I love these missives I receive from friend and soul sister Kaya McLaren. Sometimes she actually writes me handwritten letters but I also love the ones she posts on FACEBOOK that read - For Friends Who Love Long Letters . . . and then she goes off into a menagerie of words about her journey, her life, her work, her friends, THE TREES and carries me along with her.
I think so often how about I want to say words about this or that, share this little thing or that big happening, but I keep rushing, rushing , rushing into the future while my words fall alway. Time keeps on slipping . . . and here we are all caught up into the fall of the year. Snap. It happened. Just like that. Our lack of rain produced a lack of glorious colors this year on the hill like we had last year. No brilliant reds and bursts of gold. Lots of brown, sneaky peeks of autumn colors. But the chill in the air is here. The leaves still fall. I still become wistful for all that ever was or will be good in this world. The smell in the air stirs up memories of childhood sometimes so thick I have to brush them from my mind to carry on. But it also brings to the surface a deep, resounding sense of gratefulness. Thankfullness. I can understand why we approach Thanksgiving season and why it is cradled in this season. No matter the history. There is something about this time of year that leads me into a deepness that is silent worship. Me looking out through the thinning trees and being so moved by the experience that it has been to be alive. Ever. At all. Anywhere. Anytime.
Maybe that's what moving into the winter season is all about. The settling. The introspection. Those great books that call to us to read them by the fire and only by the fire. At a slower days pace. Spring finds me giddy. Every year I yell and jump and say - look what we've survived, we're still alive! But by fall, I'm just so thankful that we've survived any of it after all.
I had the strangest dream. More of a thought wrapped in a dream. My year has been filled with pressures and deadlines. To-dos and near misses. A few disappointments, mishaps and some certifiable exhaustion. But in my dream - suddenly I saw my year from a different perspective. I saw all the good things. They stood out like bright beacons, an absolute string of stars. Brilliant, intoxicating. And in my dream I said with a sense of amazed wonder - This has been the best year of my life! - And what stood out to me was that it had. Only, I hadn't noticed. I had been so busy working, striving, hurting, worrying and so on that I hadn't noticed this phenomenon amazing occurrence that was the joy of my days when looked at from a different perspective. Maybe from a healthier distance. From a distance . . .
There are so many things I want to share with you. The stellar people that God has brought into my life this year and the projects I've been able co-work on. Next week I'll get to venture into those waters and share the details in the meantime - I want to talk about - you.
It's come to my attention recently that a few friends - good friends - people I adore with all my heart - have been having a tough go of it this year. Dark times. Silent storms. But here's the thing - from their facebook posts you'd never know it. I know, I know. Some people write beautifully about the burdens they carry or the shadows that assail them and put it out there for all of us. No one did that with more beauty or transparency than Kaya during her walk through the valley of death that is cancer. What is remarkable now is watching her as she has climbed into the sunshine on the other side and into a new day. But some of us, some of you, will never pull back the curtain on that shade of our lives on social media. Not that we wouldn't do it or you wouldn't do it over a cup of tea with a friend or a stranger but to do so in other places doesn't work for you/us/them. It feels too vulnerable, invasive, or - - - - fill in whatever word works for you here. But in spite of this - and not to put a spin on things - we continue putting sunsets and flower pictures and happy moments or share photos of family and friends we love and who make us so proud. What got to me was these friends were having dark times and I DIDN'T KNOW IT. I was keeping up with them only through their facebook posts and sporadically. Or through the posts of other people. So, I just want to encourage you with whatever you're going through today - and I know some of you are walking through tough times. Don't worry about all those perfect sunset pictures and don't strive so hard to be something when you already are something.
A beautiful letter from a reader came to my box a few weeks ago. I shared part of that letter with the River Jordan Reader Posse group on facebook. But the letter also came with a book by the sender - To Hear the Forest Sing, Some Musings on the Divine, by Margaret Dulaney and a few days ago I finally opened it and began to read. I want to back up and underline portions I've already read in the first essay but mostly I want to share with all of you - please find and order this book. I don't even know where or how but I'm sure it's out there on line somewhere. At least I hope it is. That it's still in print and you can get your hands on a copy. Because it is amazing medicine for the soul. And down deep, no matter what ails us, that's the medicine we need most.
