Reflections during Lent in Real Time
I suppose if I could just sit by this window or on this porch and stare off the hill and do most of nothing - I would. A kind of general pause with no deadlines and no chores and maybe not even eating. I would enter into a kind of laziness just from the need to have a good sit and do nothing. I'd let the cows come home and the sun have it's way, rolling about the sky like it does till it gives way to the moon. It clocks out and the moon clocks in. It's the way they have worked things out.
Last night or so ago I thought I noticed that it was a new moon. Not even a quarter. It was a sliver moon but bright. So bright the whole thing shone beneath the clouds like a stone beneath the rippling water. Fading and coming into view. This was a shock to me, this moon news when I was little. I didn't realize that the moon in all its weaning and waxing wasn't literally changing size and shape each month. That like the oceans it was on the move. A trick of light I later realized. Orbits and what not and such.
Today, I had a heated conversation with a friend. Because he was telling me what he got out of my new book, Confessions - and I was telling him what was in it and the two were not exactly the same. Then I realized the differences in what people have said who have read it, where their focus has lead them to the well of what's inside them. How different people have pulled a cup up from those same words and found the flavor something different. Each one of them. This is what I love about words and storytelling. We bring to the page our own story. We read something and walk away from it more of who we were to start with. The best in literature strengthens who we are - even when we are learning something new like the power of light and shadow and the meaning of penumbra.
I have reader friends who tell me that they love my fiction and can't wait for my new novel. And read friends who say they enjoyed the last novel but what they really love is when I tell stories from my past, my childhood or my everyday. Or as one well-known author told me recently - "You know, you've got some thoughts about God in this book and I really like those parts a lot. I think you should write some more stuff about God. I'd like to see what you put down. I'd like to hear your thoughts." Which is kinda funny cause some people think the whole thing is about God.
Have I mentioned lately that I'm writing a book set in Nashville that has bourbon and bullets and dead bodies? Yes, well I probably have a time or two. That novel that's just two weeks away from being finished. The same two weeks as last year. But I'll tell you this, I'm getting closer all the time. And an early reader just told me she was absolutely captivated (at least that's the words I heard) by the story, the characters, the setting and the mystery of it all. That was good to hear being on the wings of this new book coming out. Because I shock myself in the telling of other stories. Of stories from my life. Stories of my faith. Because It seems to me fiction is my native tongue. Normally, it's what I read, the place I find the deeper, universal truths.
But then that wind picks up, I watch the trees bend and sway and blow and realize as I watch them - there is room for everything. That life has a way of making room for some of this and some of that. For the sun to roll around in that lucky ole sky all day and the moon to light our way by night. For us in spite of darkness to walk in the shadows of that bright light and pluck our way all the way home.
It's wicked cold in north Tennessee. Fellow writer and Facebook friend Mandy Haynes has been enjoying it to the fullest. She posts the funniest little videos on Facebook walking with her dogs in the snow. So someone is enjoying this. I am not enjoying it. If it were snow at a normal temperature - Maybe. With fat flakes falling. And the lamp lights glowing. For a minute. The kind of large, flake, dry snow that found me curled up with a coffee and writing away at the outdoor covered cafe of Bent Street Deli in Taos, New Mexico. But this is Tennessee cold and it's the kind of freezing temperatures that make your arms fall off.
I posted a photo of Rescue Kevin on Facebook yesterday lying in the snow because he is Part PYR and has a double coat which amounts to TWO fur coats at all times. He does not prefer Summer. He does appreciate that he has a blanket with not one, but TWO HEATING PADS PLUGGED in for him to keep toasty when his toes begin to feel chilly. He likes being outside to guard the - no sheep here. Guess he likes guarding his heating pad. So unlike BIG Dog Titan who slept in whatever room I was in at the time, Kevin prefers to be outside. His greatest wish is that I would be happy sleeping on the porch with him. This is not going to happen. At least not in the Winter.
I am from the tribe of blue jeans on the beach, walking in the sand to the sound of the waves rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico, playing catch me if you can with the water as you walk along the shoreline. This results in the hem of jeans being wet unless you roll them to your knees. Back when we were in high school everyone wore bell-bottom. This was not an option. Bell-bottoms do not roll to the knees and stay there.
