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. This is where wholeness dwells. Book reviews and writerly stuff found here, too.
So yes, “ripe yellow” really is Moleskine’s descriptor for the color of this 2020 daily diary/planner. Quite a departure from my usual choice of matte black.
Last year I started sticking pieces of torn paper, fabric, corrugated cardboard, all sorts of things into my daily planner, dabbing it with watercolor, stamped color using a cork, whatever’s at hand. Strange, but it makes writing come more easily and (I’ll say it) — adds to my happiness quotient. I guess because it’s play. Makes that invaluable child’s mind more accessible to my stodgy, duty-bound adult self.
This post is taking forever because I’m continually distracted thinking about and looking up colors that interest me to focus on as a backdrop for 2020. So I just ordered a few watercolors: Daniel Smith’s Pyrrol Scarlet and Indigo and Holbein’s Olive Green. I already have various yellow tones that will go with these, including raw sienna and ochre. I’m looking for a Mediterranean vibe, and may need to bring in a sea blue, but will play as I go and see.
I’m certainly no artist, but playing with these beautiful colors somehow draws the words out of me, and that’s the idea. They’re a great tool for the subconscious.
Stretched out on a sofa in that time between full dark and weak light, snuggled in with Lou, a 50-pound velvet-soft chocolate Lab, I watch the rain through the 24-foot window wall as it falls in sheets onto the concrete patio and forest beyond. I lay there pondering how to tell the stories I want to tell. Is it one story? Is it a thousand?
The late James Michener, author of more than 40 novels, seemed to be challenged by the question of where to begin his historical fiction tales. Many of his stories seem to begin at the cellular level, way before dialogue, way before people, with creation of the land itself. For me, it always took a certain state of mind to tackle a Michener creation, often more than 1,000 pages long.
A kind voice whispered in my ear this morning while I listened to the rain. “Don’t fret about this, my dear. You aren’t writing the Great American Novel. You are simply trying to process your life as you are living it.”
Yes, that’s it. Exactly. When the writer is ready, the muse appears.
Buck can’t hear worth a damn, so he uses a Polycom conference-style phone and if I’m near the area we call “the lodge,” his daytime hangout and work space, I hear those conversations unless I have ear-buds in for music or an audio book.
The man’s voice on the phone this morning was one I know, although Buck and I haven’t seen him for close to two years. I’ve always thought of him as a nice guy, a family man, not too educated but country-smart, and cheerful, with an easy laugh. The last time he was at the house something had changed. When we asked to be remembered to his wife, a dear bright spark of a woman, his face closed. He looked like he wished the floor would open and swallow him up. He nodded and was gone.
I later learned from her that he had left her for another woman, broken her heart, and no longer had a relationship with their children or grandchildren, either. We used to call it the mid-life crazies.
His voice floated thinly in the room from Buck’s phone. It was painful to listen to its melancholy tone. He would start a sentence, then stop; start another, then stop. “She sent word to me once or twice. But I guess that’s water over the dam.” He didn’t explain this or say who “she” was. But it was clear to us who he meant.
I think the affair ended and now he is alone, full of regrets and all his money pissed away. She, I know, has made her peace with it and moved on, heart still bruised, but not bleeding like before.
I saw a recent photo of her on Facebook. She is beautiful now in a way she wasn’t before. I don’t understand it, but it is undeniable. He has probably seen it too, that luminous goddess quality, and felt a self-wielding knife twisting in his belly, a sibilant voice whispering, “She’s gone.”
I’m getting all the food pictures out of the way so when I write in this space tomorrow morning while it’s still dark, drinking a great coffee so black and strong it barely needs a cup, I’ll be ready to talk some truth.
But for tonight, one more food photo. It’s emblematic of me gathering strength: fresh collard greens made with onions, garlic and a small smoked turkey thigh; boiled plain turnip roots; a buttered cornbread muffin.
Oh, and hey — we’ve got a storm coming — a late tropical storm with an intriguing name: Potential Tropical Cyclone 16. Sounds like an edgy perfume. A cold front and a tropical storm. Should be interesting.
