It’s a long story. Or not really. Maybe it is just a short one that’s been going on for months. But months ago, a friend asked if I’d like to join her at the ARIA Author Expo in December. In April, that sounded fun. And good for business. Then my friend got an offer not to be refused and told me she couldn’t do it. I had the option of opting out. I opted out but the guy running this ARIA event is convincing. So I stayed in.
Three or four other opportunities have come up in the past months for me to opt out. Each time, I have opted out, only to be convinced by friends or fellow writers that, really, I should do this. It’ll be great, right? Meeting people. In a mall. During holiday season. Maybe selling a book.
Being at a six foot long table, all by myself, while people wander past, smiling brightly, trying not to look self-conscious, resisting the attempt to run as far away as possible. But I can’t. Because I am to stay there until 5. It will be dark then. I have a one hour and forty minute drive back to Jaffrey. I don’t like to drive. Especially at night.
So this is going out to all my connections. If, by happenstance, you are out and about and near the Lincoln Mall in Rhode Island, please do stop by. I’d love to see you. But, if you are like me and don’t like malls. Or shopping. Or crowds. Please go to a small local, independent bookstore and buy a book to give someone for the holidays. Supporting local bookstores is cool. Books are cool. You will be really cool buying a book a an independent bookstore. And then drop me a line or a facebook message telling me you did that. Because then, as I sit at the mall, I can have something to do, like read my email. And the Scrooge in me will be happy to think that a small business, rather than a chain store, will have been supported. Because it’s not bigger is better but local and small that is the future. And that, my friends, is doable.
And so is getting myself to the mall Saturday morning. Right? I can do this! Wahoo!
Short post: In 4 days of National Novel Writing Month I’m at 10,541 words. I NEVER write like this. I mean this badly. Not letting myself care if I have the wrong word and certainly (too) much of it feels superficial. But I think in the long run this is going to be good. I mean the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. Because it will get me a draft of the book that’s been percolating for three years. It is giving me perspective on the other book I’ve been working on for four years. And it will teach me that, even on bad days, I can still put words on paper, if only I challenge myself to challenge myself. But for now, it’s bedtime.
I have come up with an idea to combat my writer’s block: NaNoWriMo! November is National Novel Writing Month and I have taken the past three weeks off from my nonfiction book on . . . . well, I don’t know what it’s about. That’s what I’ve been seeking: the story. And, after three plus months of flailing about for said story without success, I thought I’d veer off back to fiction and work on the novel that has been percolating in the background for three years: Mother Daze. It is the story of Eloise Fletcher (what do you think of the name?) and her hopes to save the world and her sick mother (Victoria Forrester, widow of Graham Forrester. Why are surname different? Eloise married Arthur Fletcher. I know this because I wrote a story in my twenties called “Love Chapel”. Although her name was Cody in that story, it was/is Eloise’s story. At least it is today. Who knows what will happen in the next weeks. . . .)
All to say, I have spent my days outlining Mother Daze. What fun! To make things up. Trying to braid the different threads—all three, maybe four, of them — together and ever aware of how much I like to complicate things. The book takes place in 2012-2013. In Providence. I get to remember the blizzards called Juno and Nemo. That warm December 22nd in New York City when the temperature reached seventy degrees. All and none of which might be relevant but it’s fun to toss the information into the puzzle.
I only mention any of this because I need encouragement. To write 50,000 words in one month is a snap. To have them tell a story isn’t so easy. And to write that 50,000 word story in the month of November which, in case you have forgotten, includes the lift off of the holiday season? It will be a challenge and one I do not take lightly. I am going to do this. Carl has been warned: I’m upping my hours in the office. I will rise at 6AM at the latest every morning. . . .
I practiced today. 4:10AM and I was up and at ’em. Streeeeeeetching. Petting Nick while he enjoyed his early morning nip of butter. I enjoyed my morning cafe latte . . . and a sweet treat called a Dirt Bomb, what I have always known as Frenchies, which are mini-muffins drenched in butter and rolled in sugar; truth be told, mine are better than the ones I bought yesterday but who has time to make Frenchies when she has a novel to prepare?
Up at 6AM. I will not answer the phone. Unless it looks important. The cats will be banned from my office. Unless they meow too persistently. I will be focussed. Heartless with my time as I attempt to write my heartbreak.
Ironic, isn’t it? Both my books hold the same theme: to save the world from its budding hell of mass species extinctions, arctic cold in all the wrong places, deathly heat and no rain, and pending winter winds that will likely give both our roos frostbite.