Hold fast dear friends. Hold fast. To your faith and your hope in the face of evils that are so dark that seem that they should be spoken in whispers. Spend some time on the internet searching statistics on child abuse, sex trafficking, or the sexual exploitation of children and you'll want to crawl into a hole fathoms deep - or become so angry that you spend your life in a hopeless fit wanting to right those wrongs and seek justice. Make donations, support awareness, vow to contribute something to the causes that burn in your heart. And all the while. - hold fast. Because otherwise you slip down that chasm that brings no one out into the light. And I rather think we are here for this purpose, to hold hands and walk out into the light together. To be the light ourselves in the face of all that darkness. If we aren't - what then?
I realized this morning that somehow I had gone from one photo that captured my attention to having just looked at twenty photos of celebrities just walking down the street. Just photos of celebrities doing nothing but looking cool walking down the street being rich, famous, in shape, wearing cool, casual clothes and great haircuts. Insert some kind of little cartoon face here because it dawned on me - I'm doing nothing but looking at cool photos of famous people walking down the street and I don't even know why I'm doing this.
But then I realized why.
Because last night I had read about all those statistics about children and my heart broke so deeply I couldn't even cry. My wonder about the level of horrid was exactly that. I was horrified by everything I had read - and I kept reading and reading until I knew more than I ever wanted to know. And then - I had to look away. This morning my subconscious mind still knew the damage. My conscious mind was screaming look away. Look away. Rich, tan people in casual clothes abounding with blonde hair and perfect white teeth. All is well with the world.
But all is not well, is it? With the world? Or With us? We are all dancing as fast as we can to some piper that is beating a drum that demands more than we can give.
Until we stop. Until we listen. And realize. This isn't the spirit of which I am made up of. This is not the music of the spheres or the dance that I'm called to. This is my life. To reach out to right wrongs where I can, as I can. To show a cup of kindness to someone near or far. To do the best I can with who I am where I'm standing today. And, to not worry that the world doesn't see the battles that I'm fighting or understand me right now. My place is to see the dark battles that others are fighting and to strike a match where I can, when I can, as long as I am able.
Some days - I'm more able than others. Like most of us. We lean on one another. For a kind word, a cup of soup, a tiny prayer.
I've loved to watch Melissa Conroy's drawings all year on Instagram. She began doing something with - well, just go see them. Circles. light. shadow. movement. And recently my prayers have been shaped like her drawings. I think of someone and when I do I send them those circles of light. I think this are good prayers. I think they hold power and count for something.
Today on this Sunday on this hill Sister and I will be cleaning out a storage shed. Shaking old boxes, dodging mice and spiders. We're having to get 'our minds right' like in that old Paul Newman movie Cool Hand Luke. But eventually, the job will be done. Then I'll shower immediately with Dawn like Sister has told me we must do. (By the way - I dreamed once Dawn detergent cured Zombies. - Just make a note of that) Then I will make a cup of tea and sit on my porch and watch a few more leaves fall. The squirrels will chatter and dash up and down the trees stealing the corn I put out for the deer to eat so Mom could watch them. The birds will gather at the feeders. The sun will lower and the sky will cast that shade of red long and slow the way it does through the branches here in Tennessee. The day will tidy and tuck itself in. And I will think of you and all you do to remain human in this beat up, bruised old world.
Be gentle with yourself. All is not lost. We are still here in this thing together.
Peace, love and light.
Happy SEPTEMBER! Hang on for a wild ride!
*( If you're in. hurry and need to dash - jump to the bottom of this newsletter and the most important part - my prayer for you for September!)
It's my birthday month and that makes it one of my favorites. Well, actually, it's those cooler temps at five am that promise fall is coming that make it a favorite and the fact that the leaves are already changing up on the hill. It's also the month of the Autumn Equinox. I love the idea of a perfect balance. AND believe it WOULD HAVE BEEN MY BIRTHDAY if the doctor hadn't induced labor so my Army Daddy would be there for the birth. You can read all about that in the opening chapter of Confessions. Which is pretty funny from this side of the story all these years later. Not so funny at the moment the doctor was trying to pull me into the world with forceps and me screaming, "WAIT I'm NOT READY! I don't want to be introduced! No, no. I'm a CAT. Don't force me into the noise and lights. WAIT FOR ME TO DECIDE WHEN IT's TIME. No such luck.
