Home   |   LCS Prints Store   |   About Me   |   FAQ   

Monday, January 28, 2013

In Spite of the Cold

Here’s the thing about where we live.  It gets chilly most winters, sure.  But there’s no guarantee a cold spell will descend long enough to form ice on the pond down the street.  Some winters, the skating club perched on an old millpond on the outskirts of town doesn’t open at all.  Unlike northern New Hampshire or Vermont or, say Michigan or Minnesota, when the opportunity to lace up the steel runners and fly across the rutted ice arrives here, it’s fleeting.  So the frigid temps we had last week, combined with the brilliant sunshine Saturday afternoon and forecasts of a warming trend conspired to provide something like a textbook day for skating--and, for cold weather photography too. Only, I was not alone. 

At the skating club where I headed first, inside, I knew a wood stove would be churning a dry heat.  After framing a few pictures of folks gliding across the pond in front of it, I planned to warm my cold hands with a cup of hot cocoa.  But, nope.  Cars parked every which way around the worn red building.   A row of SUV’s lined the road about a quarter mile in each direction.  I couldn’t find a place to park.  Scratch that potential image of Americana.

At Lily Pond, the ice fishermen were out.  I pulled into the water plant, the only safe place to leave a car.  Pick-up trucks lined the driveway.  The one available place from which to take a non-obstructed view photo (I'm not tall enough to see over the reeds) meant climbing through the snow and I wasn’t wearing the right boots.  I headed toward a tiny street on the other side of the pond…but from that direction, I couldn’t see the fishermen and the sun was dead on.  I got skunked there too.

As the late afternoon sun prepared to drop behind the tree line, I drove toward the harbor, hoping for that golden light that colors everything in sepia tones.  Lobster boats floated amid an Arctic slush of sea water.  Powdered snow squealed underfoot as I climbed up the wooden ramp to the shuttered yacht club.  I got a few pictures off before deciding icy salt water may be one of the coldest looking things in nature, but it was the polar wind blowing off that water that caused the real sting. 

With aching fingers, I climbed back into the warm car and steered toward Meeting Pond on the common.  Even after almost 21 years, still there are times I am awed at the classic composition of New England our town conjures up.  This was one of them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

So There!

Last week my daughter said to me, “Mum, you don’t seem like you’ve ever gone through a mid-life crisis.”

I snorted.  Then, accepting it for the compliment it was, I answered.

 “Well, I’m not sure, but maybe losing one’s long term job at the age of fifty and writing my brains out for four years might be what some folks consider a crisis.”

“No, really.  You know what I mean.”

I guess I do.  So far, I haven’t felt the need for a facelift (although some help with my eyelids would be nice).  I don’t dress in inappropriate clothes (just sloppy ones), I haven’t taken to hitting the bars or seeking out unsuitable relationships, nor have I found myself tense or overly emotional. I haven't pulled up in a red Camaro and I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time bemoaning what has passed, or longing for what I’ve missed.

So I guess, in that regard, I’m doing rather well.

The pink slip they handed me back then, came packaged as an opportunity for reinvention.  As a result, I immersed myself in a craft I adore, which has shaped me and tendered a release for the times life does offer up challenges.  This defining practice of self-expression has led to an inner knowledge and confidence I would not have considered possible four years ago.  In plain English, I’m pretty sure it’s the writing that’s kept me together.

If this is my mid-life my crisis, where do I sign up for another?

Monday, January 14, 2013

In With the Tide

My daughter and I took a walk down by the water last week, unaware of a new moon working its magic by way of astronomical tides.  Once in a while, the ocean draws back so far, things you see all the time take on new appearances. 

On one of my favorite walking routes in the next door town, we look from the seawall to an immense hill of rock off shore, where a steel spike waves an American flag.  The banner is always there, sometimes more tattered than others.  I never gave much thought to how it is maintained, assuming someone gets there by boat. But on the day of our walk, the tide was so low, a long, straight, stone-strewn path led directly to it.
Given the right conditions (and trust me, January cold does not offer them) we could have walked out to the granite monolith.  Delighted it could be possible to “walk across water” to visit a place we never thought to reach under our own power, afterwards we drove to the beach in our own town.  There we saw a similar display…the tide so low a sandbar projected out to a rock that up until that moment seemed completely off limits.  

The next morning, she and I found ourselves back in our neighboring town.  There shops line the harbor and normally, we look down from the parking lot to docks floating far below.  A long steep gangway is the only way to get down to them.  After completing our business, we headed back to the car when my daughter exclaimed, “Look at the water!” 

At first all I saw was a vast puddle.  It took a moment to realize the pool was the ocean.  Via the pull of the moon, the water had risen to the level of the parking lot.  With no wind or storm, it crept silently across empty spaces toward the clump of cars parked in front of a restaurant, including ours.  My daughter checked her I-phone and determined we had reached exact high tide.  No worry for oblivious patrons munching on eggs and omelets, the flood was about to turn. 