YES! We have two cocks here at Darwin’s View: Big Red yet lives and Little Big Man is strutting about, if with a piece of hay caught unceremoniously in his throat. I actually had a moment with him last night. He looked so ridiculous, shaking his head in an attempt to get the dratted eight-inch piece of hay to come out of his mouth. It was dusk. For his entire two months of life here, I have respected his boundaries and not tried to catch him. Last night, I made an exception, with the result being he raced out of the coop, crowing unmentionable insults at me. With all the compassion I could muster for the little guy, I followed him in a loop around the chicken area and back into the coop where I eventually caught him. The hay remained. I pulled. It lengthened, then caught. Past memories: if a thread is stuck in a cat’s mouth and has trouble being pulled out, do not pull! It will rip out the intestines.
Unhappy thought. I got a pair of scissors out and clipped. Hopefully, he will manage to digest the rest today.
But I digress. “Big Red yet lives,” I said. What!? you might ask. Was he in danger?
A long and weary story but yes. He is not the Big Red of yore. A skinny runt of a roo he is these days. He crows two or three times in the morning and is done for the day, leaving the yeoman’s task of threats to the wind and rain to the pathetic, cartoon character crow of Little Big Man. Big Red, meantime, lies in the coop. Occasionally, he gets up to limp his way to the door and look out over his hens who maybe aren’t his hens anymore. They keep him company. There is always at least one hen hanging out with him. Bu,t though I have seen the hens practically beg for him to jump aboard, squatting down in front of him, he sighs and looks away. Faces the wall. Squats, too.
Impossible thought, isn’t it? The tough, randy roo begging off his duties. How could it be true?
Worms. After a trip to the vet, and two weeks of Vitamin Drench, I finally got a sample —trust me, egg collection is far more enjoyable than matters fecal—to the vet who found worm eggs. And this morning, Carl found some really skinny worms on the poop board. Two conclusions: one, Big Red has gape worm, thus he has been opening his mouth and bending back his head, trying to swallow past those nasty bastards in his throat. And two, all of the hens need to be treated.
Natural treatments? Cayenne pepper has been suggested. Chickens don’t mind it and the worms go out the back way. The vet sounded dubious. Use the real stuff. Go for the gusto. Wazine.
The problem being, google says Wazine doesn’t kill gape worm–assuming I have prognosticated him correctly. In any case, de-worming is a priority here at Darwin’s View if Big Red is going to make it through the winter; he needs to gain some weight.
Some might suggest this would be an auspicious outcome, given I have spent the last almost three years whining about how it is Big Red’s fault that we are up here at Darwin’s View, he being banned from Providence. But in the past month, as he has become an old man limping across the driveway, getting thinner and more gaunt, unable to crow, I realize what a wonderful rooster he has been. A boisterous crow. And he is, relatively, a very nice rooster. If he has chased you, it’s only because he had a job to do—and who knows what kind of roo Little Big Man is going to become. A beauty, yes but will he be nice?
For the record, the above is 1,168 words. That is six hundred words short of what I have to write every day of November to reach the 50,000 word goal. It is doable but I wonder: I will be posting on facebook and here on my blog my daily word count. Because at some level, it is about accountability and knowing that others are out there, rooting me on. Will you? I hope so. Because both Eloise and I have a great task ahead of us this next month: to save the world, her mother . . . and, in the end, herself; and to write a great story.
Meantime, come to a reading of the “Varied Paths to Publication: Women of a Certain Age and Attitude Book Tour”! We are at The Toadstool Bookshop this Saturday, October 31—Halloween!—at 2PM. And at Books on the Square in Providence November 7th at 4PM.
Jaffrey to Hartford to Jaffrey to Providence to Stonington—twice—to New York City to Providence to Jaffrey to Saratoga Springs to Jaffrey (and up Mount Monadnock to celebrate our 25th Anniversary!) to Burlington, VT to Randolph, VT to South Burlington, VT. to Jaffrey to Providence to New York to Providence (Happy Birthday to me!) to Boston to Providence where I type now. In one month and one week. 2214 miles. 41 hours and five minutes of movement over the course of 36 days. Which equals 61.5 miles a day at 54 miles per hour. Thank goodness for calculators and thank goodness it’s over. We had a great time but my soul is huffing to catch up. Even Carl got a bit confused when we were leaving Boston the other night post a Boston Community Capital celebration: as we approached the entry to Route 93, he had a moment: where were we going? North or South?