FUN FACTS ABOUT SEPTEMBER:
The word September comes from the Latin word "septem" which means seven. Because in the old Roman calendar September was the 7th month of the year which started in March during Spring which is a really good time for new beginnings. And of course as I said it's the month of the Autumn Equinox The staircases at the main Maya pyramid, El Castillo, at Chichen Itza, Mexico are built at a carefully calculated angle which makes it look like a snake of sunlight slithers down the stairs the moment the equinox occurs. I was thinking of doing this exact same thing with my porch stairs this year but just decided it was cheaper to jack them up so they were level and I didn't slither down them like a snake and break my neck. Fact: These fun facts were stolen from various sources on the internet.
THE NEW NOVEL IN PROGRESS is no longer in progress.
IT IS FINISHED! THE END are two of the sweetest words I know. And the thing about typing THE END is you can't do it six chapters early. You can't just decide like I did when I was giving birth to my son Chris and was having natural childbirth that I had had enough of this ridiculous pain and was just going to get my purse and leave the hospital. It was just time to go home and I'd have the baby another day. But it doesn't work that way giving birth to a novel either. You can't just type - the end and they lived happily ever after. The end again. And yes, it is very, much like labor. Delivery is delivery. The working title of the novel is, TOO FAST A MERCYwhich is a line that the main character says. It may not end up being the published title because titles go through rounds of discussion with publishers, editors and agents. I happen to love the title but the important thing is for it to accurately reflect the story.
This is a SUPERNATURAL SUSPENSE THRILLER with gutsy southern characters set in the city of Nashville. Early readers say it is destined to be a television series so - from their mouth to God's ear. I'd love to drag my directors chair around and set it up on a series location. Even if they didn't invite me. I'd put it way, way in the back to be near the action. THE MAIN THING IS if you loved my novel THE GIN GIRL - You are going to LOVE this novel. I'll be reading a short excerpt and talking about some of the special props that the Smart sisters carry with them Saturday at HIGH NOON on the River Jordan Reader Posse Round UP. Facebook Group. If you haven't signed up please just hit request and we'll get you in on the fun insider news, chats and giveaways.
News FROM THE HILL
The hummingbirds are in full out sugar wars as they tank up getting ready for their big flight out of here until next year. Life on the hill is full of glorious, mystical, magical moments. Cicadas and shooting stars, fireflies and rainstorms. All the kind of summertime fanciful that can lull you into putting your feet up on the porch and leaving them there all day until evening falls.
UNLESS of course you happen to be running a fever that you are self-treating by drinking a gallon of water a day while you are working on finishing your novel which lands you in the ER which lands you into getting admitted into the hospital because you have BOTTOMED OUT YOUR SODIUM. Which causes you to like - see little green men and go in a coma and stuff. So, yeah that happened. BUT no worries. I was two points north of hallucinating and dropping over. My sister did a great job of staying by my bed and taking good care of me in the hospital and my niece and nephew came to visit and actually sat by the bed and I do so appreciate them choosing to come hang in the hospital instead of all those other options. AND A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO MY NEW SPONSORS. Dear Gatorade, you are my new bff for life because I am back in the electrolyte saddle. (YOU GUYS NEED A NEW SPOKESPERSON? I'M GAME!)
FROM THE MAILBAG
Saints in Limbo, my novel set in the fictional town of Echo, Florida (which was really my Daddy's old place on Holmes creek) garnered some great praise from reviewers when it came out. And words from some of my favorite authors like these from Ron Rash - “River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo is a compelling story of the mysteries of existence and, specially, the mysteries of the human heart.”
Paste Magazine called it "A Southern Gothic Masterpiece."
Those kind of high praises are literary candy for a writer but the solid gold - and I mean this from the bottom of my heart - are words that come from readers talking about how a book has touched their lives and made a difference. These words were from a reader I've never met -
"I just finished your book -Saints in Limbo--- wow---just loved it, couldn't put it down and even when I did parts of it kept coming back to me...it called to me... I felt parts of this book, tears came with this book, I'm keeping the "fear, doubt, regret" quote--- it's a truth I had overlooked............ thank you ." Mrs. Valerie G.
