when the writing a novel dream is dead – long live the dream

Today’s riddle: when is giving up on writing the best way to start writing?

Answer: when what you’re giving up on is what was holding you back; when it had become the excuse for not writing. As in: I don’t have time (or, ahem, inspiration or, ahem, discipline) to revise the 40,000 word partial manuscript for my novel-in-progress, so I just won’t write anything at all.

Something about a staring a pandemic in the face that makes a person have a “come to Jesus” meeting with herself.

To wit: I’m so uninterested in my youthful characters anymore that I can barely remember their names.

To wit: I don’t have any kids and have never observed the specie up-close. Sure, I have a couple of step-kids in their late fifties, but the youngest was 19 when I came on their scene. The grand-kids are off somewhere now in their own parallel universes, as much a mystery to me as I suspect their Granddad and I are to them. Won’t we ever just stay on the porch with the puppies and act our ages? And where the heck are those damn rocking chairs anyway?

That’s it. I’m packing up ye olde novel-not-so-much-in-progress. Nothing so dramatic or passionate as burning it. Whistling while I work.

The art journals I started for some of the main characters are something else entirely. They stay. Some very cool stuff there which I intend to use and have fun with.

So, what’s next? Writing whatever I please, that’s what! Free writing. I like the sound of it.

At Home

Be it ever so humble or never so humble, there’s no place like home, if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Buck and I remain at home on this seemingly perfect Gulf coast Florida day. I played ball with Lou Lou Belle while soaking up some rays and letting the old bod manufacture some Vitamin D. The soft breeze was a bonus.

On morning walks, I admire the industry and skill of spiders weaving snares for prey and homes with silken hammocks all over the woods.

And in our own kitchen last night, what could be more comforting than this rosemary maple butter roasted chicken? And yes, it was as delicious as it looks and the aroma of fresh rosemary, maple syrup and roasting chicken was intoxicating. I’m thinking the leftovers will make fabulous chicken sandwiches today.

Our county (Escambia) remained steady overnight, with no new Covid-19 cases confirmed. The current reported total is 21.

27 degrees in panhandle Florida

Maybe the deer knew there would be a hard freeze last night. Two mature does and three frisky yearlings spent an unusually long time in the clearing outside my window yesterday eating grass and out-of-season dandelions.

Longleaf Lou and I heard turkeys in the woods near the stream bed yesterday when we walked to the gate. First time in eons that I’ve heard that sharp cluck cluck sound. Coyotes, bobcats, foxes and feral cats have taken a hard toll on the wild turkeys around here. I used to collect fallen turkey feathers and lay them out on the dining room table. Is there anything prettier? I have videos of dozens of wild turkeys in the clearing and perched on the fence in the back yard, gobblers displaying and hens dancing. “Those were the days,” I murmur like some old-timer, which I guess I’ve become. Well, so what? The calendar may reveal it, but I don’t feel it. Gonna be a good day. Let’s get out there.

egg and spinach

Worth a post? Probably not. But damn, it was good. Pretty, too.

Note: I’ve avoided frozen spinach for years because of experiences with rectangular blocks that, when thawed, was coarse, tough, and unappealing. I keep trying to think of ways to get more leafy greens into our diet without having a refrigerator full of stuff in various stages of turning into a science project. So I decided to try a bag of Publix’s Greenwise brand chopped spinach. Well, now, this is a whole different animal than my rejects of decades ago. It’s tender, sweet, chopped into tiny bits, and delicious. Perfect as a base to bake an egg.

organizing (does it ever stop?)

I’m still adding back in old archived posts from earlier blogs, which throws categories and tags into a tizzy. It will take a while to get them to play nicely with each other and agree to subsume their enormous egos and let me assign them to several large, umbrella themes.

Like these: (Found in the Footer 1 Widget Area). Honestly, I could never “get” footers. I like to have “what you see is what you get” via a sidebar. I may have to change to a 3-column format. Mostly, I should shut up, quit fussing, and write. Right? Meanwhile: ta da, or something like that.

THEMES (master categories)

Comfort Zone: Home. It’s the comfort zone. Be nurtured by the cozy soft bits you collect to feather your nest. We need a place of retreat, a shock absorber for life’s shrapnel. Posts about health, aging, friends and food are here, too.

Creative Life: Struggle and exult as you nourish the some days fragile stem, other days lusty baby of whatever a creative life means to you. Write. Make art, music, love, a home. Read, listen, and gaze upon myriad human-made works until your eyes are wet with tears of joy. There is where wholeness dwells. Book reviews and writerly stuff found here, too.

Daybook: The master log. Everything, including the kitchen sink. A hot mess. My life. I love it. Most posts here are also in another category.

Inner Space: It’s the heart of the matter. Go inside your mind. Your soul will meet you there. Be awed by the mystery. It will feed you. Dream journals live here.

Love: Love wildly, like it’s a bottomless cup of the best elixir in the world. It is. No stinting allowed. It’s the ultimate act of enlightened self-interest and the most radical act. Stories from a long-running happy marriage are here.

Memoir: Remember everything. Make a record when you can. It’s a way of conecting the dots. No one else has been where you have been or will go where you will go. Your memories stand against the days of loss. They are stepping stones across an ocean of meaning to a continent of understanding.

