Morning Pages of July

July 7, 2023–So all seven bags of clothing are being shared with the community and that makes me feel good. Plus i get a “capsule” wardrobe, meaning I get to see and wear only those things that I love. And this frees me up. i am very happy about that. Now I need to go through shoes, tee shirts, pajamas.

And what about furniture in the house? Much of it does not fit the space it’s in. Work on that next. Kiva offered help as she has spearheaded the closet project. But for her it would not have happened.

So the morning starts. It all starts with using a real china porcelain cup for my coffee, the delicate feel in my hand, the soft clink sound of the cup as I put it down on the saucer after my first sip of the Peet’s Big Bang flavor, a morning call summoning me to wake up “the world loves you” kinda coffee. The porcelain looks and feels delicate, but it is actually very durable and strong, kinda like how I feel this morning.

Amazing animals caught on the Vico home camera: a raccoon, fat with fur hobbles to the water pond to drink at 3:34 AM, a large muscular deer chews up the apple I left in the planter at 4:44AM, a lone adolescent deer walks the path in front of our house at 5:55AM. It’s the same deer, I believe, that lost her mother last year, her body on the side of the road, likely hit by a car, or maybe possibly a mountain lion. Anyhow, she fends for herself now, but I’m not sure she is all there, since she was left motherless at such a young age. She always seems to be “wandering”. As an experiment, Bob had set the camera on the teak table, but apparently it is too high to capture the fox family, mama, poppa, and four kits, who strolled and frolicked along yesterday. It needs to be on the ground to capture their playfulness, we’ve learned. Will do.

Once There Were Wolves–Book Review

Once There Were WolvesOnce There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved being in the world described by the author. The tale, told through the eyes of Iti, a young woman biologist, evokes an aura of fable, or classic fairy tale as it unwinds the telling of three mysteries: a possible love connection for Iti with Duncan, the local police chief, a perplexing ailment plaguing Aggie, Iti’s twin sister, and an actual murder of a community member. Moreover, throughout the story, a theme reverberates: will Iti’s team be successful introducing wolves back into the highlands of Scotland, and if not, why? I loved that the author is not preachy as she unveils some truths about the world’s reluctance to embrace and preserve the wildness of nature, specifically represented by the wolves and the attempt by humans to extinguish their species. The book explores this violence making the reader yearn for a return to a more natural balance between prey and predator. We learn, for instance, that absent the wolves as predator, the deer have so denuded the forests that no new saplings will grow, resulting in fewer trees, upon which we humans rely for oxygen. Parallel to the violence involving animals, the reader learns about the violence inflicted by men against their wives and the repercussions that has upon the victims who are unable to recover from the trauma.
The characters come alive in the book, to the point where I felt I was communicating with friends as I read it. The mysteries resolve themselves in a surprising but satisfying manner. It is a book I will remember. I loved the feel of it–a soft touch to difficult topics.

View all my reviews

The Killing Hills-Book Review

The Killing HillsThe Killing Hills by Chris Offutt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book review, The Killing Hills, by Chris Offutt, Grove Press, 2021, 219 pages

In this short novel, the author takes the reader on a journey to the eastern hills of Kentucky where a woman has been murdered, and an unlikely brother-sister team are positioned to solve it. Mick, now AWOL from the criminal investigation department (CID) of the army stationed in Germany, has been called upon by his sister, Linda, now Sheriff of the small, insular Appalachian community, to assist in the investigation. Having served in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mick notes the similarity in the use of violence between the clans living in the hollers of Kentucky and those groups in Afghanistan. On a personal level Mick must also solve the mystery of who fathered the baby his now pregnant wife carries. Mick and Peggy knew each other as children, married at 19 and have spent the better part of their 12 year old marriage apart.
The author uses an array of creative language to both describe the environment in which the story takes place and the dialogue of the characters. Examples are:
“Mick left his sister’s house and headed east. The sun lay above the hillside as if resting, tinging the western treetops with flame…He made a sharp curve to a ridge that ended at a house surrounded by heavy woods. There was more sun here and he a briefly pitied people who lived in the hollers where it was already night.
He waited in the truck and watched for dogs. People unaccustomed to visitors in an unknown vehicle were capable of greeting a strangers with a weapon.”
And the dialogue conveys the uniqueness of the people:
“Your son is more or less why I’m here.
Which one?
Uh, well, Mick hesitated, your second boy, I reckon.
Oh, she said. Fuckin’ Barney. He ain’t here right now.
You call him that too?
We’re a nickname family. You know Shifty’s not my real name, either. It’s Camille Littleton, then I got married and my husband started in calling me Shifty because the only clothes I had were shifts my mother made. Now we got Cricket, Jimbo, Junebug, Sheetrock, Doodle and Rickets.”
Rickets. Ain’t that a disease?
Yeah, but he ain’t never had it. Just born bow-legged.”

I enjoyed reading this artfully crafted novel. The story is tightly woven and I read it in two sittings. The characters came alive. The setting exposed me to an area of the country I had only some scant familiarity with when I visited my sister, Jo-Ann, when she worked as a geologist for a coal company in West Virginia, and had just experienced one of their yearly floods in the holler in which she resided with her family. It is my understanding that this is the first mystery/thriller set in the eastern hills of Kentucky. I recommend it withs 4 stars.