I want you guys to know how much your words, letters, emails and comments all have meant to me over the years. I try to make certain I respond to every, single one and that I save them forever and a day. When I'm trying to finish a new novel or just put one foot in front of the other - I pull them out and reread them. They are literally the wind beneath my wings. Author Claire Fullerton recently read Saints in Limbo and posted this surprise review on Facebook with her own photo creation. Saints is available now for only $3.99 in some places. So take advantage of it if you haven't read a copy yet. And also Please checkout Confessions below with Links to Indiebound where you can support your local bookstores and show some love for the people who have stories running though their bloodstream.
NPR INTERVIEW FOR CONFESSIONS - ON THE PORCH WITH SILAS HOUSE
SUNDAY 9/8 at 7:00PM CENTRAL TIME - 8:00 EASTERN TIME I'll be in conversation with the great, southern author Silas House and hope you can join us for his NPR program. He asks wonderful, thought provoking questions and then actually gives me the time and space to answer them. And his voice is like pure Kentucky wildflower honey. You will want to eat it up by the spoonful so set your alarm to tune in now. 91.3 WUKY.org
More EXCITING RADIO NEWS
Clearstory Radio is moving to a sassy new time slot! We'll be kicking off at 1:00PM Central every Friday starting later this month. Look for a special announcement of the stellar line up of guests and a hot, new mind-blowing tapestry of story. It's gonna be all kinds of literary, mystical, and masterly with a scent of science geek. Think - Fresh Air meets On Being meets This American Life meets Dr. Who. All with the same eclectic mix of great tunes you've come to know, love and downright -crave.
FOR BOOK CLUBS and SMALL GROUPS
I'll be happy to SKYPE or FACETIME with your book club or group as my schedule permits. I'd love to see and visit with you!l AND HERE'S THE KICKER - You don't have to be reading MY BOOK! I'll visit with you if you are reading a multitude of authors which I hope includes some of my friends and favorites. Reading something wonderful you think I should be reading too??? SKYPE me in and let's talk about it!
STORYTELLING on the BIG STAGE
Some of the best moments of my life have been in my travels to speak at various events around the country. I kid you not. From the girl who walked out of the auditorium, straight up to the book table and thew her arms around my neck crying and she would just look at me and say, "You know," over and over. And I replied - "Yes, I do." There was an old pastor that was rattling my chair over and over because someone kept talking to me and he wanted his turn. Then he said - You know the promised land can be on both sides of the Jordan River. You don't have to wait till you get to the other side to get what God promises you and I said, "I do." To the young Autistic man who felt comfortable talking to me and wrote me a note that I have to this day and treasure. The city-wide fund raiser in Montana where the people staying at the Rescue Mission were the ones that proudly prepared the banquet. It was the first time they'd done this and they were beaming with pride and pleasure. Or the young woman who came up to me at a conference of two thousand and whispered - "You're the reason I'm here. What you said is what I needed to hear." I think the title of that speech was I'm a mess! And had lost my wallet and ID at the conference and wasn't going to have an easy time flying out and making it through security. I was in Minneapolis at the time and was so sorry I didn't have time to make a dash for the Purple Rain Prince tour.
These experiences have provided me with an opportunity to connect with people by the thousands. As much as I love intimate dinners and small group chats I would never be able to touch this many hearts and minds with the power of story if it weren't for the chance to speak on the larger stage. Whether it's for a fundraiser for the Homeless, a Library Foundation, a Civic Organization, Church, University or Retreat, I love the opportunity to help people laugh at all of our messy humanity in the midst of our glorious, imperfect lives. City after city, story after story, one thing remains the same. The power of story in our lives is where we find our common ground. It is the great unifier and the holy ground we walk on every day. If you're organization, church, or community needs someone to share great stories with a sense of humor and a powerful message - click here to contact The Ashley Agency for booking engagement information and scheduling.
If you've made it this far in this long, missive - WOW! Thanks for hanging in here and allowing me to catch up.
I know so many of you personally now after all these years of writing and conferences or bookstore visits where I'm able to meet you in person.
I know some of you have recently lost a loved one, had a particular challenge your facing, health or financial issues, or simple life challenges and changes. All of these things brought these words to mind.
These words from John O'Donohue's To Bless the Space Between Us are my September prayer for you.
These are the ones that stood out to me when I thought of you.
"May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere where the presences that have left you dwell . . .
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one.
May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging."
Wishing you blessings in the days and weeks ahead as we step into this beautiful, seasonal change known as Autumn.
