light beyond dark
I love seeing all the runners go by my window, more and more as the days get sunnier. There is one young woman who zooms past virtually every day at a kickass pace. (I kind of want to be her.) My office looks onto the street, and our street seems to be a popular route, though I can’t imagine why; traffic is heavy and there’s nowhere to run but the sidewalk. Personally I prefer running away to the park, and dashing around the grass and trails.
I’ve had a few excellent runs this week. Dare I say it? I’ll whisper it. My hip feels back to normal.
Today is another sunny day. And my mind is sunny to match. It’s been an up and down week. I made the mistake of trying to write intensively far too early into the book-visioning process. The funny thing was, I knew the problem before I began, knew that it couldn’t possibly work, and yet … I had to go through the experience to get it. I’m dumb like that. But I’m not sorry. Yesterday, I wrote for eight hours straight. It wasn’t what I’d intended to write. But it was such a happy day. It reminded me why I write. I don’t do this because I have to. I do this because I love to. Writing is my version of singing. It’s my version of dancing. (Though I like singing and dancing too). It is, quite simply, the thing that I do best.
Yup, I’m going to keep doing it.
I’ve got ideas, though. Notions, plans, intentions, dreams. Maybe even a vision.
This month, I’ve slowed down on the Juliet publicity front. Next month it gets all busy again. I’m enjoying the break, though I’m looking forward to crawling out of my cave and interacting with real people again. *Note to self: Remember to re-attach mouth to brain before exiting cave. Also, reacquaint self with basics of small-talk.
Here’s what’s coming up …
:: May 15. 7pm. Indie Night at the Starlight in Waterloo! Heather Birrell, Robert Hough, my brother’s press, plus a bunch of other writers, and me!
:: May 16. Type Books in Toronto! With Heather Birrell! (It’s almost like we’re going on tour together.) I’ve got the time roughed in as 6-9pm, but that sounds long. I’ll get back to you.
:: May 27. 7pm. Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. More info to come on this event, which sounds pretty wild.
:: May 29. 9am. A Different Drummer Bookstore in Burlington. This event is called Books and Brunch, and I’ll be reading with Dennis Lee (!!) *note to self: Do not start reciting Jelly Belly poems. That probably gets really irritating.
My other brand-new-activity-in-May is helping to facilitate several 45-minute writing workshops for teens. Anyone done this before? Tips? Advice? Games? Ice-breakers? Can you tell I’ve never done this before?
We’ve got flocks of crows in the neighbourhood. Occasionally, they choose the trees in our yard and gather in the bare branches. Even when they are silent, their wings rustle heavily, a sensation of suspended watchfulness. It’s hard not to think of them as being a sign. Though of what? I often hear them calling loudly in the early morning. On a less poetical note, their poop is everywhere.
This early morning my alarm went off, and I thought, no, I don’t feel like swimming. I’m fighting a cold that has claimed part of my voice, and I’m on the mend, and somehow submerging my head in cold water for an hour didn’t seem terribly wise. So, as my friend Nath would say, I “logicked” myself out of getting up, turned off the alarm and napped restlessly for another twenty minutes. But I couldn’t return to peaceful sleep. Apparently I’ve now trained myself to be AWAKE at 5am, alarm or no alarm. Exercise every day was the mantra that shoved me out of bed. I didn’t feel like going to hot yoga, but went anyway. I wanted to be doing something that amped up the lungs and the heart, rather than strengthening and stretching and being all zen and calm and whatnot.
This will be good for you, I told myself.
And I won’t deny that it was.
Sometime in the future, however, I can imagine rising early to write. Yes, it’s early, but I feel so AWAKE. The house is so PEACEFUL. I could write for four hours and it would only be 9:30 or so. Then I could nap. Then I could meet someone for lunch. Then I could exercise. Then I could write some more. Then someone would make me supper. And do the laundry and the dishes. (The children would be able to care for themselves.) Wait, this is turning into full-fledged fantasy.
Clearly something at which I excel.
Here is the crow just landing, or just taking off, from the larger photo above. The wings are a blur. There is something about the colour and tone and the scratchiness of the branches that looks like brush-strokes on mottled paper. The density of the silhouette.
This morning I’ve been taking pencil to page and crossing out words here, pointing arrows there, timing myself reading passages out loud and noting the times down. I’m turning this copy of Juliet into my reading copy. I’m not sure whether I’m just landing, or just taking off.
Short post this morning. Because I MUST CLEAN THE HOUSE. Someone has to do something lest the crumbs start plotting a takeover. And the house is on my mind. Or perhaps more accurately in my subconscious. In the last week I have dreamed about the house, in one way or another, every single night.
The dreams are all essentially the same, though the details change. But the essential thread holding them together is that our house is not our house. We have moved to a different house, inevitably a house in sad disrepair. We’ve sold our house and now regret it terribly but it’s too late. We can never go home. Or, we return to our house but it is changed, and not for the better. We stare at the front window, broken and boarded up. We wonder why someone has torn the numbers off our house and spraypainted new numbers onto plywood. We feel desolate and confused.
In last night’s dream the children had to go to new schools with crowded, noisy classrooms. They had to walk long distances to get there. They were struggling to fit in.