Nature: Connect, weave yourself into the natural world. Lessons from the green nourish and change us for the better. Study the intricacies of lichen and web. Put down a taproot or become an air plant. Observe. Mind open and eyes wide. Breath. Photos and notes from Longleaf Preserve are here.

Travel: Perch like a bird on the edge of the world. Get out of Dodge and dive in. Experience the thrill of the unfamiliar. It’s found in that place outside the comfort zone, somewhere between fear and ecstasy. Touch and taste the incredible awayness of it all.


I think the thing he was most fascinated by was the bright blue, glowing geo-locator button on my jogging shoes. I mean, who wouldn’t be, right? Nice to know that even if I didn’t know where I was, theoretically somebody, somewhere did.

I had been pedaling across the curve of the earth in the middle of the night in a four-wheel type of cycle, going home to Mother. How in the world would I find her in the dark? And, oh by the way, she died in 1990 and I had never been able to find the real “her” in life and even less so in death — she was gone years before her heart stopped.

How did I get hurt and why was I at this bright outpost of an urgent care clinic? A little girl with dark hair and big glasses and bright black patent leather shoes shamelessly eavesdropped on my conversation with the young doc.

I kept asking him: who were the people who came to my house?

Dreams. Nonlinear. Nonsensical. I love them.


I waited too long to write last week’s dream. So many of the evanescent parts of it have floated away. But I am still left to wonder: why did my subconscious bring my old friend Patsy into my dreamscape?

Images from the dream are more like scenes from her real life, experiences I either saw or knew about as they were happening. So was it a dream or a series of memories?

We are sitting together on my piano bench at home, Buck and other guests milling about, visiting. Sandy is belting out an old Carol King line — pretty sure it was I feel the earth move under my feet while I accompanied her. She held a glass of wine in one hand and swore like a sailor in-between verses. Okay, so this was definitely a dream. I’ve played piano while she sang before, but it was a supper club of sweet Episcopalians and the songs were usually old Broadway or snippets from The Messiah. Sandy has a glorious contralto, the kind of singing voice I would like to have. I have near perfect pitch, but only thin squeaks come through my pipes.

I dreamed of Sandy sailing the Grand Loop with her ill husband and later hugging the shorelines and rivers of Florida when he was dying and they had to dock so he could rent a car and drive to one of several hospitals for another useless round of chemo. Maybe it wasn’t entirely useless. Maybe it bought him time. But my dream is of Sandy, nurse Sandy, giving him injections; Sandy, the game companion, her brittle bones fracturing time and time again when jarred by the sharp, hard wake of a rude boater and knocked into unforgiving surfaces. Betrayed Sandy.

Sandy’s blank look of shock when she first read her husband’s will and trust, then tears of heartbreak and later anger, as it sunk in that he put her financial well-being into a trust managed by a long-grown stepdaughter who behaved as though she had waited a long time to become Sandy’s overlord and was going to extract every ounce of suffering and pain left in this dear woman, not to mention impoverishing her in the process.

Sandy, kneeling for communion, praying at the rail, hands raised like a charismatic.

It’s been close to five years since Sandy’s husband died and her second time in hell began. But now, the lawyering is done, whatever could be salvaged has been, she lives in a sweet little house in a dear little town far from here, and has found a good life with friends and a gentle, funny man who truly adores her. I know this mingles dream and fact. But that fact is no dream, and I am grateful that the haunted look is gone from my friend’s beautiful gray-blue eyes.

if you own a house or vacant land . . .

Make a note to yourself to call your local planning and zoning authority and make sure that what you think is your zoning really is your current, effective zoning. Ask questions like: are there any overlays on my property? Is it within the footprint of a master plan? Is my normal county zoning the same as my effective zoning? (In other words, if I am in a low density residential zoning category (known here as LDR), does it mean it can be developed with 4 dwelling units per acre, which is in the Land Development Code for LDR. Or is there an overlay put on it without my knowledge or consent that reduces that number to 3 dwelling units per acre, plus requires open space design, meaning 50% of my land must be severed through a legal instrument and never, ever be developed, and requires mandatory clustering on the remaining 50%. Even if, like is the case with our neighbor’s land, there are zero wetlands — it is an old horse pasture — she would be required to give up half of her high and dry upland property. That is the essence of our challenge to the unfair overlay and our request to opt our land out of it and keep our normal low density residential county zoning.

The county put their public notice signs out Friday. We expect the files, including our applications and their staff analysis, to go online sometime next week. And then, before we know it, it will be showtime for everybody.

dreams deferred

“Patsy” and “Doc” will have to wait. Luckily, I wrote down enough of the dreams when I first staggered out of bed yesterday morning to fix the memory in place. Buck and I spent most of yesterday preparing for and briefing some of our local officials on our property rights issue coming before the planning board February 4th. Today is for reading the fine print on some ancient scrolls (old meeting transcripts) and a luncheon of the Pensacola High School class of 1955, Buck’s graduating class and a group of folks I have come to love. I’m always the “babe” in the room because of my relative youth (only 68), but they seem to like me okay anyway. We meet at a little local Italian restaurant called Franco’s. They make a mean minestrone soup. Hang in there, Patsy and Doc. I’ll tell your story soon.