I have gotten a kick out of Mandy's post because she is downright giggly. I am downright grumpy. I grump from the woodpile to the fireplace. Yesterday when my sister drove to work it was 6 degrees. This is not fit for friend or foe, beast or man. Who lives this way? I just stare out the window and shiver. It is beautiful - I grant you that. But for me and my constitution meaning my blood and skin and so forth I need sunshine. I operate best at 75 and above. 75 and a breeze and I need a blue jean jacket. I am a Gulf Coast girl. An island girl. I am stuck on this hill in the snow. I haven't left home since I came back from Texas. The driveway (hahahaha) more appropriately, the road that leads to the house is steep. What passes for a driveway goes off the side of a hill. Kid you not. I might need to hire someone to place some really big rocks there or build a wall to catch the car. When it rains and snows and turns to ice it is a bit precarious. Then when you get past that there is THE REAL HILL that goes down, down, down around the curve and down.
Snowed in. This means I must write. Writing what you are thinking about is better than thinking about what you should be writing. This is the kind of thing that makes you crazy. I have been as surprised writing this top secret novel as I have any of them. I write a line and then something AMAZING happens - I write ANOTHER ONE. And another one. I made myself sign off facebook this morning, put myself into time out and wrote. I started to get up out of the chair after an hour. Or to peek at facebook. But then I saw that I had promised I was out writing till 12. This made me go back to writing. At 11 I tried to quit again. Nope. Made myself continue. I think the Facebook Timeout Writing program may be the best writing diet I could be on. I can't check on you or see your faces until I meet my word count. This is a great carrot for me. I may not appear to be the most facebook savvy or that I have commented on everyones everything but I am reading and keeping up.
On the Writing Front -
I am wrapping up the Mastermind Path writing group class this month and will miss it terribly. So I'm offering a continuation of the class beginning in February. Both via conference call which has proven an excellent choice for all. Please stay tuned if your interested.
I am an old Star Trek junkie. Some of my best good times were growing up and the fact that of all things my mother became a Star Trek watcher. We never missed an episode. The dawn of Star Trek The Next Generation brought a whole new world of watching. And, guess what? Guess who was watching it with me? My boys. Who grew up to be Star Trek guys. (And Yes, Star Wars too!) So EVERY Star Trek movie was a hit but in the midst of the busy life I did not watch the continuing saga of Star Trek or Deep Space Nine and so forth. HOWEVER- with the advent of Star Trek Discovery I was itching for a new Star Trek to beam me away. (Yes, I did sign up for that silly CBS streaming service just because of Star Trek) All I asked was for an hour of space talk beyond our Milky Way. In my book Discovery delivered. It took a few episodes to lay the ground work and introduce the characters and set up the storyline but then it did it. It's not your Mother's Trek. Or for that matter your Grandmothers. But they have in many ways boldly gone where no Trek has gone before. It's a whole new world. Snow day. That's how I spent one of them. Catching up on Star Trek.
Mama and Me
We are surviving. Up on this hill. In the snow. Carry in wood, prep the oil lamps, wait for the lights to go out because they always go out up here. We will have power outages for no reason at all. Much less snow storm or ice out. This time it went zap, zap, zap right in the middle of me streaming Star Trek on the big screen. So I went downstairs and lit candles and stoked the fire, helped Mom find pajamas and get into bed. Then I pitter-pattered back upstairs and opened my laptop and watched the rest of the episode curled under sixteen blankets. Deep space indeed. Downstairs in Mama world we watch Golden Girls on that TV and Grantchester (which is on break perhaps forever because the star has become all kinds of popular and may be the next James Bond) and Antique Roadshow. When someone says Oh, I bought this record for a quarter at a yardsale and then Elvis's birth certificate just fell out of it when I got it home and it is worth a quarter million dollars and I look at Mama and ask her, 'What are the chances that we would ever?" She tells me in negative numbers. We are not those lucky people and we will never buy anything that is worth a secret fortune. Then I found her with a table turned upside down on her bed trying to see if it had a 'mark' or a signature. It did not. We both got a good laugh. We still have not hit it rich from Antique Roadshow but we've had a few great conversations about junk we could drag in for assessment.
I have dreams of inviting the Property Brothers to my house for that whole magical remodel thing that they do. Then I have visions of them going hahahahaha. This is one where we see taking it down to the bones. And by bones we mean the ones in the ground.
