Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hiking in Sedona

We just returned from Sedona -- red rocks in odd and sometimes highly suggestive shapes and sizes, deep red dirt, vortexes, walking and hiking trails that take one deep into the heart of Indian medicine wheel country and spirits.

Rick and I found a little hiking trail behind the grounds where we stayed--piles of flat red rocks almost like slate (to walk on), red dirt (a mix of cinnamon and pomegranate color), insects, salamanders, the tiniest of birds perched in low bushes, cactus and prickly pears.

It didn't long for me to realize that I don't have the agility of a goat or those cows I see traversing the hillsides on the golden hills along Camino Tassajara. Rick on the other hand, forged ahead, stopping to snap pictures and take in the view. I spent a good deal of time looking down carefully calculating where each foot should land next and trying to keep up with him.

The thing about hiking is, one must stay present otherwise one might find herself splattered on red rock ... but once I realized that I WAS present, I could make the experience anything I wanted -- spiritual, meditative, fun, scary, and it became more meaningful.

And that experience reminded me of writing. To write I need to be present not to just show up at the computer or the note pad with pen in hand, but to consciously show up so that it matters that I've been there...

Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: You were the gentle one ...
(and keep going for 20 minutes)

prompt from Pat Schneider's book, Writing Alone and With Others

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Click Clack, Scarves and Women

Autumn inspires me to knit. It's the swirl of cold when I walk Jake in the morning and the changing of leaves from green to crimson, yellow, gold and purple. The air has a hint of decay in it, and yet, for me it represents renewal, new beginnings. What could be fresher than the start of the school year? New Year's is a reminder to stay on track for all the things I wanted to start once 'fall' hit--after the ease and heat of summer.

But back to knitting...
I follow in the footsteps of my great grandmother, Hanna, who knitted dark green vests for World War 1 soldiers, my grandmother, Anna, knitted white cotton bandages on needles the size of a red cocktail straw for lepers, and my mother, Kay, who picks up her knitting when her arthritic fingers allow. She used to knit argyle socks for my dad, afghans, pink angora hats with white pompoms for me at the start of our New England winters, but arthritis has robbed her of long stretches of looping yarn and holding knitting needles.

I take the easy road -- I knit scarves -- just knit, no purl, no yarn over, no seed stitch, no sweaters, no shrugs, or cozy little slippers. Just knit. Twelve stitches. Size 15 needles.

I often knit when I sit in the living room listening to the television or when my husband drives. His driving makes my insides turn to jello. Knitting keeps my hands busy and my mouth shut and brings me back to another time of life--the smell of baked cookies, Mom's black speckled kitchen floor, our cat, Mittens, my children, and grandchildren. And it gives me time to think about challenges--it's another way to journal until I can get to my pen and notebook.

After giving several, make that many, scarves to each of my daughters who eventually said 'enough, Mom', I gave them to friends, but you can't keep giving scarves to people. After a while they might think I'm the crazy scarf lady or that I don't have anything else to do during the day... or night ... or anytime...

So, I'm looking for a homeless shelter where I know my scarves will be used to keep women warm. When I knit each one I offer gratitude for all I'm blessed with and offer hope that the receiver will have an abundant life soon. Once I donate them, I think it will help me sleep better at night, too, and in my teeny tiny way, I'm following in the steps of Hanna, Anna, and Kay.

Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT: This isn't the way it was supposed to turn out, I ....

Friday, September 14, 2007

Missing Flip Flop

Recently, Flop, of my beloved Flip Flops, went missing. It was a favorite--midnight black, two rows of tiny rhinestones up each side of the plastic 'v'.

I looked at our Golden Retriever, Jake, sleeping on top of our bed -- my number one suspect. He usually eats Rick's things. His wreck and chew history includes a ratty, over the hill jogging Nike and newly repaired leather handle gnawed right off a piece of luggage. Eating the handle wouldn't have been so bad except it took Rick weeks to decide if the garment bag merited saving -- it must have been thirty years old. But once the decision to repair was made, we expected the trusty old bag might even outlast us.

Then a few short weeks ago, Jake nuzzled his nose into an orange bag, pulling out a signed A's baseball and chewed away. By the time we found the ball--full of slime and saliva--it looked as though it never had white leather nor red string holding it together. As he lounged in the dining room mucking up the last of the string, I grabbed it out of his mouth and chucked it in the garbage.

Anyway, Jake's preferences seemed to be for leather so I thought perhaps Ms Flop cleared his list of favorites. Nonetheless, I grabbed a flashlight and checked his haunts along with the rest of the house -- toy chest, the workout room, under beds and sofa. I had worn my flip and flops within the last 48 hours and some of the places I checked I hadn't visited in days~make that weeks.

The more I pitched sofa pillows and rummaged a stack of clothes for Good Will, I convinced myself that Jake the Dog ate Flop. I eyed him with great suspicion but he just looked at me like he always does -- dark chocolate eyes -- first to the left, then to the right, back again, tail wagging, occasional blink. Cute. I still thought he knew something I didn't, ahem, like the whereabouts of Flop.

This morning I threw a load of laundry into the mouth of our new front loading washing machine, the one that, combined with its matching dryer, looks like the control panel of a 747, slammed the door shut, filled the detergent thingie, and tapped the 'start' button.

Then I hear it. Yes, it is Flop taking her first shower, make that last shower--she came unglued--half of her rhinestones missing, half of them attached. I'm heartsick.

I like to think of myself as an optimist, so here's the good news ~ it's almost the end of our California summer, well, closer to the end than the beginning -- so new Flip Flops await....

Moral of the story? You can't always say the dog ate it and always check what goes into the washing machine before the door locks ....
Wanna write? Here's a PROMPT:
The last time I looked, it sat ....
When I'm not organized, here's what happens ...

fill in the blank by writing for 20 minutes ~have fun

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Grim Reaper, a reminder to be mindful...

