What person will I be today? I’ve noticed that when I say I’m on an adventure, my attitude, my demeanor, and my openness changes. I walk with a spring in my gait, and I see more. As a writer, I do this with an empty page. Closing my eyes, I let my characters take me down a road, eat in a restaurant, do things I don’t normally do.
This afternoon, I took my morning walk late. The sun was way overhead. I didn’t have to bundle up like a snowwoman. For some reason the possum that Jim discovered yesterday, sunning itself near our cactus bed, was on the driveway. He greeted me with a paused disdain. Standing still with dark beady eyes, he stared, unmoving. I took the other side of the path and pretended he wasn’t there. A false ignorance that didn’t fool either of us.
The crunch of ice underfoot, this late in the day, had melted and I avoided puddled potholes. The two horses, I normally see, were out in another field. I missed whispering, “I see you,” to them. Our acknowledgement plays out as a ritual of neighborly space sharing. I’ve never had the urge to pet them, bother their stately stance. Their big eyes follow me as they turn their heads. One will snort, the other neigh.
The barking dog, that normally runs out into the road to harass me, is busy with a family gathering. In their driveway which abuts the road, I count five extra cars. A total of ten plus a boat. I’ve never been inside but I know when the kids get on the school bus, and when the baby cries.
I usually turn around where the sheep no longer are. These woolly lumps that look like rocks, have been gone for over six years. They fascinated me as I often searched the big barn, even peeked inside, when their bodies merged into the landscape. These sheep appeared in my second novel, Color of Lies. I invented a story to explain their disappearance.
Why is it that a trip on a plane triggers the adventure button and that our daily rituals playout with a nonchalance and lack of importance? I answer my own question when I befriend solitude.
In my mind, I have a dialogue, but it isn’t often that others will listen to these mundane queries unless there’s pizazz, drama, angst. Travel to a foreign country peeks the interest of everyone. But who wants to hear about a walk along a country road?
My comic inclinations push me to relate and confess the travails of my shopping for a mother-of -the bride’s wedding dress. Just driving to Seattle, a big city with traffic, crowds, and chaos, sets me into a tizzy. That is, until I put on my adventure hat. I dress the part with leggings, a long, orange tunic, and a black wool, trench-coat bought ten years ago. I’ve made an appointment with a personal stylist at Nordstrom’s.
I feel like Miss Mavis from the Amazon TV’s series, The Marvelous Miss Mavis, but in reverse. She’s a department store clerk, who dresses all the society ladies, and she becomes a stand-up comedian. I’m a non-shopper, who can only laugh at the task. Don’t get me wrong. I can dress-up, be professional. If only I could dole out the one-liners, when I’m asked by the stylist, “What brands do you prefer?” I can’t name any brands, but those from REI—for the leisure nature lovers. When we arrive, Jim, who is always up for shopping, sits in the waiting room, as I model dress after dress. I want to look elegant, sexy but not provocative. I must find the balance between modesty and “rules” for the mother of the bride. Colors, texture, and family pictures are elements of the decision. The stylist is more patient than a saint. Knows what will fit, but still we go home empty handed. We’ve ordered and paid for three dresses from various Nordstrom stores, that have the mark of potential approval. I’ll return to Seattle in a week, with shoes, shawls, jewelry with the hope that I’ll make my daughter proud.
But back to the adventure…. Big Cities mean dining, wine a little luxury. Before we head home, Jim and I linger at the Wild Ginger—speak with the owner, share three plates of Thai food. We people watch as our seat is along the road—a way to advertise to passer-byes that this restaurant is where you find entertainment and good food.
These thoughts are luxurious, ones that occur only for those living in a first world. Undeveloped countries, with unstable economies and governments don’t have the privilege of these decisions. They are more worried about feeding their children, getting an education, shelter, staying safe.
I learned long ago, that I can be any person I want to be. I remember walking down the streets of Boston, just after I had transferred from the University of Florida, to Boston University. I had that same gait of an adventurer, a demeanor of openness. I had stepped out of one culture into another. My mind, ready to absorb, filled with the politics of the 70’s, the subways, the cold bitter wind that took my breath and made white streams of thought visible.
It doesn’t matter what I wear, where I am, but what does matter is my attitude, my openness, my ability to feel just a little bit out of my comfort zone. I must care about everything—even if it upsets me.
Which bring me back to the walk home. The possum had hardly moved more than 20 feet in my absence. But at the head of my driveway, were our property meets the private logging road and shared access to yet another neighbor, I meet the owner. Just like the possum, the owner, stares me down. He wears headphones, has a gun in a holster on his hip, and sports a walking stick and beer in each of his hands. Upset, knowing that we’ve had to put a restraining order in the past, I feign nonchalance.
I’m an author. My power comes from writing. He has become another character in Color of Lies, taking the form of Molly McCain, the old bully. I disarm him. Render him powerless and leave him to his own demise. I keep my solitude.
The Magic of Words
Thanks to Wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: noun: The transposition of (usually) the initial sounds of words, typically producing a humorous result.
Examples: “It is now kisstomary to cuss the bride.” (spooner while officiating at wedding.) “Is the bean dizzy?” (Spooner questioning the secretary of his dean.)
ETYMOLOGY: After William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), clergyman and educator, who was prone to this.
MEANING: Adjective: Capable of being revised, defeated, or annulled.
ETYMOLOGY: From Old-French desfaire (to undo or destroy), from Latin dis-(part, away) + facere (to do). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhe-(to set or Put), which is also the source of do, deed, factory, fashion face, rectify, defeat, sacrifice, satisfy, Sanskrit sandhi (joining) Urdu purdah (veil or curtain) and Russian duma (council). Earliest documentation 1586.
Charlie sat in his overstuffed chair, hoping for a kiss, words of love, from his bride of sixty years. “Oh Betsy, mappiness is being harried to you.” Betsy without missing a beat, came over to her husband. “You old spooner… I’ll muggle with you, slater.” They smiled knowing that their partnership wasn’t defeasible.
A word, like a thought, can’t stand alone
A hand, empty, without a hold
Withers; loneliness for the old
Connect, exchange stories
Warm the soul
Make one whole.
Over the years, I’ve distilled my giving down to two main causes: Health and education. Without either a person doesn’t thrive.
Whatcom Literacy is having a great fundraiser. Those living in the area please attend and show your support and trivia skills.
March 28th from 6:30 PM- 8:30PM at the Burlington Library, I’ll lead a discussion for the Skagit Valley Writer’s League on how to bring a book to market. This is a shortened version of my lecture, which will highlight standards and best practices. If you’re not a member of SVWL, you are still welcome to come.
Blessings come in all forms. Mine came in a snowstorm that caused my hibernation for two weeks. Without being able to dig my car out, I was forced to remain indoors with my butt seated in front of the computer. The result – the first draft of Founding Stones is finished.
Next steps – in April the manuscript will be shipped to my copy editor. She’ll find the holes, the redundancies, the errors in word choice, and report back. I’m looking forward to working on the revisions. My graphic designer is busily pulling together ideas for the cover, hopefully using as a base, a photo of Jim, taken by Cheryll, on the rocks of Chuckanut Drive, over forty years ago.
Inspiring thoughts from others, that move me to action. Here are two thoughts that caught my eye.
Not all those who wander are lost.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, novelist and philologist (1892-1973)
Architecture is inhabited sculpture
~ Constantin Brancusi, sculptor (1876-1957)
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