Between family commitments and The Varied Paths to Publication Book Tour, our carbon footprint has been shocking this month. Too, I raised the heat in our Endless Pool in Providence from 50 to 86 so that I can use said pool, thereby exposing the fact that I am my own worst enemy in my war against climate change. Granted, the trips to New York were made by train, and once we got to a city, we stuck to walking but my feints at change have been as vexatious and quixotic as a regular American’s hope to find a drop of democracy in the tea party’s vitriol, or a vertebra of backbone in too many Democrats. But before I go too far down the Road of Rant, let’s return to the over two thousand miles Carl chauffeured me through in the past two weeks.
Varied Paths Tour
In Saratoga Springs, the Northshire Bookstore hosted Nina Gaby, Tammy Flanders Hetrick and Celine Keating and me. We had a great discussion with a small but interested audience. Yes! We had an audience though we knew only our spouses. It was, indeed, an auspicious beginning and fun way to get to know these three authors. I had read their books (Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women; Stella Rose and Play for Me, respectively) and it was quite wonderful to hear them read their books, and talk about writing, publishing and being women of a certain age and attitude. Which is the sub theme of the tour. I found it incredible and slightly intimidating to be with such energetic, cool women.
Back in Jaffrey, Carl and I did some amazing foraging and then climbed Mount Monadnock to celebrate our 25th if-you-can-believe-it anniversary. It was the first time Carl had climbed the White Dot and I saw him bristle when he had to pay to climb his mountain. But the five dollars goes to support the maintenance and oversight of the mountain and so, with that justification, we proceeded on a perilous, vertiginous climb.
May I just say, we aren’t as young as we used to be but we still know how to climb mountains: with each other to help!
As we cheerfully commented after making it to the top: It’s all down hill from here! Via the White Cross trail, which was touted as less steep yet was more slippery and painful to the knees . . . but going down hill always is, isn’t it? Half way down, as I slipped on another slick rock, I had to wonder: why cross?
That weekend, we drove to Burlington for the Burlington Book Festival, and two Book Tour events, one in Randolph and one in South Burlington.
At the book fest, we had the pleasure of hearing David Macaulay, Paul Muldoon and Abigail Thomas speak. And of being interviewed by Lesley Nase for her radio show Books, Yarns and Tales.
And onward to Randolph, where we ate fantastic cronuts (who needs NYC!) and drank decent espresso—who’d’a thunk!—at the Three Bean Cafe—and enjoyed a great gathering at the Art of Vermont Gallery. There we dug a bit deeper into our personal stories and I had the pleasure of meeting Alexis Paige, one of the contributors to Nina’s book and our special guest that day. And then we headed back up to South Burlington’s Barnes and Noble.
Ironies abound, don’t they? Years ago, I wrote a short story called “Chain Material” about a dastardly chain bookstore that, like an octopus had spread its tentacles. A chain rather like Barnes and Noble—which today is almost a local bookstore. Certainly this one supports authors and building community.
We drove home to the light of the moon which later that night eclipsed. We made it about a third of the way through before passing out.
The next morning, during a lull in our active driving schedule, I briefly faced the dilemma of our dapper Little Big Man. There is no mistaking his rooster-ish ways anymore and I keep thinking how this should not have happened. He was supposed to be a she. But I could say the same about Big Red, previously Rhoda Red, who is now three. It does make me a bit sick. Last year was so easy! We adopted the sex-link girls Brownie, Clownie and Downie. Yes, Opie, too. Who for all I know was a boy and was kind enough to die so I wouldn’t have to deal with another Roo. Just as did Little Big Man, Surprise and Exclamation’s brother who died four days after his arrival. Thoughtful boy. But really? I ordered auto sexed chicks. A no brainer. No mistakes possible! And still we received two boys. I appear to be irresponsible but really, I think these things through. Maybe stopping short of thinking it through to all possible consequences. But we now have two cocks and Big Red is being strangely obsequious. He’s sleeping on the coop floor. Leaving Little Big Man to get an ego.
All to say, we aren’t there. We are here. Again. Heading there shortly. And I have signed up at NaNo to write a novel next month. Even as I struggle to find a story for my soon to be trashed book that was supposed to save the world and now?
Writer’s block sucks.
Which leads me to suspect that all the movement might be having consequences I hadn’t anticipated. Or maybe, unconsciously, I did. Maybe I don’t want to find the story? Or write one? Maybe I’m supposed to be paying more attention to other things. Like my cats.
Final note: a new person that I met on the road wrote on his facebook page that he “was going to write like a motherfucker” last weekend. Excellent goal except. . . . has anyone read the definition of motherfucker recently?
