Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Agnes Was at Doe Bay

My relationship to the written word seems to have become somewhat combative in the last several years. There's a wall of books lurking over there, silent and baleful.   Child  rearing, creative distractions and financial stress have all taken their toll on me.  Not having  the time even to read, words stopped being my friends and instead became a perfunctory tool with which I would write my children’s monthly home school reviews or argue with strangers (wrong!  Strangers who are wrong!) on the internet.  My blog, my one blessed relief, became less an outlet than a growing guilt trip, as I watched other people monetize the hell out of their own blogs.  Mine became a study of the errata of the domestic, home educating life, where my readers could watch my children grow and listen to me talk about chickens.  There’s only so much the average person wants to know about me learning about chickens, and they surely aren’t going to pay me for the pleasure. 

I lost my sense of humor and my muse. I lost my connection to my inner self. I sewed my curtain tight. 

So this wall of books I have, instead of looking like a portal to other worlds and possibilities, became a wall of shame.  A whispering stack of judgment about the ways I have failed myself and my family.  J.K. Rowling’s every interview made me wince with guilt.   Stephanie Meyer made me want to stab myself in the eye.  She’s proof—and hey, Stephen King backs me up here—that you don’t have to be good to be published, loved, and well rewarded for it. My friends published their stuff, here and there.  When his best friend published a young adult novel, even my own beautiful husband, in a sadly misshapen attempt to motivate me, said 

“Heh!  He beat you to it!”   Yeah, everyone’s beating me to it.  Look at the bookshelf.   

In July of 2011, I stole a few moments to slam some of this frustration with stolen time into a file on my computer, to be forgotten until today:

“I am swept along with the tides in my life.  Currents run through the life of a family who stay together day after day.   Just now, I noticed my well-worn copy of Tolkein’s The Hobbit, still atop my desk where I set it this morning en route to the back porch.  I placed it there, intending to grab a sweater and a few more ounces of coffee.  Still it sits, sweater long ago used and replaced, coffee a distant memory.  Even now I can’t remember what I did that distracted me from my idyllic intention to drink coffee and read Tolkien on the back deck, enveloped in the sounds and fragrances of an awakening forest. “

We no longer live in that forest.   I will never have read The Hobbit by that creek.

Then there is Agnes herself.   My new friend Lori thinks she’s an amalgam of my mother, and that might be true.  But Agnes is a great stopper to the creative flow, or she was until Write! happened.   And believe me, Write! happened.  It wasn’t just something I attended, or something that I worked.  It was indeed  both  those things and a retreat as well.   But it was far more, and even now I fail to completely grasp the words to express the experience and its transmutative impact on each of us.  I have heard everything from born again and rebirth to gang bang group therapy and a communal draining of an emotional cyst.  Someone else describes being opened like a coconut by a machete.   Several others describe physical symptoms of release, in just about every possible way a human can let go of things. 

Release, Relief, Renewal, Rebirth.  All of us came as artists, specifically writers, with intent to connect to our own creations.  What I observed was that we connected quite organically to each other.  Through that, perhaps we became each other’s muses?  A week later, I still don’t know.  We were together long enough to see each other’s raw selves, our simple selves.  The hostel environment required us to shed a lot of social constructs that would have prohibited those connections in a normal workshop.    We talked about our ghosts and the ghosts of others.  We read to each other, we sang to each other, we played with each other.  We parted soon enough to avoid conflicts and demoralization.  We left right at the height of our bloom.   In fact, most of us left that weekend in tears, talking about feeling as if we’d fallen in love with all the others.

It was violent, it was sudden, and it was loud.  It was creation.  Further, it was permission.   I’ve been stuffing for a while, always putting other things ahead of my writing; because it wasn’t bringing an income, it wasn’t engaging enough, I wasn’t focused enough. Writers are solo creatures, and left alone in the dark long enough, we’ll start chewing on our livers.   We all left Doe Bay with permission to write.  That’s it.  Go write, writer-person, said the other writer-person.  It’s simple, but to a writer… to a writer that is permission to breathe.  

Agnes, to bring back a bad penny, is not a writer at the retreat, but a character I’ve been dancing with since college.  She’s been hovering on the edge of my consciousness like a moth outside a lantern, for as long as I can remember being an adult.   Over the years, I have produce vignettes for her, and devised a plot for her novella.  I’ve met her husband, her son and her chickens. I’ve walked her property in the woods of the North Carolina foothills.  I’ve smelled her German-American cooking.  But while writing is an art, it is also a craft, and Agnes had no catharsis. In all these years, I have never been able to discover a way to make her tolerable for anyone else, let alone give this character to a novel in any sensible way.  I needed to excavate her arc, to ransack her story deeply enough to find out what the hell happens to her to make her worth reading.   She’s worth writing, for me, because she is a demon I need to exorcise.   She’s been in my way. And in a flash of insight during, of all things, a play-writing workshop, I got what I needed.  The bitch let down her guard long enough for me to see what it is she’s been so zealously guarding all this time.  Now I can see her, now I can tell her.