Peace, Love and Light -
(PS: If you are getting this out of the blue and don't have a clue who I am a lot of people signed up for this newsletter during the recent Confessions of a Christian Mystic Book Tour back in April or May - I do so hope I read all those handwritten notes and addresses correctly. BUT if I squinted my eyes when I should have squeenched them. Please forgive and gently delete and unsubscribe. Our royal apologies.)
Warning: There most certainly shall be errors contained herein and forthwith. We shall roll with it, baby.
The cicadas are singing outside my window brilliant in their cadence. In the timing of the rise and fall of their voices harmonizing I find summer. There is nothing that takes me back to the lazy days of my childhood more than this sound. It lulls me into a kind motion that slows to nothing but the old, echo of the sound of cousins voices and the magical way they echoed up and down the creek in the quiet of those woods. You would think that I'm 100 years old now looking back at this but I do know we were somehow impervious to the slow, forward movement of time.
Here in my office a large clock hangs on my wall. The steady tick, tick, tick is having a rumble with the cicadas. They are singing time, time, is a deep well and the clock answers back - steady, steady as she goes. Today they are unified in their direction and discussions. One doesn't war with the other. Like the Ancient Greek words Chronos and Kairos - they have sworn an allegiance today to the idea of balance between these words and worlds. (Note for geeks and gurus -That there is chronological or sequential time and there is an opportune time for action that exists outside the realm of our attempts to entrap time and control it for our means.)
The Cicadas. They have always accompanied the moments in my life where time dared to slow to stop, to capture an eternal moment. Those summers, that Holy creek down in my Daddy's old home of New Hope, Florida which is just a stones throw outside of Vernon which runs up the road forty minutes or so from another world at Panama City Beach where there are waves rushing to the shore instead of insects harboring themselves just out of sight among the trees.
Life on the hill this morning is very Creek Like. Cousin Dave has resurrected an old playset that was broken down and built a clubhouse for the Charmings with a slide among the rocks of our backyard. Above it hangs the sign from Daddy's creek that informed everyone they could fish from the bank for a dollar, or from a boat for two, and that there was no swimming allowed. No swimming wasn't true at all it was just the rule. When the heat of Summer finds you and you are ten years old you will find the cool waters of a spring fed creek. Your feet will lead you into this water like you are called by some great power promising relief, the cicadas will sing and urge you on, the mud will ooze between your toes until you are deep enough to be water born, rising into the cool, dragonflies landing on lily pads nearby, their wings glitzing in the sun.
Today is that kind of day. I woke with that pressing thought of deadlines, work, write, record. And the cicadas sang to me, urged me to be still, to run my fingers through the memories of lazy, summer days. Not where we were lazy as a people. We were kids with the energy built for exploring, for creating, for make-believe. But the day itself was lazy in that it assured us we need not be rushed in our doing. That the day would stretch out before us with folds of this and tucks of that and it would all fit neatly into the corners of our lives. There would be time for lunch and later after Memaw had watched 'her stories' there would be time for quiet. Grandaddy would come in from bailing boats and feeding creatures and maybe plowing a field with Maude the plow horse. There would be box fans in the windows that would find a rhythm and the insects would all hush just a little in the heat of the day and we would sink into naps of quiet and rest and rise again to play and find purpose.
Mama went to visit cousin Deb for just a few days. I snapped a photo of the beach in the morning as I was driving back north to Nashville and then I swung by Daddy's old creek when I hit the turn off on Hwy 79 and drove over that old bridge, looked down at the water where I'd learned to swim and played all those summers with all those cousins and then I came on home and snapped one more shot of the fog rising from the little valley below our hill.
Looking at those photos now I'm surprised by their beauty. And their moods. That there they are as proof of this world and maybe of its softer side. We could use that now. The news assails us. Our hearts open and break or shut-down and carry on. We could use Cicada time and cousins and the reminder that there is in this world beauty and peace in some pockets, in some places.
And that old clock is whispering onward, steady as she goes.