I’m no dream analyst (okay, I’m an amateur dream analyst; it’s an unavoidable side gig as a writer), but this speaks to me as fear of change. Fear of the unknown. That sideways wandering into a life that is just a little bit different from the known, comfortable, and familiar. The way a seemingly insignificant change can tip us off kilter. Not all change is chosen. What happens when we come back to the house and discover it is not the same house? Remember that feeling of going home for Christmas those first few years after leaving home, as a young adult? Remember the dismay and sadness? Realizing we couldn’t go home in the same way–also that we didn’t want to, but that we missed what was gone forever.
This morning, CJ came into my bed to tell me another Cookie Monster story (“I think this will be a short one, Mommy.”) And when that was done, he said, “I forgot! We need a snuggle.” And when a snuggle had been had, he hopped down and headed for the door, paused, turned: “I will remember this snuggle forever, Mommy.” Little feet trotting down the hallway. Stopping. Returning. His face suddenly sad. “I won’t remember this snuggle forever,” he said. “You can always come back for another snuggle,” I reassured him.
Because that’s what we do. We reassure our kids. Even while we’re thinking, man, that is so damn true. You won’t remember this snuggle forever. Neither will I. It’s a pinprick of a moment in a wide life. I mean, it’s a good pinprick. But it’s here and gone. Change, change, ringing like a bell. And we’re opening the door to a house that is familiar, but not ours.
A more cheerful post to come, very soon. Meanwhile, I will test out the theory that tidying, vacuuming, cleaning, and baking will put the dreams to rest, at least for a little while.
This is what my book looks like!!!!!! (Insert full paragraph of exclamation points.)
You can even pre-order it!!!
But this is what it looks like!
(And, no, I don’t know who the girl is, though she does look weirdly like my own AppleApple. The publisher designed the cover, not me.)
This was not the post I began writing this morning. That post started like this:
“Long week. General gloom. Set alarm, rose early. Glad for that.
Snow falling. Cough cough cough from my constant companion.”
And went on in the same vein. Which is true enough. But I’m glad the cover popped into my inbox and interrupted my cranky, restless mind with a splash of colour. And, oh, that dreaming girl. I’d like to just go be her for a little while.
Yes, this photo is blurred. But within the blur, the colours seem brighter, and the body positions more expressive. I should make something of that. Observe that it mimics our perception of time when mothering small children, the way the days disappear into a blur, and some small detail remains in memory, a flash of colour, a story that gets passed down and requested at bedtime.
Today, I am thinking about motivation. I am thinking about sitting down at my desk and writing into a story that may or may not become a novel that may or may not succeed. What keeps me sitting back down and writing more, not knowing what may come of it? I think it must be hope. I’ve read that people with depression have an inability to imagine the future; instead, they see an unchanging blank. I’ve got whatever is the opposite, though it’s got its downsides, too. Let’s call it an over-active imagination. I get excited about the future based on the slimmest of evidence. My happiest daydreams fling me far and wide through adventure and thrill and accomplishment. “What was I just thinking about?” I’ll wonder, returning to earth with a glowing feeling, and then I’ll remember, oh yes, I was thinking about being interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel. Or about training as a midwife and travelling to Central America to practice. Or about recording myself playing an original song on the piano and becoming a star on YouTube. Heh.
Is it healthy to daydream such big, such ridiculous, such clearly out-of-reach dreams? I’m not sure. But some of the things I’ve dreamed have come true. I dreamed of becoming a published writer, long before anyone else would have dreamed it of me. I dreamed of motherhood. I dreamed of completing a triathlon before I could even swim. Of course, the original dream was that I could become an Olympic triathlete, and reality whittled that fantasy back down to size. But that’s okay. Even if the original dream was wildly over-ambitious, it sent me on a path toward actual achievement.
Almost always (or is that always always?) the daydream is realized in watered-down and compromised form. Reality has mosquitos and critics and temper tantrums. It has limitations. Daydreams don’t.
Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about writing this story. I would like to sit down and just do it, but I seem to need the daydreams to carry me over the fear of failure, the doubt that it will add up to anything special. I also need tangible goals. So I’m going to do something I’ve never tried before. I’m going to write in volume. I’m going to participate in November’s National Novel-Writing Month, even though I’ve disdained it for years (who can force the muse to show her face?) It’s abbreviated as Na-No-Wri-Mo for the hashtag on Twitter, and I’m going to tweet my progress. My goal is 30,000 words by the end of the month.
Because daydreams are shiny happy places in which to linger, but you have to get to work if you’re going to leave a flash of colour in the blur of reality.
Here’s what I like doing in the garden: pulling things up, chopping things down, and day-dreaming. I wander around with my garden gloves and imagine what the apple tree would look like if we built a treehouse around it. I imagine a child hidden high in the leafy branches, spying (like I loved to do, as a child). Imagining what could be is as satisfying as bringing it into being. Well, it’s not really fair to compare the two, because both are extremely satisfying, but in different ways. I love bringing an idea to fruition: that ah sensation of accomplishment. But I love equally letting my mind wander through plans and plots and possibilities. It’s like being at rest and at play at the same time. These are some of the happiest moments in my every day.
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