Hopping into the car, we drove down roads threading through mirror waters. The sea lapped at the side of the road.  Swamped marshes reflected a grey winter ceiling and still salt ponds reproduced wrinkled images of resolute cottages guarding a barrier beach. 
Perhaps folks who live right on the water see this degree of transformation all the time.  But as I thought of what we witnessed, I recognized two key things:

Goals that seem impossible to reach often need nothing more than then a routine change of tide,


Take a breath when things seem ready to swamp you.  After that, it's likely they'll recede.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In Love Again

Those of you who have been with me for a while may recall I spent twelve weeks a few years ago  completing the lessons from THE ARTIST'S WAY, a Spiritual Path to Creativity, by Julia Cameron.  Whether you buy into the word spiritual or not, the book is chock full of suggestions and methods through which to open yourself up to the inspiration locked inside.  Without Julia, I’m not sure I would be anywhere near to putting the final touches on my second novel. 

While working through the readings and assignments, participants are requested to complete what the author calls Morning Pages—three long-hand pages written as soon as you wake each day.  There is no requirement on subject matter, punctuation or editing.  It’s likely you may never read them again (although she does require it partway through the twelve lessons and I found some jarring insight). Essentially, Morning Pages are a brain dump to help clear out the excess garbage, allowing you to start the day fresh and clean.

This autumn, I felt things slowing down for me.  Perhaps you’ve noticed my lack of presence here on Middle Passages.  I’ve been writing, but I’m getting close to finishing my second book and struggling with the story at the beginning of a third.  I tussled with a query letter, giving too much credence to that nasty little voice asking, “What’s the use?” and I became a little afraid all my industry was going to grind to a halt.   In truth, it was time to dare myself to move forward.  In that vein, I purchased another Julia Campbell tutorial:  WALKING IN THIS WORLD, the Practical art of Creativity though I confess. I have yet to make it through the first chapter.  But Morning Pages are a part of this program too, and I’m a week into them.
Last time, I cheated.  My daughter was still in high school and I was already rising at 5:30.  Rather than forcing myself up earlier, I got up, showered, made her lunch, ate my own breakfast and then sat down with my pen.  This time, I’m following the guidelines.  As soon as I wake up, I turn on the light, stick one of my husband’s extra pillows on my lap as a desk (he leaves for work very early) and reach for my notebook. 
Each time I’ve completed my pages, I’ve felt a sense of peace upon getting up from the bed, as if I've already realized my primary goal of the day.  Even if the “real” writing I’m supposed to do goes poorly, or not at all, or if I struggle during the hours I spend at my paying work, I look back over the river of time and know in those predawn hours, words streamed out.  A purple notebook filling with blue flowing script bears witness. I’ve completed twenty-one pages so far. 
It is as though, while completing this morning ritual I pare down to my elemental self.  There's no story being told, no ark, no layering, no characters to flesh out, no conflict, no resolution, no audience.  It's just me, a lined notebook, a ballpoint pen and a growing reminder of the joy that abounds whenever words pour onto the page.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Loaded and Almost Ready

It's a new month in a new year and time for IWSG.  Happy New Year to you all.  To read posts from other participants, click here.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been what you’d call a late bloomer.  I failed to gain any confidence of note until I entered college.  Still lacking self-assurance, post graduation I jumped from one under-challenging administrative role to another. 

Five years into this merry-go-round, a boss in the national corporation I'd joined, offered me a promotion.  This put me on an unexpected growth path and a rhythm developed.  I’d work in my new role for three or four years and though I wasn’t looking for it, they’d promote me again.  I’d be scared to accept the new responsibility...in truth once to tears, but each time I stepped into the new position, I’d come to understand I already knew how to perform in the job.  After repeating this cycle a couple of times, I actually sought out a promotion.  That time, an offer was extended to an external candidate, and of course, that hurt.  But when she left within the year, they popped me into the vacancy and progress continued.  After a long period in this steady growth environment, I ended up in a solid, middle management position in which I excelled, and a message sunk in.  Put your head down, work hard and success will come.  Ask for it though, and it might not.

So here I am today.  For the last four years, in my methodical way, I’ve written my brains out.   One novel sits in the proverbial drawer.  After several reader critiques, the revision process on my second novel is nearly complete.   Currently, it undergoes extensive editing by someone whose opinion I value more than any other…my husband, Mr. AP English.  Once I input his changes, the manuscript will be as good as I know how to make it.  I’ve written a solid draft of a query letter.  I’m digging through Publisher’s Marketplace.  

In short, I am pretty darn close. 

This time however, it’s up to me to muscle myself up to the next level.  No one is going to come looking for it.  The book is never going to get out there unless I take steps to make it happen.  Like the little engine; I think I can, I think I can, even though my stomach turns inside out when I contemplate the size of the hill in front of me. 

Metaphors aside, it’s getting close to trigger time. What has it all been for, if I don't try?  

That's why I'm calling 2013, "The Year of the Risk."