A little News From the Hill
Recently FACEBOOK popped up on my phone with a notice that said - While you weren't looking - and then went on to explain in detail what people were doing in my absence. I found this slightly strange. Oddly disconcerting. As if there was a tad of guilt attached to that observation. But I thought I'd use that on this update sans the guilt. No guilt here. Besides, it's hard for you not to be looking when I'm not sending you words. While you weren't looking . . . storms rolled through Tennessee that have left thousands of us without power. It's an inconvenience to be certain. We are geared for things being charged and ways to see around the dark corners. Thankfully there has to my knowledge been no breakdown of civility. Case in point I stopped my car in the middle of the road after making a coffee run this early am to talk to some strangers I saw in their yards.
"Morning. Ya'll got any power?"
"No, honey. This here is my daughter's house and she is with CEMC. They got lights on. I live back down the road that away." She points in the direction of where I'm headed up the hill to my house. "And we got nothin."
"Me neither. Well, ya'll hang in there."
I drive up the hill thinking how pretty and green everything is. Wondering who bought that house with the pretty yard that looks out over the meadow and the river because my thoughts can go that way. Then I make it in the dark house and wake Mama up to say, "If you want your coffee at least lukewarm you better sit up in bed and drink it now." She does and asks me if I will bring mine in the bedroom to sit with her and so I do. Cause I can be like that too.
We talk about how by now everything in the fridge and freezer has gone bad. She wants to know if the Power company is gone give us some kind of credit for these days in the dark and tells me it's been too long now. I agree. It's been too long. Too long for comfort. And I think about all the friends and family who endured no power for weeks after Hurricane Michael and the residents of Puerto Rico who went months without power and how life can change on a dime or with a storm.
For just a moment I have enough charge to reach internet. Enough charge left on laptop to write. Imagine weeks of nothing. No communication. No way to connect with the outside world. To tell the news or receive it. Share a story or a recipe. The new dark ages they would be.
A slight breeze picks up, finds the window. It's still early enough that the air is cool compared to what it will be. Maybe I should open all the windows now. Try to fill the house with air while there is air to be had.
Yesterday. The storms rolled in again. Me and Mama sat in the dark of the living room. She asked me if I wanted to go sit awhile on the porch and I said ok but we have to hurry before it hits. She hurry's as best she can. Then we sit and the dogs sit. They will tolerate a little of this - the wind whipping and the trees blowing - but at the first loud clap of thunder they are ready for shelter and not the silliness of watching a storm roll in.
Mama says - "Do you remember me rocking with you and us watching the storms through the window?"
"I do Mama."
"I never wanted you to be afraid. I was so afraid of storms so I didn't want my child to afraid like me so I rocked you but I'm sure I put the chair back away from the window. We weren't in danger or anything."
"You also held me in your arms and we stood right by the window and watched them."
"Well, I just didn't want you to be afraid." She rocks and thinks a minute. "When I was six and that's a big girl to be so afraid I started crying and I remember I went to another room, we called it the side room cause it was just a little room on the side of the porch where company slept and that's where I went to cry cause I was ashamed and didn't want anyone to see me. John found me and come and picked me up and told me it was okay. Was nothing to be afraid of and I was alright."
I can tell by the way she is telling it that the memory is up close. Something that feels like right now and yesterday. John was the Uncle John of my stories. When we happened to both be living in South Florida close to Miami he pulled me outside during a storm to watch heat lighting in the clouds putting on a show worth laying your money down for. He was about ten years older than Mama but died now what seems like over twenty years ago. How does that happen? These people of ours passing though leaving such big footprints behind. We never imagined in all of our years, in all of their coming, there would come the day of there going and staying gone.
"One night during a big storm lightning struck our television and a ball of fire shot out of it and rolled across the floor. A ball I tell you. There was a big sound like an explosion when it hit and then I watched as this ball of fire rolled out of the TV set and across the floor until it disappeared."
"Where was I?"
"I imagine in a storm like that I had you in my arms because that's what I would have done unless I had laid you down for a minute. But you weren't on the floor with the fireball I can tell you that much."
"And I guess that television was history."
"Oh, it was history alright. Wasn't nothing left of it."
"Well, Mama that was something to see."
"A fireball rolling across the floor."
"Yes, it was sure something."
A fireball. Vaguely I have a strange memory. One of the air changing with the hiss of expectation to explosion, of a ball Made of all the colors of red and orange and yellow at once stirred together into something alive and magnetic, something powerful escaping the confines of that old Zeneth tv console. At the edges of my mind there is my mother young and frightened and full of wonder. The memory is either mine from ages past or something I've inherited now. A story passed down for the taking. As all stories are.
