Friday, April 14, 2006

The latest

If you're interested in something different, check out Instinct.


Nearly ten years ago I left Columbus, Ohio and set out on the road. Behind me I left the journals I kept for nearly ten years. That was seven years ago. I gave them to Beanie and made her promise to keep them safe from our mother, not because there was anything in them I was ashamed of or afraid for anyone to see, but because they were my declaration of freedom. Those journals were proof that I could still write.

I kept a diary when I was a teenager. In it I revealed my innermost being, my secret thoughts, longings and dreams. I hid my diary, afraid for my mother to find it. She always found it anyway and I was punished for my thoughts and my longings and my dreams. "Nice girls don't think about such things. How could you feel that way? Why would you do such a thing?" Every time my mother found my diary she punished me. I quit writing.

Twenty-three years ago writing is what kept me sane at the darkest point in my life. I wrote about what was happening to me and to the people around me -- and I kept writing. I wrote on legal pads and scraps of paper until one day at a Half Price Bookstore I found a journal and began to write. I wrote every single night right before I turned out the light and went to sleep. I wrote about my thoughts and longings and dreams. I wrote about what excited me that day, what I learned, what I agreed/disagreed with in what I read, saw, heard and experienced. I wrote poetry. I wrote plots for stories. I wrote about my family. Mostly, I wrote about me: who I was, what I felt, what I knew, and every question that came to mind about anything and everything.

In the back of my mind I still felt like that teenage girl hiding her innermost self from her mother because I was afraid I'd be punished. That's why I made Beanie promise to destroy them if anything happened to me. She didn't destroy them.

My mother got hold of the journals and, certain they were all about her, she began to read...

...and read...

...and read...

...and read.

She didn't find what she wanted. My journals weren't all about her. There were some things about her, but mostly the journals were about me, the me she didn't know and had never wanted to know. She was stunned.

When my mother told me she had read my journals, the cold icy hand of fear clutched my heart and I held my breath, some part of me waiting for the pronouncement of my sentence. "You ought to have these published," she said. Her voice was filled with something I had never heard: awe? surprise? shock? disbelief?

That's when I began to keep my journals on my computer and then allowed myself to be talked into putting my journals online, finally coming here. This journal is much like what I wrote on those pages over more than ten years, much like what I still write -- although not every night before I turn out the light and go to sleep. But now my mother isn't quite so supportive and she doesn't like what I am "publishing" from my journals because there are things in here about my family. I guess she didn't want me to publish my journals after all -- or at least not the parts about my family. That's not for public consumption. After all, what's the use of having closets if you don't fill them with skeletons?

So, here's the skeletons that will come dancing out of the closet from time to time. I believe closets are for clothes and linens.

How about you?

You look but you do not see

A couple weeks ago the trees were bare spindly branches scratching wildly in the wind, their trunks dark with rain and melting snow. They were silent. The birds chirped and sang with the rising of a red-gold sun that barely warmed the chill breezes. It seems but a few days ago that I noticed buds on the slender branches, studding the brown and gray with indeterminate color. When I looked out from my windows I saw the golden forsythia waving from slender whip-like branches thrusting up out of the dusty and anemic ground, but I didn't see what was happening right in front of me. I was wrapped up in work and family problems and everything else. I didn't really see my corner of the world until this morning until the sunlight stabbed my eyelids and forced me to stumble out of bed for another day of seemingly endless work.

As I squinted in against the harsh glare a hint of pink swam into view, pink cradled in deep verdant green like a forest in shadow. Light pink, dark pink, radiant pink against a backdrop of yellow green feathering the topmost branches of the trees, and a multitude of buds bursting open as I stared open-mouthed waking up for the first time in two weeks. When had spring arrived? I waited for it, prayed for it, coaxed it with warmth breath on the forsythia, that sun-bright harbinger of returning life. It was here and from the breathless warmth that barely whispers through the open windows of my bedroom at night, summer is not far behind, reminding me that the clock is ticking, the sun moving closer in its celestial dance, just as it will move farther away and bring with it darkness and cold and the snowy sleep of winter, passing quicker and quicker every year. Passing so quickly sometimes that, if we are not careful, we will look and not see the moments that burst like pink buds from the dark green cup of what were once buds.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

She hates me? Again?

