Friday, June 26, 2009


When you think about it, a hero almost never goes off on a quest alone. Luke had Han and Leia; Frodo had Sam and the rest of the Fellowship; Dorothy had the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion.

I have sometimes worried about a lack of allies. Having allies seems to be a sign that you are on the right track, and I tend to be a loner rather than a natural networker. I have been gratified by the encouraging responses I have received about this blog and about my writing. Thank you. Your support means a lot.

I remembered another thing about allies. They appear once you actually begin your journey, not when you're sitting at home thinking about it.

I feel that I'm setting off in good company.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ruts and Rivers

I have been busy lately trying to figure out how to schedule my time--how many hours for revising manuscripts, working on new manuscripts, brainstorming story ideas, contacting publishers, gardening, and so on, and so on, and becoming more and more frustrated. Then it occurred to me that I have been trying to force my new life into the pattern of my old life of office hours and deadlines. The point of my life now, it occurred to me, is to explore and to grow. (NB: To any prospective clients who may read this, I'm still very good at deadlines when I need to be.)

At a workshop I attended, we cut out words and images from magazines for two collages, one titled"Rut," and one titled "River." On my "rut" collage, there are words like "control freak," "comfort zone," "boundaries," "problems," "worried," and "the system." The images include a robot, a traffic jam, a crowd of pedestrians, a stop sign, a watch, and Queen Elizabeth. For "river," I chose "courage," "celebrate, "yes," "explore," "curiosity," "wonders,"--you get the idea. There's a picture of the earth from space, a mountain hiker, a meandering stream, a kayaker, a shaman in a technicolor blanket, and a large bear. As inviting as the river is, a rut is where I usually find my mind.

We are creatures of habit. In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach tells about a tiger at the Washington Zoo. For years the tiger was kept in a 12' by 12' cage. At last a spacious new habitat was constructed for the tiger, with hills and trees and plenty of room to roam. But to the end of her days, the tiger stayed in a corner of the habitat, pacing a bare patch of ground 12' by 12'. Whenever I think of this story, it reminds me to question all my self-imposed boundaries.

I asked some writing friends how they stay creative. Do something nonverbal, they said. Play. Take walks. Work with your hands. Empty your mind. "I can't work unless I'm happy," one said. She makes herself happy by creating wonderful little cloth dolls.

So I do these things with a new appreciation of how they feed my life and keep me flowing with the river and out of the rut.

The Digital Photography School invites its members to enter a contest with a new theme each week. You can see a list of themes here. I don't aspire to enter the contests, but I love looking at the creative ways the winners have interpreted the themes. This morning, I took my camera along on my walk and used one of the themes, "Lines," as a way to focus my attention. Looking at the world through a camera, I notice details I would otherwise miss. And looking for "lines" was a surprising way to interact with scenery I see every day. I brought home several ideas for poems that I'll work on.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Butterfly Days

Sisko and I were supposed to retire together. Retirement would be an endless stream of "butterfly days"--perfect days spent doing what I want to when I want to. Butterfly days started off with Sisko and me taking a walk down the road near our house, watching the sun brighten the day, listening to the birds chatter, and in Sisko's case, smelling everything. I smile, remembering the time he was hurrying to catch up with me and skidded to a stop to catch a smell he had missed. Our best times were on walks. Stuck in the house while I was at work, he would wait patiently for me to get home, then follow me hopefully until I said the golden word: "Walk?" We walked as two companions, not as dog and mistress. Sisko never got used to a leash. I think it offended his dignity. Instead, he let me know that he was perfectly capable of doing all those leash-type things--heeling, keeping out of traffic, staying--on his own. He was a very sensible dog.

Soon, I told him last year, soon we'll be able to take morning walks every day. It will be perfect. We'll grow old together and we'll take shorter and shorter walks together. But his walks got shorter before mine did. Arthritis slowed him down and a liver ailment took him from this life. Sometimes things just don't work out.

I still have butterfly days. Now when I take a morning walk, Sisko's memory keeps me company. Good boy, Sisko!

Friday, June 5, 2009


Everytime I get off track, it takes me a while to remember that it's a matter of cause and effect. All of us know the rules that keep us on our own particular straight and narrow--in my case: journal regularly, get enough sleep, avoid timewasters, write before meals (got that one from Hemingway), and so on. It boils down to small, simple choices. Choose to watch a movie instead of working on revising your novel? Then don't be surprised if you feel frustrated and unproductive the next day. Choose to eat that dessert? Don't be surprised if your jeans don't fit. It's so simple that even I can figure it out. When I can remember.

Click here to read my friend Harriett's hilarious account of Wings and Ribs Night in Gatlinburg during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.