We sit till the trees bend low, the birds find shelter and the dogs lead us back inside where we will spend the night in silence that come with a street tossed to the darkness of dreams. Where everyone hopes and imagines they will wake suddenly to the flash of lights, the hum of machines kicking on again, the air conditioner sighing with relief as it resumes its long, trudge uphill against the summer.
Blessings to each of you as you walk that tightrope of your days between the darkness and the light.
A little News From the Hill - Oh, my lovely friends I have had to back track a little to get it all in. And I'm about to hit the road again for South Carolina where I'll be with the beautiful people at Burry Books for A Moveable FEAST tomorrow night for a great evening. If you are on the coast - check it out and see if tickets are still available. Can't WAIT! Now - backtracking on the spider story so I can work my way up to the Snake story, the fireant story and beyond.)
Yes, I was bitten by a brown Recluse. In my bed. At five am. I was not amused. I whipped on the light having known that yes, something has stung me and stung me bad - actually, feels like it may still be stinging me. I suspected Scorpion. I always suspect scorpions. Let's just call it that cabin in the woods writing experience. Once your writing cabin becomes infested with scorpions but you are DETERMINED to stay for a month to finish your deadline you are always suspecting of scorpions thereafter. No Scorpion. I would have fared better. Brown Recluse. How do I know? Cause I found it skutteling on it's spidery legs across my sheet and I gently killed it. Yes, I actually, purposely did this. I killed it with a sock so that I would not obliterate it into a blob of spider goo so that it could be identified by a doctor.
THEN - for the perfect transport I grabbed a box of Michael Farris Smith matches from his book, The Fighter with the cover of The Fighter on the front, dumped matches, stuck the spider in said box and placed it in my crossover bag which I just about wear to bed. Because it is a true crossover that fits like you are crossing over the big ocean and climbing mountains and traveling through the Aussie outback. These are my requirements for the proper purse. Because someone might say - HEY mate! You want to go to Australia today- I've got an extra ticket? And I won't even have to say, wait let me get my purse because I'll be wearing it. But I digress.
Oh, dead spider we will go, dead spider we will go, hi-ho the dairyo-deadspider we will go.
I thought of going to the emergency room at 5:30. But I had an important writerly conference call at 8:30 so I grabbed ice for bit, took Benadryl and drank extra coffee. Could not, would not miss that call. Hung up from call at 9:30 and walked out the door to the doctors. At first they asked, What makes you think it was a brown recluse? Then I pulled the matches from my purse and they were slightly confused by everything. They thought I was gonna light up. Which I can understand if you are sitting in the little room waiting too long after you have waited in the big room. THIS is a COFFIN I tell them and open the box. They are - impressed. Yes, That IS a brown recluse. And all the doctors confer to look at it. I am now The Fighter. I have earned their respect for killing and capturing the creature and bringing it in.Extra respect for not smashing it to smithereens.
The bite is on the inside of left arm. Right where one would receive a blood transfusion. I find all this evil and curious. I am supposed to be leaving in two days to drive across three states for a book luncheon event and to speak. To speak at a book luncheon event. There. That's better. As in - I'm not simply attending - I am the speaker. And showing up is highly favored upon the bookstore owners and the good people who have bought tickets. The show must go on I say. And something to the effect - DOC, you gotta hook me up with some antibiotics. I have read about these things. They tell me that they HATE to give me antibiotics because when the Zombies come and I really need them they won't work because I have built up a resistance. My arm is on fire like a hill of fireants are eating my flesh alive. I tell them I kinda think I need them antibiotics. They give me a tetnus shot. I kinda tell them I'm not leaving without some antibiotics. At this point they see the glazed, crazy look in my eye and consent because they have other patients waiting but me and that spider aren't going anywhere until they give me something. So, they concede and give me a weak antibiotic to take twice a day. Four hours later I call and tell them, JUST FYI - the red line is shooting up my arm to my heart! They tell me to take FOUR antibiotics and they will call in a refill. The weekend arrives. I call the hotline and say - you know, I think this thing is really getting worse. They tell me to go to ER or come into see them the next day. I always have things to do that preclude going to the ER. Like, I'm just gonna read this book and ice my arm and take 47 Ibuprofen and two Benedryl and look at this thing.
