muffled and I have to strain to hear it.  I can put my hand over my eyes and it  becomes blurry within a smaller frame, but I can still see it.  I can put my hands over my mouth, but  the words come through my fingers. Sometimes words may be confusing.  Sometimes they may appear meaningless.  I hope they won’t be interpreted as evil. But sometimes they may be humorous. I want to see, hear and speak and then I want to write so that my audience can respond.  In the response, comes the beginning of a dialog.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We Never Used the F Word

     I am 65.  At sixteen I wrote my first book.  It was 30,000 words and was entitled Balboa is Full of Beginners.   I still have the book typed on what is now yellowing paper (although then pristine white)  on the orange-cased Smith Corona typewriter that my sister had handed down after she'd finished nursing school and got married.  I've reread it recently and it is in a wonderful authentic teenage voice connecting what I wished my sixteenth summer could have been and my angst at how it was not so.  The characters are fairly fleshed out and the plot is surprisingly developed.  I wonder how I can weave it into a new book with the characters now facing medicare.  After that book there were three others written in my 20's, and then a gap of book writing, but writing that explored (poetry, and essays), and suited a particular purpose (school writing, dissertation writing).  But always, writing.  Then came the memoir in my 50's and 60's, and a fiction book about a baseball player in my 60's, and a current historical novel in progress.  And from 16 to 65 my writing (except for one short story) has been unpublished, sitting in drawers, occupying hard drive space.  As private to the world at large as my journals.  To be a writer, I somehow thought, meant being on a best seller list or at least available at Amazon.  I could not reach my lofty goals.  An MFA later, writing conferences later, a women's retreat at Ghost Ranch later, and a lot of thinking and reflecting and journaling and revising, and somehow it all is beginning to come together.  I write therefore I am a writer.  And, it's about time that I open the vaults and put it out there. I am ready.  I am still looking for an agent and wondering how I will get my books, particularly the one above that, I think, can help others who have lost a parent when they were children, available in print.  But I have found a way, imperfect though it may be, to validate myself as a writer.  Although it's a bit of a challenge to do, (formatting is a bitch and requires tons of patience) e publishing offers me possibilities.  Get rich possibilities?  No.  But possibilities that nurture me, the creative me.  The me who cannot help but tell the stories in writing, the stories that need time to evolve into a story.  I often say when I try to speak a story that I am a much better writer.  Likely has something to do with some issue from my childhood, akin to me not thinking I can sing at all.  I sing.  I do it best in my car or house when I'm alone.  I won't be singing in public anytime soon, but my writing is now public.  I am still savoring how it makes me feel when I see my name on the book jacket. For now googling the title and seeing it in the world is enough for me to understand---  I wrote that, world.  I am a writer.  Amen.