We are here and out of the cold for the most part. The house does 'breathe' a lot but still we can get cozy. LAYERS as the crazy Winter people say. LAYERS and they skip around while they say it. I feel like that bloated tire man creature that cannot walk with all these layers. BUT - I have Greek style chicken and potatoes in the oven. There's a fire in the fireplace and surely, there's a new episode of Golden Girls recorded. That beautiful white view out the window is melting and the temps will rise to something that allows me to move around outside without crying. Spring is just around the corner. And so is the day I will reach THE END on the new novel.
Peace to you and all your world.
Again it happens. My first visit to Nashville was based on my being a presenting author for my first novel, The Gin Girl (a swamp noir mystery) at SoFest as we call in here around the city.
So you might say it was Sofest that brought me here and Nashville that kept me. But I have no doubts that move was Divine in its making.
Right now authors are in packing to fly, drive, motorcade or camel back their way to the Athens of the South. Over 200 of them. Wise cracking and snarky, brilliant and inspirational, romantic and historical. Every genre and mood represented. The fact that it's FREE FREE FREE should be enough reason to get in the car, cancel other plans, stop what you are doing and attend. If I could drive to your door and pick you up and bring you I would.
Book festival have become more than a simple celebration of the word or a chance to hear your favorite authors tell funny stories about dropping their pants at the front door (Rick Bragg) or singing a song about Baloney and Beer (Clyde Egerton) - there is some serious stuff in there as well - they are a part of what America is carving out as our new town squares. Our old downtowns where humans actually walked the street and greeted one another. Where you were happy to see another face and you had something in common - you were neighbors sharing the same city and not minding doing so.
This weekend in Nashvlle people who love story, music, books, sunshine, innocent children, old dogs, all that is good in humanity - will converge on Nashville's Memorial Plaza. It will be a grand weekend filled with celebration and great reads.
Please join us and help us celebrate and welcome these 200 Authors to our city.
(I'll be in the Parnassus Book Tent all day Saturday and Sunday so please drop by and say Hi.)
Have just returned from one of those places that friends and I call 'the Thin places'. Places where design and prayer and purpose have collided to create a space where touching the hem of the Divine seems so very, easy. And, God knows, we need those spots because life has become so crowded, so noisy, so crazy, that we can't hear ourselves when we speak much less the whisper of the Lord.
Granted, it takes some work to get there. Think about it. It takes work to get to the store, to carve out space to go to a park, to wrestle your to-do lists out of your way so that you can walk right out your front door for a walk to be alone with your thoughts and the righteous wind.
Nevertheless, do it. Just do it. Do it. And, I say again, do it.
Part the red seas if you please to make room in your life for such as this. For three days or a week at Laity or a place like it. Although, at the moment I'm having a bit of a 'like it' block. If you check Laity's website and their schedule you'll discover a wide variety of renewal type retreats from centering prayer to discussion on the creativity and the arts, retreats for men, for women, for kids (see camps and family camp). And the kind of permission to rest that only comes from people being willing to trust God to work things out with people in their time and trust people to have sense enough to know if they need a nap in their room with a good book, art class, or a hike.
I was honored to be one of the speakers at this weeks women's retreat (Ronda Lowry was the other speaker who is a long standing visitor to Laity) and enjoyed the fact that although they had brought me in to speak, they gave me permission to rest, to reflect, to wander and to be myself. To actually retreat in the middle of my 'working' if you will. Sad thing is - If I hadn't been booked to speak I wouldn't have taken that time I so desperately needed. But, I was.
So, I did.
I watched a talent show which included a very, special golden girl dedicating a tap-dance to me. Now, you can't get that just anywhere. And, it was a special gift based on my story of losing a 3rd grade talent show to a girl tap dancing in a tutu. Things come full circle.
I visited the library and plucked my favorites from the shelves, reading in amazement of the authors who had visited before me. Who had found their muse at Laity. I gathered stacked of books from the bookstore where they - get this - let you borrow a book or buy a book. I stuck my feet in the beautiful blue hole springs, made new friends for life, listened to, no lost myself completely in, an Ashley Cleveland concert, and walked out in the dark under the stars to the special installation known as the Threshold where I lay on the stone and looked up at the sky watching shooting stars.
Most importantly, I came back renewed. Refreshed. Down right - Resurrected.
I got up this morning and put on Ashley's cd God Don't Never Change, (think traditional black gospel, rock, blues. Think four-time grammy award winner) And then . . .
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.