Now, I have hope and a bit of joy.   Now, I can Write!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Where I was.


boredom, facebook, malaise

no one read me anyway. except the stalker.

private writing, here and there. keep it alive, malnourished and weak.
I took it all from me.  singing, writing, all is life to one such as I 

then a chance
a tilt of the jar, a compulsion to move, something within

a ferry
an island
a magic place
a house
people people people people

who does this?  who falls in love with 34 disparate people all at once?

people people people

i get it.  kill the writing, kill the self.  self told me. self ratted me out to the people. people told me.

my people my people my people

Lory, your jar is open.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Despite the fact that we didn't have TuTu with us to paint the world green, and that D-meister in particular missed her presence, we did have a nod toward the holiday. N-man wore his leprechaun socks and danced a jig while we listened to The Pogues and we dined on shamrock pancakes. Of course, we also had traditional corned beef and cabbage for dinner that evening. Erin Go Bragh!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Cams

This kind of thing is an example of the very best that the internet has to offer. We should be using it to really study-- second best thing to first hand-- the world around us!

I love nest / den cams!

Hummingbird Nest WebCam (as of 3-21 no eggs left, no babies)

Barn Owl Nest (as of 3-21 one baby has hatched)

Barn Owl 2 (as of 3-21 these guys have hatched and are LOUD)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spring marches in

As with the spring of 2008, March has started out with serious kookiness. Yes, I said kookiness.

With our beautiful warm, sunny days and blooming trees and flowers, it was easy to be seduced into thinking winter had spent all its energy on the Eastern parts of the country. Yesterday, March and its madness arrived. In the space of one day, the temperature dropped from the 50s to the low 30s. We had dark cloudy skies, hail, sleet, rain, snow and beautiful sunshine. While the children played outside frolicking in fast-flying snow flurries, chanting "Stick Stick Stick!" I burned the insert so hot you could break into a sweat in the living room.

Spring may now come. I have declared it!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I begin to doubt myself

or perhaps, I need a vacation.

I love the Pacific Northwest. I love it here. I love the prevailing political sentiments, I love the public-oriented government entities, I love big, clear street signs and I love ferries. I love the Mountain. I love the Forests. I love that you can see four volcanoes at once on a clear day. I like being able to walk to the Sea and drive to a glacier on the same day (not that I ever do). I love the copious availability of free, low-cost and yes, the expensive, educational opportunities for our children. I love the masses of like-minded people and that one can source just about anything needed within a hundred mile radius.

The weather itself doesn't even bother me most of the year. Summer, naturally, is an odyssey. By the time Autumn rolls around, I have so much work built up from our summer activities and purchases that I don't have time to lament the passing of Summer's bloom and warmth. The darker months surrounding the Solstice don't even phase me. I need the rest after harvest season, and I enjoy the quiet. I find the noise and bustle of the children jarring to my sensibilities during this period, but I keep them busy enough with organized activities outside the house that it levels out.

But I hate--and I do mean HATE--the months from the end of January into the beginning of May. That's a long time to be disenchanted with your natural world. Winter doesn't really show here, in my experience, until this time. Even this year, when Spring appears to be sneaking up on us early, I refuse to fall for it as I did last year. Frigid weather is coming back this week, which no one seemed to believe would happen, and I do have some glimmer of satisfaction that this year, at least, I didn't install a garden ridiculously early just to watch it die.

What I hate most about it though, is not the waiting for the signals to GO! PLANT! YAY! It is my body's response to the intermittent cloudiness. My spirit is refreshed from a long winter's rest and now I find myself wanting to channel energy into project after project. I plan them well, I organize my supplies, and then.... nothing. I sit like a lump as if petrified by the fall of a shadow. When the sun is shining at this time of year, I zip around like I have no limits. I see nothing but the possibilities in my minds eye. I do not see dormant trees and rotting leaves, I can almost physically perceive the outlines of things I want to build, plant or paint. As soon as the light fades, I droop like a morning glory and quite literally forget what I planned to do. I have been working for weeks and today I sit here as if stupefied.

I believe that being in touch with the natural world is a good and necessary way to live, but this is ridiculous. For P-daddy, it is even worse. He doesn't connect with and during the solstice months the way that I do, and he starts suffering in October. Given that I only know the man because he deliberately chose Southern latitudes for the abundance of light, I begin to feel.... cruel.

Sometimes I wonder, despite my love for this place and the community we've grown here, if we wouldn't be better off choosing somewhere more sunny.