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Monday, November 17, 2014

New Eyes

I left work the other day in my sweats and sneakers to discover a friend similarly clad, on her way for her afternoon constitutional.  My plan was to walk off a major chunk of the ten thousand steps a day suggested by the heart-healthy class I’m taking, so we joined forces. I tend to switch my route up to forestall boredom, and as I described my planned course, which would end up on a path behind a “private property” sign, she responded, “I’ve never been there.” The property in question is a retreat home for Jesuits overlooking the channel leading out from our harbor.  When I get there, I sneak under the chain hanging from two stone pillars marking the entrance to the driveway, and hike the edges of the property far away from the main house, convinced God created this overlook for everyone.  This time I enlisted my friend.  “Just don’t get me arrested,” she said.

It was hard to believe it was November.  By the time we arrived, the afternoon sun highlighted the estate across the water (owned by descendants of the John Quincy Adams, where I no longer dare to trespass although I have, but that’s another story). 
Walking with my friend that day, I saw the view from her eyes, new eyes, the kind I had when I started exploring around town five years ago. The sky was wide and clear, the tide low, the flats filled with seagulls and terns pecking in the mud.  Across from us, the marsh grass on the barrier beach has whitened to straw.  I think of November as dull and drab, but on this day, it was anything but, the muted colors, grey, taupe and rust reminding me that every season has beauty as long as we allow it to seep in.

The harbor is mostly empty now, except for the working fleet, a handful of lobstermen who keep their boats in all year.  And as we stood on the steps of an empty stone boathouse, they motored in--a sight I would have missed if sometimes I didn't disobey "No Trespassing" signs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Frozen (and not in the "movie-everyone-loves" kind of way)

This is my November post for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a lovely group of writers helping and inspiring other writers.  To read more from this amazing group, click here.

Here’s what’s open on my desktop right now.   
  •  Draft ten (but really draft seventeen because after a while I stopped numbering them) of my novel UNDER THE APPLE TREE, inching ever closer to the day I dare to send it out.
  •  A draft query letter for UTAT I reread every few days and tweak.
  • A synopsis for UTAT.  Same deal as above, it's in minor revision mode.
  • An Excel spreadsheet of all the agents who ignored I sent my last novel to. 
  • A new Excel spreadsheet for UTAT, with agents and contact information to which I’m still  adding. In an attempt to avoid a response that says, “Thanks, but this isn’t my type of project” I’m trying to be very discriminating this time. 

It’s all sitting there waiting for me to do something and I can’t decide if I’m frozen (and trust me, I am ), because UTAT isn’t ready to send out yet, or I'm just scared to let this one go.  And then, there’s timing.  The upcoming holidays make for a distraction.  Do I want to send my baby out to someone who is trying to clear the decks before vacation? 

This book is as good as I know how to write it. And yet, is it enough?  Some days I wake up thinking that the fact I’m questioning it means it’s not.

Listen to your voices, I say to myself.  So I wait.  And tweak.  And wait some more.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week by Week

My husband joined me for a walk last Saturday, and we ended up down by the harbor, where a new home for the town sailing club is taking shape.  It’s a shingled building with porches and decks as well as a high widow’s walk, accessible by steps from the outside. So, of course we climbed up there.  We’ve seen all manner of views of our harbor over the years, but being this high, in this place was new.  Our muted seaside autumn was on display, as well as a cloud line marking a potential bout of rain.  After taking a few photos, we continued our walk, optimistic that the storm would hold off.  It didn’t.  We returned to the car soaked.

This weekend, only the oaks and ash remain covered with leaves.  A mid-week nor’easter stalled over us for two days, hammering us with 60 mph gusts and pounding squalls.  By Friday, our yard was littered in branches.  Out in the woods behind us, a leaning pine tree finally gave up, splintering yet another tree on the way down.  Our driveway was so covered in wet leaves I was tempted to shovel them, like snow.  