I went a little crazy at the beginning of this year (so what’s different about 2019?) and signed up for two art jounal/mixed media year-long experiences: one is the gifted, irrepressible and kind artist and teacher Tamara Laporte’sLifebook 2019, and the other is the equally gifted and welcoming artist and teacher Kasia Avery’sWanderlust 2019. Both are phenomenal. They have gathered a remarkable array of teachers for these journeys.
I’ve also joined the Bancroft Collective, a brave and talented group of creative folk who, in the words of founder Georgina McClure (a nom de plume of creative guru Heather Blakey) “have taken up residence in Bancroft Manor because they are passionate about the power of the expressive arts to heal”. At Bancroft Manor, Georgina leads an online Writing for Wellness course.
Am I waaay behind? Absolutely. Am I happier, more creative, learning like I never thought I could at my (ahem) somewhat advanced age, and writing more as I stretch old muscles and find new ones? YES! Oh, yes.
Time is strange. I walk, trudge, even run a bit when the path is briefly level. Has it been hours or years since I was at Longleaf? Was I ever there at all? Will I ever return to Buck and Lou-Lou and all the sweet familiarity of home?
Mountains rise around me. The path grows rocky and narrow. The air is thin and I am grateful for the bottle of water in my pack. Fog rolls in and I remember a time lost in frightening sea fog in a small boat in the Gulf of Mexico. I think of Yann Martel’s book, Life of Pi and the tiny boat so filled with life — terrifying and wondrous.
But I am not in a boat and so far as I can tell, I am alone on this fog-shrouded, rocky path.
What’s that? It sounds like squeaky hinges, then a bang. Metal on metal. It grows louder. The path widens and the fog begins to dissipate. I see the source of the sound now. It is a huge solid wood gate swinging on iron hinges. I see a key still in the lock. It looks just like the one in my pocket. Someone else is here!
I turn back to look at the path. It has disappeared. Rather than being alarmed, I feel light, curious, and eager even though the old mansion beyond the gate looks as though it has been abandoned for decades. I see vines draped over the stacked round stones several stories high.
I step through the gate and laugh out loud. The mansion and grounds have transformed. Instead of old vines draped over broken walls, I smell dusky climbing roses and the heady sweet scent of gardenias. Italian cedars line a circular cobblestone drive, and in the middle of it a fountain splashes.
Over the huge open double ebony front doors are the letters: BANCROFT.
The light inside is filtered. I don’t see another person, but I hear low laughter and conversation. I start to move in that direction, but the fragrant, yeasty aroma of baking bread draws me toward what must be the kitchen. I am suddenly famished.
Following my nose, I start across a wide hallway, but am stopped in my tracks by the faint tinkling sound of a piano. Is it coming from outside? I follow my ears this time, out the tall French doors , past a lovely gazebo, the strangely familiar music growing louder with each step.
How curious! The source of the music is a small structure built to look like a Grandmother clock. It sits just at the edge of a small lake, barely more than a pond. The music stops. Is someone inside? I walk around the structure, but cannot find a door anywhere.
There is a discreet name plate beside the clock face: GRACE ANN RINGER. Grace! What is she doing here? Grace is the main character in the novel I have been writing and putting away, writing and putting away, for at least five years.
II knock timidly on the clock, but don’t hear a sound. That’s when I notice the small red box at my feet. I am startled. It looks just like my red box of dreams.
I kneel down and open the fragile hasp.
It’s an old clock key. I like puzzles, and this one is pretty cool indeed. Within minutes I find the small winding hole, insert the key and start turning it. A trapezoid-shaped door silently opened and I stepped inside.
And a piano that looks like one where I spent many happy hours years ago.
And a screened porch actually hovering over the little lake. How had I missed that when I was looking for the door? I see Grace’s bright green running shoes on the porch, but no sign of her.
Now, I’m really hungry and eager to meet the others who have found their way here. But first, I really must play the piano for a few minutes.