So instead of wanting to write like a motherfucker—I know, it’s just a saying but my grandmother berated me once for using such language in my writing. There are better and more interesting phrases—next time I sit down to write I will hope to write like someone who has something true to say, and —most important—that I figure out a way to say it.
I am not writing. I’ve been blocked for weeks. That’s my excuse anyway because then it is within my power to overcome the block and write again. Far worse would be if it is a conspiracy of the swirling energy around me. The negative ones determined to prevent me from reaching my goal of writing a book that might save the world. A big goal? Yes. One that might have something to do with this wall I keep knocking my head against? Could be.
Three days ago, those negative energies had succeeded. I decided to dump the book I have been working for two years. It has, as one reader put it, everything but the kitchen sink. An off-grid memoir. An environmental eulogy. A political rant, and diatribe against our Demo-n-Captialist society. A chicken drama. Yes, this book was to have been a call to arms for an Attitude Change Time-ion (A.C.T.)
It was too hard. Hopeless. I decided to add the sink and throw in the towel. Who was I fooling, right? After all, too few people care enough. Those that do are overwhelmed. Not even the surge of Bernie could uplift spirits beaten down by the disappointment of Hope and Change. So what if our current president had prevented a global economic meltdown, passed healthcare reform, has lower gas prices and higher employment than seen in recent times. Obama is seen as a failure because that’s how Fox News will have him portrayed.
And then I read about the Bohemian club. Have you heard of it? Talk about Sickos. And those Sicko Homo satanicus-typesrun the world and so I decided to hell with it all. I was done. I would move on to the novel I have outlined in my mind. It has been percolating for the months and months I have been working on Darwin’s View One Breath After Midnight. How could I have ignored it for so long? Because at least in fiction I could control things.
Well. Except my subconscious and unconscious but that’s another conversation. Part of the below mentioned Varied Paths I am going to be walking this month. My point here being, maybe Eloise could save the world given if I can’t. Mother Daze has potential. All ideas do. And it is fresh and new. I could get fired up! and ready to go! and write again!
But this morning . . . I wasn’t settling in. I had been verging two days ago but yesterday we drove to a family memorial in Connecticut. And so my energy was disparate this morning. It takes two or three days for me to settle in again after a day away. We are going to be away a lot this next month or two. Driving the northeast for the “Varied Paths to Publication: Women of a Certain Age . . . and Attitude” tour I am participating in. And if we add on eight hours of road time/carbon footprint by going to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine?
Swirling energy and there are not three days together in one place in my near future. Not for about a month or two, so starting a new book? Really?
I bethought myself. How to settle one’s energy? MEDITATION. Of course. Deep breathing. So I stepped outside my office, set my timer for five minutes—I would be breaking a record if I managed to sit still for that long—and settled down on the solid, granite step. Grounded and grounding. I closed my eyes and Om. A noise. One eye opened. A humming bird in the sunflowers. How cute is that? I couldn’t see it clearly as I didn’t have on my glasses but I was mediating. Calm focus. Rustling to my left. In the garden. Had Brownie gotten into the vegetable garden again? She has figured out a way to leap over our electric fence and scrabble about in there. I peeked. There was definitely something over there. I attempted to ignore it but we still have plant life in the form of tomatoes and eggplant and swiss chard and none of it is ready to be uprooted by a chicken’s scratching. I decided I would free said chicken and return to meditation.
. . . Not a chicken. I yelled for Carl.
I don’t know why. That seems to be my reaction whenever something out of my comfort zone and particularly nature-ish happens. Train of thought: Nature . . . danger . . . who got me into this . . . CARL!! COME QUICK! PORCUPINE IN THE ELECTRIC FENCE.
This brought to mind our previous experience, years ago, with groundhogs also known as woodchucks and/or little bastards. They ate our first garden when we lived on Angell Street. Our beautiful cabbages gnawed on. I hired someone to catch and relocate said L.B.s. They never caught the groundhogs. They did capture two possums on two separate occasions, and I found out that they were not rehoming them.
All to say, I reached for the phone to call a humane society or an Animal rescue number while Carl approached, very carefully, our resident porcupine. Carl and I by now had reached the same conclusion: Sh**.
I brought Carl wire clippers. Lowered the fencing. He clipped the fencing. The porcupine panted in terror. His struggles only got him more enmeshed, his arm more fully tangled in the fencing.