But then, as always after a big storm like that, the air freshens and clears.  A week later, I took another harbor walk.   

 Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Release Day - A Lizard's Tail

Happy release day!  Today Bish Denham releases her story, A Lizard's Tail featuring a sassy lizard who travels on an adventure outside of his home and comfort zone, while learning lessons in humility and the importance of friendship and family.   Bish has a musical style to her prose that makes the reader feel they're following right along during Marvin's quest to save his homeland from a feral cat. I finished this delightful story in one go.  I only wish my daughter were young again, so I could have  plunked myself down on a rocker and pulled her onto my lap, so we could experience this story together.


Here is Bish's blurb:

When a feral cat threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall, Marvin knows his destiny has finally arrived. But how can a vain young lizard get rid of such a dangerous enemy?

A Lizard's Tail is available on Amazon.

Congratulations to Bish!

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Past Present

We had a weekend away, taking the five-hour ride back to our college campus where Mr. Middle Passages and I met, for the wedding of his roommate's daughter who also attended our alma mater. Roommate's wife also graduated from there, and the four of us have a long history together.  Too many stories to tell, but let's just say this wedding and beautiful beginning, in a place that holds so many heart-shaping memories delivered mega doses of nostalgia.

We hadn't been up there in nine years and things on campus had changed a lot.  Other things, not so much.

For starters, the view of the Adirondack Mountains across Lake Champlain, from Burlington, Vermont still reaches down and plucks deep inside of me.

There is the view from across campus.  That hasn't changed.  I used to be able to see this from my dorm room.  Imagine those peaks covered with snow, as they were, for most of the school year.

Back on campus, there's a word garden now.  They've placed all manner of words etched in stone for visitors to arrange in contemplative and meaningful ways.  This was the first set I saw.

Okay.  I couldn't resist.  Our daughter will be making caramel apples for parents weekend at school.  I heeded the advice from the picture above this one, and sent her this photo as inspiration.

The view along Route 7, in Shelburne, VT.  That hasn't changed either.

On the way back, we stopped in my home town and took a walk to stretch our legs.  Here's a place where beauty remains constant.  So many memories...I learned to swim in this lake, but the little beach where I learned is long gone.

Keeping with the "way back" theme, we had dinner with all manner of family in the house where I grew up.  Brother and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins catching up cousins from as far away as Australia, and another long walk after  dinner.  When we woke up today, I downloaded my pictures, and found this.

 My contribution to the word garden.  Seems fitting to end this way.

Wishing you a wonderful week.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Extra Benefits

Back when I started what I call my new phase in life, post layoff from a long-term employer, I walked.  A lot.  Two or three, sometime four miles, five days a week.  I took my camera, often I listened to music, on occasion the only thing I listened to was my own brain.  Whatever.  For the longest time, I felt like I was seeing the world for the first time.  I stumbled on so many things I’d never experienced before, inspiring things.  Things that helped me to write.

But then, as is so often the case, life got in the way.  Bottom line, in the past year, I've barely walked at all.

Until two weeks ago.  My employer offered us an opportunity to take part in a twelve week heart healthy class for free, and I signed up.  During the first class, we were each given a pedometer, which we are to wear every day.  Now, here's the thing.  It may be called a pedometer but it's more like a conscience.  Knowing I have that thing strapped to me has forced me to be aware of how much (or little) activity I’ve been getting.  To that end, I’ve started walking after work. It eats into writing time, but I guess I call that a compromise.  I mean, you have to be alive to write, right?  The first week, my cumulative count was nineteen miles.  As I write this, for the second week, I'm approaching twenty-two.  That includes all the walking I do during day. But still.  From zero to twenty in under two weeks. That's what I call traction.

And so, during my afternoon perambulations, I’m back to taking pictures, albeit with my cell phone instead of the camera.  Not great quality, but the results offer up another reason why walking matters.  I get to see cool stuff.