tools for the writer’s subconscious

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.

Moleskine’s “ripe yellow” looks more like India Yellow, or maybe even Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna. I like the way it looks against the dark gray-blue of my Knodel desk pad. The gray-blue corresponds to a Hague Blue, or in watercolors, maybe Daniel Smith’s Indigo.

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.

I just tried some watercolors I have on hand. This generally fits with the scheme in my mind’s eye.
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I wonder if Lou is pondering the deeper meaning of life and why humans can be so unkind to each other and all other living beings or if she is simply wondering if it’s almost time for lunch? Whichever, her soulful eyes get me where I live and my heart catches with love for her. I hover over her like a monkey mama, fearful she will get out of my orbit and into sudden danger and that I will never get over her or the guilt. I can bear her growing old along with me, even God forbid a disease. It’s that unexpected awful thing that could happen because I am inattentive and let something bad find her.

centipede in the house

We live in the woods, where during this transitional season when you open the sliding glass doors to let in the lovely fresh air, uninvited guests sometimes slip around the loosely fitting screened door.

Like this centipede I found on the floor of our bedroom closet yesterday.

Small, but spooky.

I picked him up with a tissue and put him in a jar. If a centipede can be visibly annoyed, this one was. He didn’t cower or curl into a ball like a millipede. No way. More like he wanted to jump out of that jar and sink those pincers into my carotid artery. Seriously weird how a small critter like that unnerved me. Of course, he was in the bedroom closet. But generally speaking, I’m very tolerant of bugs of all types and positively admire spiders, even though I’ve been bitten by several, the worst of which was a nasty bite between my toes an hour before a dinner party at our house, causing an unattractive foot drag the entire evening.
Here’s the centipede in all his stretched-out glory. I anthropomorphically imagine he was pausing a moment to realize he wasn’t dead after all. Ever have one of those days?

wise whispers of the muse

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.

feeling the bite

I typed that title, erased it, wrote “nibble,” erased that because it wasn’t true and was too clever by half, typed “feeling the bite” again and am going to let it stand even though it makes me feel like a traitor.

Sexy as hell in a black silk t-shirt, Buck sat on the end of my bed and tried to explain that the day would come when the 14 year difference in our ages would bite. I was 30 then and couldn’t imagine my own mortality, much less his.

Like the two intelligent communications professionals we were, he and I “talked through the Scotch” over many fire-and-bedside chats, and eventually came to the conclusion — in classic cost-benefit analysis style — that if we could get a good 20 years, it would be worth unwinding the dregs of two failed marriages and making a life together.

That was 38 years ago. The investment ripened with years of reinvested dividends and was amortized decades ago. It’s been cream off the top ever since, and more exciting than most Blue Chips.

Buck told me to keep my seatbelt buckled; that it was going to be a wild ride. And I’ve done that. Good thing, too. Especially for this part.

Guess I’ve broken the ice for myself on this delicate subject. It may take a few more food pictures before I broach it again. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, time’s precious, and I’m shutting down the computer for tonight and joining Buck and Lou Lou Belle in our bed we fondly call “the cloud.”


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.”

gathering strength

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.