I have a little habit of reading the obituary column in the newspaper, a habit I picked up from my grandmother. She'd sit at her Formica kitchen table every morning drinking Red Rose tea with cream and sugar (very English) while pouring over the obituaries in the Boston Globe.

The Globe is a good sized newspaper harboring column after column of deaths in tiny lettering, unlike our local paper where most of us don't need a magnifying lens to read the print.

When I see the name of someone I know it feels like a punch in the chest and within the last month or so, I've had a couple of punches.

Last month, my friend Steve died. As an artist, he created hundreds of oil and acrylic abstracts and silk screened scarves. He also worked as a rehab counselor, dubbed himself a beekeeper--with ten or twelve hives in his back yard, had a dry wit and always made me laugh. His office walls were covered with full-sized kites -- stop light red, kelly green and lemon yellow -- with sperm-like tails stuck into position with staples and push pins. Kites have always reminded me of freedom. Now they remind me of Steve.

Steve escaped the grim reaper for a few years after his diagnosis and then its knock came back with a vengeance. The last time I saw him, it was during his remission three years ago. We ate dinner at the Cantina in Walnut Creek and talked about life, our careers, and his fearlessness about dying.

And just this morning, I read about Eddi. Eddi and I found our way to each other through a mutual friend in grad school. I used to think we were a lot alike until I read her obituary today -- she was literally classified as a genius. (no wonder she didn't understand how I could never make friends with statistics or my inability to grasp the concepts all things involving numbers...).

She had a zest for life that shot out through her eyes -- I've still not met anyone whose eyes could out-sparkle those blue dazzlers. They were a mixture of excitement, curiosity and fun -- that made me want to jump behind them to see whatever it was she saw.

We shared a teary goodbye one foggy morning at the Safeway parking lot ten plus years ago when she, her husband, and their cat moved to Washington. Then we lost touch.

Their deaths remind for me to be conscious and grateful for the everyday things in life --the tight squeeze around my neck from Sammie or JD, Baby Kyle's cuddle and his contagious giggles, a sweet kiss good night from Rick, the simple yet so important conversations with family, friends--and strangers.

Here's to staying conscious~

Writing prompt: 'When I look in your eyes ......' (write for 20 minutes about the first set of eyes that come into your mind -- doesn't matter if it's true or not)


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Laughter and Chocolate

Last night on a whim, Rick and I went to Tommy T's Comedy Club in Pleasanton to see Ralph Harris (the comedian recently kicked off of Last Comic Standing -- huge mistake). I could hardly catch my breath from laughing, one joke falling on top of another, then another, and another--in a way that just can't be scripted, can it? How do good comedians do that?

Chris Titus is like that, too. In January of this year, for Rick's 'milestone' birthday we went to Tommy's to see him. We ached from out of control laughing. Titus be back at Tommy's in November and we'll be going back --In case you're interested:

All of this made me think about author David Sedaris. One day I drove my Mom to Kaiser and while I sat in the waiting room inhaling hospital waiting room germs, I continued reading his hysterical book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I laughed so hard that tears were streaming down my cheeks and the words on the page kept blurring. I had no Kleenex, just a wet shiny face.

A woman walked over to me and I thought, thank God--a Kleenex--instead she asked me for the name of my book. At first I couldn't decide which to wipe with my hand (or sleeve) first --nose? eyes? cheeks? before I spoke. I finally sputtered the name of the book out and she said she'd be stopping at the book store on the way home to pick up a copy.

~ laughter is like chocolate ~ everybody wants some. ~Yum~


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Rewrites, editing and fooling myself

I'm finally into the 'rewriting' phase of my book, but I don't like the word 'rewrite', so I call it editing. Editing is doable -- a comma here, a hyphen or semicolon there. It's just a way to fool myself about the massive word changes that are taking place, but it feels so much more writer friendly, you know? It's like calling a hurricaine a spring shower.

This isn't the first time around for this book. The first time it was called Peanut Butter and Kisses, this time it's 19 Darby Way. In the first book I dug in for about 40,000 words, sat in utter confusion for weeks, then changed it from journal entries to first person present tense. Talk about editing ... in the first book, there were several unruly children whose whereabouts I couldn't keep track of and a flaky protagonist--hence part of why I began again, I kept losing the kids. In the new book, Katie, an only child--is manageable -- and she's a good kid. I like her and the protagonist and I really like fooling myself.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Greetings and Welcome

Welcome to my blog. I wish we could sit and chat about life or at the very least, that I could offer you a hot cup of coffee or a great glass of cabernet as you browse my blog site, but I don't know if you're 21 -- you'll have to supply your own libation. Since this is the first entry, you'll be finished in a flash -- at least your coffee won't grow cold nor the cab too warm!

My blog is about any and all things related to writing: reading, writing, books, personal essay, freelance work, journalism, and about life. I think everyone can write -- if you can speak, you can write. Yes, there are those who can speak (and write) better than others, but I don't believe it when people tell me they can't write. Pshaw!

For example, take the phrase 'Right now I am .....' and fill it in. And keep going. (I'm borrowing this phrase from Hal Zina Bennett's book, Write from the Heart). I don't suppose he can own this phrase but since I use it and I did find it in his book, I feel I owe him a nod.

If I'm at Peets or Starbucks rummaging through my brain, picking and throwing things over my shoulder that wouldn't be worth writing about, I go back to 'Right now I am ....' and zap up comes up something. Just like leap frog I find myself hopping from one thought to another. Eventually, I have a story. Or I don't. Either way works. If it's not a good write, fine, I've practiced. If I've created something worthwhile, I can polish it up and send it out (maybe).

Right now I am .... looking forward to you visiting my blog.