Every week my mother calls to see if I'm still alive. I think she does it for my brother because he wants my collection of signed Andre Norton books. "What will happen to your Andre Norton books when you're dead?" he asked with a gleam in his eyes. And he is Mom's favorite son. But back to last night.

To forestall my mother's calls to see if I'm still alive, I make weekly calls at my convenience (if I don't answer the phone she'd be on the first plane out here to "collect" my things) to see if it's time to pry the Ziploc bags of jewelry from her cold hands (or the hands of my jewelry and status hungry sister) and sell them to pay off all their debts. Last night I made such a call. As we chatted about Omar Sharif (who she says has not aged well but what a hunk he was when he was younger -- I agree he was and is still a hunk) and the latest remake of The Ten Commandments she suddenly stops talking. With a voice full of venom she says, "I hate you." Completely out in left field when this pop fly bangs me in the head, I say, "What??!?" "I hate you," she says again with equal vehemence.

"What did I do now?" I asked. (She gets like this sometimes)

"It's all your fault. I can't get them all and I ran all over the place, searched high and low, and still couldn't find them all."

I think I know where she's going with this.

I'm wrong.

"If you hadn't forced those books on me..." she sputtered.

"What books?"

"The Children of the Lion."

Okay, now I get it. Yes, it is my fault. She didn't want to read the books because she doesn't like the kinds of books I like. Of course, I like a lot of different kinds of books: fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, biographies, autobiographies, journals, mainstream fiction, women's fiction, horror... Well, you get the idea. But I am guilty here.

When I first picked up Peter Danielson's Children of the Lion I fell into a world I didn't know existed. I've always been fascinated by ancient history, but Danielson made the world of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia come alive. All the biblical heroes and heroines I avidly absorbed as a child were there in such wealth that I eagerly awaited the publication of the next book and the next and the next -- until I finally gave up waiting because the chronology of events had become, in my opinion, less panoramic. Of course, as my mother so aptly said, who would stick around for 400 years of bondage before Moses came to lead the Israelites across the Red Sea and into the desert for another 40 years? I would, but point taken. I might not live to see the whole series. I certainly didn't stick around after the 8th or 9th book anyway.

At least I understood why she hated me. She takes these things so hard. She doesn't let go and walk away as easily or as quickly as I do. I've had lots of practice. She was born in Alger, Ohio and didn't leave there until she married at 20, and although she did travel out in the world with Dad, she always came back to Ohio and settled down where I picked up and left and kept moving, especially in the past 10 years. They lived in Hilliard for over 20 years. I haven't lived anywhere more than two years at a time even when I lived in Columbus.

Yes, we're very different and I did indeed set her up for a fall. But I made up for it after she whined and complained that she couldn't find the whole series, some of which hadn't been written when I addicted her to Danielson's rich prose. I went online as soon as I pried the phone away from my burning ear searched and found all 19 books and ordered the first ten. She should get them in about a week. At a penny a book, it was a bargain. Too bad I had to pay for shipping though. It was still cheaper than buying all the books at cover price, so I got off fairly easily. She'll be happy for a while.

At least until she decides she hates me again for something else.

The last time it was because I live in Colorado and she doesn't. The time before that it was because I lived in a cabin in the mountains without people crowding my back step. The time before that it was -- well, you get the idea. She always hates me for something. At least this time it was fairly inexpensive to cure.

Just in case you're wondering, my tongue is stuck firmly in my cheek. Basically, my family envies me because I'm the spontaneous gypsy rebel and they wish they could be.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The audience

It's a good thing the wasp was trapped between the screen that doesn't quite fit in the window near my desk and the closed window or I'd have been out of here with the first sighting. I'm allergic and I don't feel like digging out my Epi Pen or going to the hospital today. I don't feel much like working either when the sun is warm and the breeze is a soft kiss on the skin that brings the scents and sounds of springtime through my window. It's hard to sit here most days but even more so today. I'd rather be doing anything that typing up doctors' dictations today.

