Tag Archives: Dogs

 The Art of Living: The Art of Writing

I’ve been working on my third novel on and off for several years now. It occurred to me just now that I’m back at it after a month or so hiatus with renewed energy and even a sense of urgency. It’s not always that way. I guess if it were I’d have the initial draft completed at the very least. If someone asked me why I hadn’t written much lately, before thinking about it as I am now, I’d have said something about my new jobs, my husband’s emergency surgery, or maybe even the dog days of summer.latesummer2015 050

All of those things, and many more, affect my writing schedule, and perhaps more to the point, my creative energy level. But none of it is really time off as long as I get back to the “art” within a reasonable amount of time.

The jobs will allow me the luxury of buying writing supplies (Am I the only person horrified at the exorbitant cost of ink?) and of getting out of the cottage now and then to experience the living world and its people and cultures in the flesh.

My husband’s surgery gifted me with three weeks of total marital bonding time. It wasn’t that I was nursing him or waiting on him hand and foot as he waited for a diagnosis, underwent surgery, and then recovered, it was that we were together for three weeks straight, pretty much night and day. Like a really romantic vacation except he was in pain and on strong painkilling medications and he needed me to drive him everywhere.

I tried to write while he was in the hospital. I set up a little office in his hospital room (which was nicer than many hotel rooms we’ve stayed in—the towers at St. Luke’s in Milwaukee are fabulous!). But I didn’t write a word.

Part of St. Luke's 8th Floor Serenity Garden

Part of St. Luke’s 8th Floor Serenity Garden

Instead, I often climbed into bed with him, bringing a tray of snacks and the daily stack of funny and loving cards his many friends and family sent to wish him well. As his astute and talented young doctor told him a few days after surgery, my husband “is a beautiful man.”

Back at home I thought I’d write, but I was immersed in training for one of the new jobs, which was all done online. The online aspect temporarily morphed my beloved writing corner, desk, and laptop into a place of commerce rather than creativity. Gone were the stacks of notes and historical and creative writing books usually piled somewhat neatly at hand’s reach, replaced by technical manuals and handbooks. I found that once I finished the technical simulations and study required for the day I was more than happy to leave my little corner.

Then the dog days of summer really hit, and with them a disturbing lack of interest in anything. I am not a lover or heat, humidity, or mosquitos (I think I’ve mentioned the mosquitos before in other posts…); I seem to be biologically unadaptable to any climate where the temperature soars over 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Diesel cools down on Dog Days

How Diesel cools down on Dog Days

Cats never look hot.

Cats never look hot.

I simply cannot think or get excited about anything when I sweat.

I buy Off! by the case.

I wear ridiculous scanty clothing. The very thought of stuffing any part of my body into fabric of any kind makes me feel faint. My preferred dog day’s “outfit” is a brown sarong trimmed in red, green, and gold ala Bob Marley that I picked up in Kauai six years ago on an anniversary trip.

It’s not even a ladies’ sarong, for goodness sakes; the beautiful Hawaiian girl who sold it to me tried to talk me out of it. You would look so pretty in this blue one, or the pink one, she said. It would have been a perfect size for Israel IZ Kamakawiwo’ole (another beautiful man). But the fabric is so light and the large size makes it so loose. I said, I’ll take it.

There were other things that happened this past month other than my husband’s health crisis, my new work, and the heat that stalled the progress of my work in progress—things on my heart and mind that I’m keeping close. These things will eventually, somehow find expression and maybe even relief as part of my fiction.

The events of the past month, I find, didn’t really get in the way of my “art” at all. One of the wonderful things about writing is its permanence. The writer never stops writing, not really. Every experience, every sensation, adds another scene or scrap of a scene to be processed by the imagination and filtered through the writer’s soul. I’m writing again, and in that I find great peace.

IMG_0764Mahalo.

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Unexpected Relief: Canadian Geese, Kayaking, and Life Lessons

Maysend2015 010

June 2, 2015

Have you ever been gloomy on a perfectly lovely day? Maybe better to ask, have any of us not? Today began that way, sharply beautiful—a kind of begging to just be outside kind of morning, followed by a mildly warm bursting with life afternoon.

Still, I was gloomy.

My body said go outside, but my heart said no, let’s be gloomy.

My muse said, get up and write, but my mind said no, let’s be gloomy.

If it weren’t for my dogs, I might have pulled the covers over my head. But dogs need walking, so I forced my gloomy heart and mind to come along, promising myself I could crawl back in bed when we got back.

Out walking, we changed course a few times to avoid wildly happy unleashed dogs (Who knows why there were so many loose canines out on this particular day? I pictured them all prying the screens off their open windows with various size paws after their humans left for work, and then jumping out pell-mell to run and roll in the grass. The day was that pretty).

I always change course when I see a loose dog ahead, or one running toward us, not so much because I am afraid of them, but because I fear they may be baited into a fight by my feisty Schnauzer.

Anyway, we found a quiet lane eventually. Diesel and Atticus were taking things slowly, sampling the fresh long grass, sniffing and marking, sniffing and marking. Pandora was playing in my pocket: Coleman Hawkins, “Under a Blanket of Blue.”  Lovely.

And then I noticed.

I wasn’t really all that gloomy anymore.

Nice breakthrough.

I was thinking about the writing I would accomplish today. My important novel writing. Wrestling with my protagonist’s problems. Conjuring up a crucial scene to push the plot forward.

We were almost back home when Barry and Laura, two of my neighbors, waved. “Want to go kayaking with us?” they asked.

An invitation, it turned out, that I could not turn down.

I love being in the water, on the water, with the water. I love the quiet splash. The green banks sliding by. The exercise and the rest.

And this would be my first time out this season.

On a day such as this, these are the moments are sometimes given. Learning to spot them and savor them is the trick.

An hour later we were on the river paddling with just the right amount of effort to know our arms were probably morphing into something sleekly beautiful, something very un-middle-aged-women-and-man-arm-like. There we were, three people, a man and two women, just for a little while living in the moment, alive and in nature.

“The goose family is just ahead,” Laura said. “We’ve been watching them grow.”

We came around a bend and came upon two complete families. Two mothers and two fathers standing tall watching us. Two groups of chicks. One group, still downy fluff, but up and about, and maybe a third as tall as their parents. The other group was younger, but there were a lot of them—they were huddled in a perfect circle around the base of a tall shrub, looking like a living Christmas tree skirt.

There wasn’t a house or a boat or even a power line in sight. Just us and the geese.

“I didn’t know separate families lived so near each other,” Barry said. “And I hear they mate for life.”

They mate for life.

Also, and this is maybe the best part, Barry searched through all the downed branches near the river’s edge for trash. He didn’t find much, but what he found, he took with him. Took it home to recycle.

Laura smiled at me. “Barry cleans the river,” she said.

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