View all my reviews

Self Talk To Get To Work

Learning a great deal about syntax and flow to create an art piece–a written one, using words, naturally. I seem to spend time, wasting time on Trump and his lies, disgusting example of human species that he is, along with reacting to the deeds of him and his cronies, the uglies of the Republican Party. Free yourself from this living hell and write your stories, creative soul that you are, perceiving good things where they are. Do not let them rent space in your brain. This too will pass, this time of unbridled immorality, politicos chasing money and power using out-in-the-open dastardly schemes to thwart citizen’s voting, removing drop-off poling boxes in Texas, hundreds of them, curtailing postal services, to name just to of their schemes.

Diary entry from April 15, 2019- Monday

What the hell is going on? Now Notre Dame in Paris is burning, giving me goosebumps, and not the good kind, the scary, unnerving kind. On top of our horrible political climate.

Going to lunch with Kathy this morning, for her birthday. Looking forward to our time together. Going to Della Fattoria, maybe take her over to Pet Pals Thrift Store for some bargain hunting. The hunt is what’s fun.

There’s a 50% chance of rain, must remember umbrella–this time of year, abrupt season changes, flowers abound. The apple tree looks like a lace umbrella, so full of white-pink blooms, Hope the rain does not interfere with the bee pollen exchange.

Tomorrow, Kiva arrives at Snoopy Airport. She hasn’t been here in over a year–two Christmases ago. Trying to explain to Bob the only part I hate about her visit, or Aaron’s, is that there is always the leaving part. When she left for college, a wound appeared in my flesh, it seemed. Then over time it healed and a callous appeared to protect it, but each visit re-opens the wound. Need to explicate this better–the sadness of a child’s departure from me, the mom, creates series of wounds, from the departure, a tear to the flesh, so it is felt.

You want them to grow and flourish, and flourish, and yet the separation is felt as a body tear–not unlike the separation at their birth, which happens for mothers the moment babies are born. How we all deal with this is a topic for me to further explore. Note to self.

Last night at one AM before falling asleep, as I reached up to put out the light, a weird thought occurred to me: Thomas Alva Edison, fellow New Jersey-an, did you really do us any favors by discovering the electric light built? Did you.

Tension Choosing Tenses

I learned something interesting while writing a flash fiction story yesterday. The story involved an office worker’s connection to her deceased dog. She says, “I miss him. His name is Velvet.” I spent a good amount of time deciding which tense to use. Should it be “was” or “is”?
If someone asks you what the name of your deceased dog is, you probably say his name was Big, or his name was Spotty. This is how I would put it if a hypothetical person asked me that.
Not so with humans. Over the years Bob and I have lost all of our parents in the same month, June, although in varying different years. Thoughts of them are especially in the forefront of our minds, as we reflect on each one’s anniversary day of their passing. When someone asks me about them, I invariably respond: My dad died; his name is Joe. My mom passed on; her name is Helen. Bob’s mom died; her name is Sarah. His dad died; his name is Meyer.
When referring to deceased people, I feel the present tense is the appropriate choice to use for their names. This seems to sound right because my connection to them carries forward into the present despite their having passed away. When I say their names are Joe, Helen, Meyer and Sarah, it reflects how I perceive them–as if they were still actually with me because in a very large sense, they are, surely in my heart and mind. And further, unconsciously I give credence to the notion that they still exist on some plane spiritually even after their deaths.
Not so with pets– though I’ve loved them with a tender heart when they were with me, my life has moved on without them, and thus I refer to them and their names in the past tense.
So my character in the short flash fiction piece presented a problem to me. Tilda is grouchy and sullen and clings to the memory of her dog in a human way because she basically has no one else in her life. Though deceased, he is still with her and the reverie she felt with him as her companion, is brought to life when she connects to a dog who resembles him. Hence it made sense for me to write, “I miss him. His name is Velvet.” I don’t know if readers will pick up on this nuance. But I surely hope that they do.

April 6, 2019- Ruminations on a Theme of Solitude

The nattering and chattering of birdsong surrounding me as I sit beneath the cover of the Monterey Pine, sipping my morning coffee, thinking about how everything seemed to flow too fast yesterday, today trying to capture my calm as if it were a fish and I need only cast my line into the brook to snag it. The air, cool with the morning wetness, the sun not yet fully awake behind the white duvet of clouds shielding it from hiuman follies. I too sit protected, sanctuaried away from all that, as if in a cloister communing just among the birds and the hustle-rustle of spring leaves dying to be born on newfound branches.

