My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
...she found herself drifting back through her past like someone wandering through an old house.~Anne Tyler (From French Braid)
It was the sight of the emerald St. Augustine grass springing up against the gray, weathered gate that brought it all back. The blazing sun, arctic white clouds and wide sky, too, that caused me to travel through time. I hadn't been to Texas in over a decade. Memories don't evaporate just because you move away. Location leaves an imprint. I relished being back. Remembered the cicadas singing in the early evening. The crepe myrtles, standing in almost every yard, like airy pink and white bouquets. Live oak and pine trees. Brick homes resembling the one I grew up in. It was as if I'd been welcomed by an old friend there, and I kept trailing my hand across her shoulders as a touchstone, reminding myself that I was home again.
Being in Texas made me think of the places I've lived, how they leave a faint watermark on one's life, and how it can feel more and more difficult to find comfort in a world that feels less and less like home.
All morning I lay down sentences, erase them, and try new ones. Soon enough, when things go well, the world around me dwindles; the sky out the window, the furious calm of the big umbrella pine ten feet away, the smell of dust falling onto the hot bulb in the lamp. That's the miracle of writing, the place you try to find--when the room, your body and even time itself cooperate in a vanishing act. Gone are the trucks rumbling outside, the sharp edge of the desk beneath my wrists, the unpaid electricity bill back in Idaho. It might seem lonesome but it's not: soon enough characters drift out of the walls, quiet and watchful, some more distinct than others, waiting to see what will happen to them. And writers come, too. Sometimes every fiction writer I've ever admired is there, from Flaubert to Melville to Wharton, all the books I've loved, all the novels I've wished I were talented enough to write.~Anthony Doerr (From Four Seasons In Rome)
This morning I printed out the first half of the rough draft of the novel I'm working on. Sometimes during the writing process, I come to stopping points and a hard copy can help me get a better idea of what portions need more work, what needs to go, and what I want to keep. I always am amazed that characters do seem to speak, to "drift out of the walls, quiet and watchful," as Anthony Doerr so eloquently describes this mystery. They often do "tell me" what they are feeling, what they long for, what they need. I come to love them. And the world does seem to vanish when I listen to them and detail their lives on the page. Lately, though, I've felt guilty that I love to write and spend a good deal of time at my desk. "What difference does it make anyway, the world so very tangled with grief and fires and war and senseless killing?"
Join with those who have never said: "Right, that's it. I'm going no further," because as sure as spring follows winter, nothing ever ends; after achieving your objective, you must start again, always using everything you have learned on the way. Join with those who sing, tell stories, take pleasure in life, and have joy in their eyes, because joy is contagious and can prevent others from becoming paralyzed by depression, loneliness and difficulties.~Paulo Coelho (From The Archer)
I'd driven a different route to avoid traffic. However, the side street that cut through downtown was still backed up with cars and I sat at a red light. I could see the building I used to work in and felt a pang of melancholy. I missed the work at times, the moments in the counseling room collaborating with patients who sought help for substance use disorders. I thought especially of one man who'd been assigned to me as a patient. I wondered how he was doing, as right before I retired, he'd moved on from the clinic, his life going well. I thought of the pain in his eyes when we'd first met, his traumatized heart filled with pain and suffering. Weighed down by unresolved grief. Lost to himself. Use of substances had been a way for him to ease the misery, but the effects of the substances were not working anymore and he wanted a way out. He'd bravely asked for help. We worked together for an extended time, and when we ended the counseling relationship, he'd made significant gains--he was no longer using substances to cope, was working a job he was good at. He'd developed a healthy support network. He was no longer lost.
The light turned green and as I drove away from the building, felt a sense of gladness that I'd been able to work there, the clinic a bower of strength and healing for so many. That night I dreamed.
In the dark night of the soul, I reach out to assure myself of things not seen. I must lay my hands on the side of the tree, must feel the prick of grass on my skin, must smell the dirt, must sing to myself a brave lullaby in order to sustain my hopes.--Scott Russell Sanders (From Staying Put)
There are months or years or seasons that feel unbearable. I have been tasked to think of some of those times that felt that way for me as I move through a 12-week study in the book by Julia Cameron entitled, It's Never Too Late To Begin Again. She asks the reader to divide their lives into five year increments, then asks several questions to consider as one remembers that time frame.
Questions like: "Whom did you form new major relationships with in the period?" "Where did you live?" "What was your community during this period? Was it satisfying, complicated, dramatic, supportive?" "What sound do you remember during this time?"
As I thought about some of Ms. Cameron's questions, I remembered my college years. Even having an amiable roommate and surrounded by other students, I was lonely. A major relationship with a boy had ended and I felt abandoned. There was pressure to keep up my grade-point average while working as a reporter for the college newspaper. I was the pledge trainer for my sorority house. I'd been elected to that position by some arm twisting. The anxiety of attempting to manage twenty plus young women with all the sorority regulations was overwhelming. Yet I remembered a "sound."
In the tree cover above me there's a window.~Miranda Cowley Heller (From The Paper Palace)
The morning is unseasonably cooler. The sky is an eclectic composition of grays and pinks, blues and whites. Clouds drift by and the sun blazes through their gauzy covering at intervals. I love the sky. It's an ally who is always there for me. Like my grandmother was.
My grandmother sometimes wore a "mother's ring." I can't remember if there was a stone for each of her eleven children. I do recall as a child when she would grasp my hand. Sometimes the ring would pinch when she squeezed my hand. But I liked the feel of the metal against my skin. I'd take my other hand and trace the tiny stones in her ring with my index finger--little seeds of pale green and topaz, rose and opal. I'd rub my thumb across the blue veins on the top of her small, strong hand. She'd eventually loosen her grip and we'd sit for a while holding hands and watch Jeopardy (she knew a lot of the questions that were really answers) or listen to J. Vernon McGee on the radio.