Next day. I go to the doctor. I PAINFULLY slide up my sleeve to my bicep. Any sort of thoughts of me saving antibiotics for the Zombie rush have now gone out the window. They order an antibiotic shot STAT and a STERIOD SHOT and call in MUCH STRONGER ANTIBIOTICS and ORDER AN ULTRASOUND at the hospital and SCHEDULE ME FOR BLOOD WORK.
"You guys know I got a thing to do right? Like I'm driving out of town tomorrow?"
Alone? they ask me.
"Don't be silly," tell them. "Of course alone."
My sister the nurse comes to look at my arm. I can tell she doesn't like it. Not one bit. And that she is in her stay calm mode. As in don't let the patient know how serious this is. She gives me instructions about - should this OPEN UP while you are on the road alone. (Actually, she didn't scream those words, she was speaking very softly, they just sounded like they were screaming) you need to wash it with this super -anti-fungal medicine from another planet and then PACK IT WITH THIS SPECIAL DRESSING I'm giving you and rub it down WITH THIS HORSE CREAM I GOT FROM TRACTOR SUPPLY. (I'm not kidding about any of that.)
MY SON, my funny, makes me laugh like nobody else tough as nails not much empathy for Mom's foibles son says - OH MY GOD! Do you want to lose your arm? Do you want to type with both hands? They should have sent you to a surgeon! That should have been opened up! You have to get that POISEN out! Do you know how serious this is???? And the most precious thing in the world is - he truly cares that his Mummy might become well, a mummy. He is worried about me and my having to type with one hand. Okay, he is worried that I am gonna die.
MY OTHER SON who just flew in from some television photo shoot desert thing says and calls me on facetime video and I answer in the dark because I have been up all night in pain with spider bite says - HEY - and I can see his face clear as day because it's day but I have glorious CRAIGSLIST BLACK OUT CURTAINS THAT ARE A SHADE OF EGGPLANT THAT I LOVE AND HAVE HAD FOR FOUR YEARS AND WILL NEVER GET RID OF - pulled because of the light and the night and the spider bite - and he says - MOM!!! WHY are you in the dark?????? And I say, 'because of the spider bite and I've been up all night in pain" and he says - What spider bite? You got bit by a spider? And then I say some stuff and love you and hang up. Then I text him a picture of the spider bite arm. And he text back - OH MY GOD MOM THAT IS AWFUL THAT LOOKS TERRIBLE AND YOUR ARM LOOKS LIKE A ZOMBIE ARM!!! (The Zombies. Always the Zombies.)
And these are guys who have been to war multiple times and they are both tough guys and so I appreciate the level of their concern. And I got to hit the road cause I'm a writer and there are people actually waiting who have bought tickets to see me and hear me talk about my book. Imagine that! I am not paying THEM to sit there and listen to me they have actually paid to listen to me talk about a book I wrote and want them to buy that they are buying. Yes, I'm going to take my antibiotics and my ice pack and I'm going to go be with them and tell stories.
So I'm like some lone cargirl cowgirl driving down the road signing, Me and my spider-bite . . . hihohiho - But it's more like Lone Desert Highway, cool wind in my hair - Cause my air is still broke in my car and I drive with all the windows down doing 80 and when I stop and get out people think I have purposely styled all this hair JUST LIKE THIS BECAUSE WHY ELSE WOULD SHE WALK AROUND WITH ALL THAT HAIR STICKING OUT. But they don't realize -
No, that woman is on medication cause her arm looks like the Zombies got her and she looks slightly crazy so we not gonna mess with her. This is true. People don't mess with me. Because they have a sense that all hell will break loose or there will be a Holy Ghost revival rain down and they just don't know but they know its something strange, something not just ordinary right there about that one.
Lone woman, ice bag on left arm where it looks like I had a bullet wound by some Steampunk Dystopian space gun. And I'm trying to ride this horse to the next town and make it before sundown.
The drive is 4000 hours away. I think I feel the fever coming on. The sun is setting and a storm has whipped up on the Maggie Valley side of the mountains. But the show - the show must go on because it's about the power of story. This thing That is in my blood. More powerful than spider. Full of light and not of shadow. It's about brining the story home. And sharing it with the incredible people who support authors and celebrate new novels and memoirs, these offerings of words on paper.
Wishing you incredible, beautiful ordinary days.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.