My Projects Will Never Be Perfect

I’m feeling really uncomfortable in a good way. I’ve run across a bunch of projects which I see are almost finished–among them, a white knitted sampler afghan, 17 of 20 squares done, which has lain dormant in my “handwerk”, sewing closet, for nigh on about ten years or so.  And to give myself a kick in the butt and get it finished I joined a knitting circle sponsored by our local Petaluma library. Six or so women gather in the morning once a week on Wednesdays to chat and encourage each other to knit away, and get stuff done. So today I dream about wearing heels and walking in a street with soft tar, my high heels getting stuck and sinking into the tar, requiring my extra effort and extra energy to pull each foot out and keep walking forward, ahead to my destination, which in the dream is apparently a bus stop, where I’ll await my bus to Brazil via New Brunswick. (New Brunswick is where I went to college at Douglass. The Brazil part? Maybe connotes fun, and Carnival to me, not sure.) Anyhow the tar part of the dream makes sense to me since inertia had set into the knitted quilt project, and even now seems somewhat daunting and overwhelming.  Inertia is defined in physics as “the tendency of a body to maintain its state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force”. For this project that external force would be me– and require my knitting three more squares, crocheting an edging around all twenty blocks, blocking each one individually to size them equally, and then sewing all twenty squares together– a bit like pulling a shoe out of tar.

On the other hand, by knitting in a group I have a sense that I will get the project finished. I notice about myself that I want to succeed and finish the blanket so that I can show it to my group and receive their oohs, aahs and their congratulations. Somehow this also reminds me, since I’m writing my novel alone, will I ever get it done?

Further, my knitted blanket project is demonstrating to me a very important fact: if I want to complete a project, I don’t need to achieve perfection.  Although I strive for it I may  have to live with a lesser result. Amen.  In square number 18, the one I just finished this week, I had confused one row with another and reversed the stockinette pattern for a series of rows with the inadvertent result that it actually still looks fine if not better, but it’s no longer the perfect pattern that was called for. I could have ripped out the six rows and redone it, but figured heck, what is my goal here? Perfection or completion” and so I opted for completion. The square will function very well as part of the blanket. It will warm the body it covers, and at the same time will remind me, the creator, that nothing human made is ever perfect, a touch of humility which actually makes me feel less daunted (anxious) about the task of overcoming the inertia built into the long dormant project and finally putting an end to it by completing it. Lessen learned. I’m a social being and I surely ain’t perfect. Amen.

A walk into the New Year

January 5, 2015- Journal entry. It feels really funny to be writing 2015 already. On the other hand, it feels so normal. Enjoyed our walk along Lynch Creek with Bob and Gigi, our standard poodle. There’s an encampment of folk who live under the 101 bridge over this creek, and they were playing quite a series of drum patterns, bongo-like rhythms drowning out the drone of tires crossing the highway pavement above, the whiz of air swirling from cars moving north and south, a sworm of vehicles zooming to their destination at speeds of 65 mph and more and below them this group of people, guys probably young, who even had a section of bamboo fencing installed so you couldn’t really see them, drowning out the noise of their movements, the drumming a noise made by fingers on stretched animal skins, far more pleasant than the  noise of rubber tires on asphalt. I wanted to give them a thumbs up or a Bravo but feared starting something. Like what? They wouldn’t wade the creek–now a foot or more high from the rains, and come over begging money would they? They were fellow human beings making the best of an intolerable situation, having no home, homeless, or roofless as the French call it, a less harsh condemnation of their circumstance since homelessness conveys a sense of soullessness, for what is a home except a product of our soul. a place to hang our soul, a place hugely protected by our forefathers and the Constitution makers. If we don’t have a  home, we don’t have a soul. Yet roofless conveys merely a sense of open-aired housing; one is not souless; just roofless. But these guys had a roof, the curved arch of he highway overpass. Yet it would be 37degrees that night. We were done with our several days of freeze warnings on my iPhone. but I wondered how they would get through the night. Would they build a fire? The pink-blue sky and the brown green of the neighboring fields signaled the sun was about to dive below the horizon. i pulled my scarf tighter around my neck and put on my gloves as we walked Gigi back to our Volvo.

I Won’t Be Marginalized

Something happened yesterday. It jolted me. And like a lancet pierced my emotional cloak to dig up the feeling I sometimes experience–that as a woman male society expects me to be invisible, my needs non existent. ( For example, give up your birth name upon marriage). In that moment I connected to the truth that most of our mothers and grandmothers have been marginalized over the centuries–their work and consciousness debased. And it sickened me. My stomach recoiled.  We’ve been “just housewives”, just “mothers”, “just quilters”, “just nurses”, etc, As long as our efforts have been seen as detached from bringing home the bacon and relegated to just frying it, our careers are viewed as unimportant up against the man’s career who is the one earning the money in the family.

What happened was this: Bob and I applied for a line of credit using our house as collateral. A safety net. Just in case. Or if we ever get serious and remodel the room above the garage in order to rent it out. I was checking over the papers since we were to sign them with a notary later that afternoon. The form  listed my husband, Bob, as signer, with his occupation and number of years, and me as co-signer- with no occupation or employment listed next to it. Granted, the loan was based on his salary, but i bristled at the alleged non-existence of my career, my work. Why should I be any different from a man who wants and gets recognition for his career or profession? I still consider myself an attorney even if retired, and certainly still a writer even if I make hardly any money at all at it. It’s not a hobby for me. It’s an occupation.

So I filled it in with a pen– Attorney/writer, 42 years, and initialed it. And I felt better for it. Move over Quicken Loans. I’m a woman and I’m here. Get used to it.