For the record: porcupines are really cute. This is a full grown one but he has a pudgy little face. Very dark brown and soft looking. And the quills don’t look so terrible though both Carl and I maintained a very, very healthy respect for the ones on his tail. Porcupines are rather hedgehog-ish that way. Cuddly looking. Bringing to mind the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover.
It was emitting an odor of fear. I was grateful it wasn’t a skunk. It breathed heavily and it was not Bhasktrika pranayama yogic breath. I wished we knew porcupine language. Instead, we spoke human as soft and reassuring as we could.
You will have to take my word about the cuteness level. Though I had my camera in hand, I didn’t take photos because I thought it would be irresponsible to be taking photos while Carl tried to free the porcupine. Instead of photos, I got a blanket and placed it between Carl’s bare arm and the porcupine’s tail. I found a useless pair of garden clippers. And shooed the chickens—who were all excited! by the excitement! and raced in our direction! to see what was going on!—back into the coop. Where Little Big Man raced about and then out. All the others were in but he was out and so I was chasing him while Carl continued to wrestle with the fencing.
And the porcupine struggled, his left arm entirely wrapped up in the fencing material. If we had been able to hold onto him for a half hour and gently untangle him . . . which was clearly not going to happen.
That was the morning’s dither. The fence is down and fairly well wrecked. Electra, the porcupine, is exhausted and hiding under our deck, his/her left arm tightly wrapped in fencing. I worry if s/he will be okay as I begin to pack up my office. Because my writing day is over. It is time for other projects and more travels. Instead of debating which book to focus on, I contemplate priorities, and how close I was to a porcupine and what photos I might have taken if only I had opted for photography instead of moral support and an apprenticeship in toreador-ism with a green wool blanket. Next time, will I opt for the camera, only to capture Carl attacked by a rabid skunk?
The only other news from Darwin’s View is that Little Big Man is testing his vocal chords. Both Carl and I heard a stranger noise earlier this morning. Ironically, we thought it was an anonymous porcupine. I looked out to the coop, thinking perhaps a hawk had once again landed on the bench in the run. There was Little Big Man, stretching his neck, lifting his head. Ra-row-a-doodle.
Big Red’s crow is boisterous relatively. Big Red is still three times Little Big Man’s size. And Little Big Man is beautiful, reminiscent of Cornelius two summers ago . . .
Two summers? Is it already so long ago? I was supposed to have finished my book by now. Instead?
Electra. Chickens and hawks. Gardens and forests. Travels. Sunrise to sunset, life happens. Just like that.
Far be it from me to judge anyone who decides to dress up like a chicken and go on national television, there to jump up and down and scream along with an entire audience of other people doing the same. I’m a chicken lover. I should be thrilled by this expression of chicken worship. But I suspect these folks also eat chicken wings during sports events and thereby support the torture of chickens in factory farms; and believe that choosing door number one, two or three is more important than voting. Thus, I judge, and avoid daytime television.
Truth be told, some of my friends consider this a chicken blog. That’s humbling.
Actually, it is humiliating but I’m trying to be positive here. Time and again, I have attempted not to write about chickens but, if you don’t know by now, chickens are my form of denial. And maybe a little bit my muse but look deeper and you will see the lies I tell myself.
Big Red? He is my excuse for having moved up here, against all logic, in the middle of winter. And for staying. The hens? Their fresh eggs are a justification for the insanity of saying that we are staying here for a Rhode Island Red cock, for which the euphemism is rooster, a rooster named Big Red.
And fresh eggs. Some of them obscenely large. We are here with our chickens for their fresh eggs. Happy eggs. Necessary to my peace of mind. A fact validated by the movie we saw on Friday night. Pricele$$. Put on by the NHRebellion Continue reading Chicken Blog? I do protest!→
Time and again, I try to drag this blog away from the chickens. I even went so far as to rename it the Stone Age Redux Blog to no effect. (Carl has just pointed out that chickens, would, in fact, go under the Stone Age Redux title, given they are dinosaurs. Excellent point.)
Every week or five, the chickens edge their way into the writing process and here we are again. Be it a Broody hen’s guile, or her chicks transmogrification from pullets to cockerels, or the flock’s morning serenade that I now call Chicken Lamaze, the chickens dominate. And now again. I thought, two days ago, that I would write about the Goshawk and the Kestrel that were flying above us, circling and being amazing. And how, not two minutes later, we looked over to the coop (of course, the coop) to see one of our resident porcupines hanging out at the entrance, with a very quiet Big Red and the hens eyeing him from a distance. But no. Now it’s time to fly our dirty laundry. Continue reading 76 Trombones is all very well but . . ..→