Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October's Wonder

Every month, I show the photos I used in my family's calendar for this year. You can find previous photos and a link to the text they illustrate here.

I'm not a big fan of scary movies. I am a huge fan of wonder. Also awe. And I found three illustrations of those emotions for this month's calendar page.

And by the way, this last one? It's a bear. Playing with a garden hose, right out here on our septic field. She first stopped by the side door to the house, where she left a nose print. The door was locked, or else she might have had a close encounter of the sisterly kind with my own sister, who was working in room just inside the door.

Wonder. Awe. And also a little awww. Though not much. That's a bear, after all.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Appreciations

The seasons are changing. While I was gone, the trees shed their leaves. We don't have snow here, but it's chilly and grey and wet.

This time of year, I think back to the trees that fell in the spring and summer (and even into the fall), over the driveway, over the paths, in inconvenient places. I appreciate them in a new way because we're now burning them, as much for the cheerful crackle of the fire as the warmth it produces.

I've picked up a book I tried to read last year. Last year was the wrong time. Now it's the right time.

I'm pursuing opportunities, both creative and remunerative (and some that are both!), that weren't right for me before. I enjoy the challenges even as they also daunt the heck out of me.

I'm opening a (virtual) filing cabinet and re-imagining a few stories. Two years ago, I did all I could to get them to a certain point -- and I knew that point wasn't an effective point, one that told the story well. I appreciate them differently now, and I wonder what they have to teach me, now that I'm slightly different, a little new.
Thursday, October 18, 2012

Opinions Worth Having

I'll start with the obvious: an election is looming in the U.S. I've already voted a backup ballot. If my regular ballot, which I have also completed, doesn't get there in time, I'm covered.

In other words: I'm done.

Being in the U.S. for a week gave me lots of opportunities to experience others' opinions. Most noticeably and loudly, opinions about political candidates and ballot initiatives.

But also opinions about
* window, aisle, or middle seat?
* near the off-duty pilot or in a row that might, if you're lucky, remain empty?
* red or white (customer service reps at Oregon wineries are such good sports)
* celery or no celery?

Celery? Really? Yes. I have met two people with a distinct dislike of celery. To me, this is a little like disliking water: maybe not the most exciting thing ever, but not much to object to, either. But everyone has different palates, different likes and dislikes, different buttons that are pushed by different things.

I used to have firm opinions about the best place to sit in airplanes, the must-have equipment while vacationing somewhere, the maximum price to pay for a twelve-hour stay in a motel room. But as I've aged, I've become more mellow. In some situations, striving to maintain or enforce a previous opinion of "optimal" or "limit" is a lot more energy than I am willing to expend.

However, I vote with more defined opinion than ever before. Increasingly, I believe in the importance of speaking up, even if I am the proverbial Democratic tree falling in the indifferent Republican forest of my  home state. I'd love for others to hear me -- but even if they don't, I hear me. I know I'm speaking my truth. And that's what counts.

Yes, writing is similar. While everyone wants accolades -- publications, awards, money, fans -- those may or may not come. I can't control that element of the work. But I can control the fact that I'm writing, day in and day out, I speak my truth to the page. And that counts for something.

So: speak up. Vote. Write.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Clearing the Cruft

For the last couple of weeks, I've been working primarily to others' deadlines. Nothing wrong with that, at all! I enjoy working for clients. I've even managed to get some of my own writing done, though of course not as much as I do when my clients are scrambling around at their end.

A side effect of working to others' deadlines is that I can start to feel...important. I may be working during a 25-minute break between meetings and pick up an email from a client who wants me to get something back to him about 30 minutes after my next meeting ends -- something that's do-able, but just, and only because I was actually available to pick up the email. I saved the day! Yay me!

It's sorta like being a business person in a movie. Only early in the movie, before the business person (Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Cruise) learns to slow down and smell the roses and take care of their new love's kid.

Although I like the work and I don't mind at all being responsive, in large doses, the life isn't particularly good for me. I can feel myself getting addicted to the energy. Except that it's not good energy. It's energy like sticky over-toasted marshmallow energy. There's a rush, and a crash, and I get snappish during both. Not good. It's not clean. It leaves me feeling like the toasting fork after you pull the outer burnt sugar shell off and are looking at knobby bits of molten marshmallow contents. Blech.

Today, I'm embarking on a week of a different sort. I'll be with family. It will be great. Also exhausting and possibly sad and hilarious at different times. Yep, my relatives all have a performance gene, and I predict that it will be in evidence this weekend. Fortunately, I'm good at being audience.

But here's the best part: in between the clients and the family, I got to have a day. It's the best thing for clearing the cruft that's left on the toasting fork after you've attempted toasting marshmallows. In fact, that's exactly what it's like, except without the sticky residue, fire, and pointy implements.

My day consisted of taking a six-hour drive through beautiful countryside. The delays for road work didn't matter. The traffic hasn't bothered me either, knock wood, though I am taking a break to let the worst of city traffic die down before I reach my final destination for the evening. I drive at the speed I want. I stop when I want. I take the route I want. I sing in the car.

So, next time you wonder if you're getting a little too addicted to the adrenaline and find yourself whiny when suddenly your inbox gets quiet, I highly recommend driving. By yourself. And if you have a playlist full of Canadian content -- Holly Cole, Sophie Milman, Meaghan Smith, Jill Barber, and of course Molly  Johnson -- then you really are lucky. Maybe not quite as lucky as Molly Johnson's song, but close.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Healthy Gums

I've been a whirling dervish of activity in the past few weeks -- publicizing this, starting that, finishing the other (or "finishing," more accurately, because it might come back rejected), sending things out, receiving things, considering future things, scheduling things (and laughing ha ha ha because you have to laugh when you schedule), and generally verbing all over the place.

Today, I am experiencing a slight lull, during which I need to switch gears. I will walk in a moment, because that is the ultimate gear-switching activity for me. But another activity that I enjoy is thoroughly flossing and brushing my teeth and gums.

I didn't always feel this way about oral hygiene, as the shining cavities inside my mouth show. But ever since my hygienist suggested a gum brush, and I discovered the pleasure of sending it on a leisurely trip around, between, and among my teeth, I've been hooked.

This has nothing to do with the fact that I have a dental check-up scheduled for my birthday next month. (No, not on purpose: Because it was convenient for them, that's why.) I sincerely enjoy a minty-fresh mouth -- what daunting task isn't better faced with clean teeth? -- and taking time to do the flossing and brushing thoroughly makes a noticeable difference in the final results.

Which is also true of writing. I sent out something yesterday after a major revision. It has changed drastically since I first wrote the very beginnings of it, and I don't want to look up how long ago that was. Years. The story gets better with every revision, and each revision requires time. More time than I want to give it. Real time apart, when I am consumed by other writing and experiences. Time for a thorough, cold read; time for contemplation and rumination; and time for the open and careful revisions that show true (if tough) love. When I sent it out yesterday, I felt proud -- and I will still feel proud if it comes back to me with a "no, thanks."

Sure, I clean my teeth every day, just as I write something nearly every day. But some days, you know? It's a little different. There's the pure joy when you do something really well, with careful attention, and you know you have done it well.

It's well worth the time.