Ive been taking short little breaks to check email and chatting briefly with the Evil One, and I read a post about the fact or fiction of blogs. That started me thinking about writers and their audience. Blogs/journals offer writers a way to interact with their audience in much the same way authors like Mark Twain did when they went on lecture tours. Authors and poets read from their books, poems or essays and basked in the warm glow of laughter, tears, outcries of commiseration and even boos and hisses. They connected with the audience and got immediate feedback. That is what is so seductive about blogging -- when people take the time to read what is written and stick around for more than a nanosecond.

Writers and poets need to write, to express their opinions, to vent their anger or display their sorrow, elation and emotions, and to interact with the rest of the world. Any writer who says they write strictly for him/herself and doesn't care if anyone reads is lying. We all want to touch at least one other person, one soul who understands what we have to say, or even one individual who disagrees with us. We are actors on a stage who pray for an audience. Even Emily Dickinson wanted people to read her poetry, although she hid it away in an attic because she couldn't handle rejection. Some writers and poets never develop a thick enough skin to take the criticism with the adulation. They are probably the ones saying they write for themselves and don't care if anyone ever reads them. But I'd bet that deep in their secret hearts they believe that some day someone will find their work, be impressed and make sure the rest of the world knows they existed.

Whether we write fiction or faction (fictionalized fact), we invest a great deal of who and what we are in those words. Think alternative universes or fairy tales or any matter of science fiction, fantasy or horror is devoid of the author's experience? Think again. Even in the most macabre and alien worlds you will find at least a piece of the writer and his experiences.

A friend and I talked last night about a young author who has written three books now and whose first book has been optioned by a movie company. She said he has a very vivid imagination and that his fiction is interesting, but the characters lack depth. He's 19. He hasn't had a chance to develop any depth. Experience and living is the only cure. Depth comes with time, circumstance and age.

I look back on what I wrote as a teenager and even in my 20s and 30s and I see the difference in the texture and life of the characters. They are more real, have more facets, more dimensions than they did when I first began writing at eight. After all, what did I know of life and living at the age of eight? I still have a lot to learn and my writing evolves as I experience more. It is inevitable, as inevitable as change. But I also crave an audience. I need to know that what I wrote touched someone somewhere -- whether they liked it or not -- that what I wrote meant something to them, sparked an interest, an emotion, an idea.

Writing is like any other form of art. It is about touch and touch is necessary to our continued existence and to our happiness. We need to be seen. We need to be known. We need to be a part of the world. To quote Susan Sarandon in Shall We Dance?: "We need a witness to our lives."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunny Sunday

It's Sunday and I feel like going outside into the clear cool spring day and not coming back until dark. I want to get lost on the streets and avenues and bask in spring.

The clouds look like a stippled watercolor wash of white against a cerulean sky. The mountain are purple and green and pale gold full of mystery and welcome. Squirrels are gnawing at the buds on slender branches dipping toward the green sprigged ground from their weight. Crows flicker between the trees, skimming the rooftops with an ebony flash. I need to get Walkman, throw my backpack in the laundry and get lost for a few hours.

I don't want to think about the laundry, but my backpack won't get clean any other way. I don't want to think about the dishes or vacuuming or cleaning or doing the work I know I should do today. I have paid my dues. I made sure the newsletter was finished, printed, picked up and mailed out and the PDF version has been emailed to the webmaster for uploading. My reviews are written and I have caught up on my correspondence and LJ reading. I finished Prime this morning and I wrote something for my other blog, complete with picture. I'm catching up here and getting back into the writing groove on LJ. Yes, I have paid my dues. Okay, so I still need to get the groceries and get everything ready for the work week running towards me at cruising speed. But spring calls me, spinning a siren's song that no wax can silence or mute.

Love is in bloom and the forsythia gilds slender whip-like branches throughout the neighborhood. I have movies to go back to Netflix and I don't feel like just putting them out on the porch. I want to walk them to the post office and take my time getting back home. I want to wander through art galleries and soak up the sights, sounds and smells in my little corner of heaven. I would like music to take with me but then I'd just forget I am out in public and sing along, scaring the tourists and having the area declared a disaster area when the cars crash from the cacophony. Still, the desire is there.

Okay, time for me to get moving. I have my music on, the shower is waiting and I have clean clothes. The sooner I get started the sooner I get back and disappear into the promise and wonder of my awakening world.