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Monday, September 23, 2013

Tuned IN!

I love music.  I sang all through school, and though I haven’t sung formerly in years, if you sneak up on me in my backyard while I’m gardening, you might have to endure my version of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess, or “Stormy Weather.”  You could catch me singing a tune from My Fair Lady, West Side Story or even a hymn in Latin.  All those years ago, standing up on risers, reaching for a high C, eyeballing the conductor while our voices swooped and fell like invisible birds, songs seeped into my pores.   At the end of those long ago performances, I felt like I could fly.

With that background, it may surprise you to know that I rarely listen to music.  I have 600 songs on my I-tunes playlist but I only reach for it once in a while.  I don’t crank the tunes when working around the house, and while sometimes the radio is on when I drive, more often I travel in silence.  I like to hear what is around me, the cark of a seagull, the wash of the sea, the scurrying of my own rabbit thoughts. As for writing, I know a lot of folks swear by their play lists, but I was afraid of the distraction.

Until last week.  A late bloomer always, I’ve just begun listening to Pandora Radio. What a luxury. That first time, I selected one of the most lyrical performers I know.  Next thing I knew, song after song of evocative music from similar musicians poured down into the depths of me.  I loved it so much, I sat down and worked on my current project while plugged in to Pandora.  Two thousand words later, I was a convert. 
In less than a week, I am more than eight thousand words further along on my manuscript.  Generally I'm pleased if I write five-hundred words a day.  But with the ear buds in, I swear inspiration came more quickly, the words jostled each other in my brain in their rush to get out.  The answer to a huge hole I’ve been pondering for months presented itself to me as I wrote and wrote and wrote.  It was if the music floated me on a river through a forest lush with creativity.   

Suddenly, I understand writer sound tracks.  The music carrying me along fits with the theme of my story and in the morning I wake up now, not only anxious to write, but to tune in, too. Today, it seems to me that a song reaching to the depths is the same as a poem, like umami for the mind.  Or a blessing--a combination of thought and nuance that floats its way down like a feather and brushes your heart, just right. 

What do you listen to when you write?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Game Called on Account of...

I have a blog post started.  I do.  It's probably seventy-five percent there. But I can't get it to finish right. It's Tuesday for gosh sakes and I've got nothing here on Middle Passages to show for it.  So, it's going to be a photo week.  Not even very good photos...all off the I-phone.  But the variety gives a gist of some of the stuff that's been going on around here.  Mostly, I'm reading and writing, which is going well.  It's just the blog post writing that's not.

The scene of a retirement party.  Okay, if anyone ever asks, I'd be delighted to retire right here!

Had to send this guy back.  But a couple of his grown up brothers made for an impromptu supper on the grandparents' deck.  Summer is not over yet folks!

Sentinels in the fog.

Over looking the 9/11 Memorial Service

I'm late in posting this.  But it needs no words.

Did I say it's not Fall yet?  Tell it to this guy.

The garden is just about done.  This fella isn't helping. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to his species?  Some say Swallowtail butterfly, others Monarch butterfly. Never seen one like it before, but for a caterpillar, it's pretty cool.  Just not on my parsley.

Hope you are all having a great week.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Post 650 (Yikes!), The Reading Quest

My sister-in-law gave my husband and me lovely Christmas presents this past year— handmade bookmarks and custom designed book journals for each of us.  I’ve kept a running list of books I want to read for years, but this book journal also includes a classification for books read.  The blank pages in that section presented a challenge to me at the end of 2012 and I gave myself a goal to read fifty-two books in fifty-two weeks.  I’m sure many of you read more than that, but for me, a book a week is doable, without adding undue pressure. 

The journal has been acting as a conscience of sort.  Two weeks ago, when I counted up the books I’ve read and discovered I was behind in my pace, I hustled off to the library and upped the ante.  Fourteen days later, the four books I finished brought me up to thirty-seven books in by week thirty-seven. During that time, everything other than writing time took second place to my quest to get back on target.  TV, Facebook, online Scrabble all had a rest.  That was worth it right there.

Now, I have fifteen books to read by year end and that doesn’t sound like much.  I still have plenty of options on my TBR list, but I’m thinking I’d like to go out with a proverbial bang.  Do any of you have an Oh-my-gosh-I-couldn’t-put-it-down-had-to-stay-up-late-to-finish-it book you’d like to recommend to me?  What’s your favorite book? And if you have time in the comments, would you mind telling me why?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rumination and Revelation - IWSG

 This is my September post for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  It's all about writers helping writers here.  To read other participants, or to join in click here.  BTW, this is the TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY of IWSG!  A big shout out to Alex and his co-hosts for making this happen each month!

Over my eight week writing course this summer, I learned a tidbit that has taken me for quite a ride.  Are you ready for this?  

Thinking is writing, too.  

On week days, I get up early so I can write for forty-five minutes in the morning before it's time to leave for work. I have to set an alarm or I’d still be sitting there at midnight. When it goes off,  I.  So.  Want. To. Keep. Going.  But I can’t.  I drag myself off to the place that pays our medical benefits, yearning to be back in front of my keyboard.  But it’s been better lately because I took home that little nugget from class.   

“The time you spend  thinking about your story counts,” our teacher said.  “If you can’t be writing, you can be thinking.”  

The story I’m working on has holes.  I’m aware of it.  Heeding the advice from class, I spent my insomniac hours, time behind the wheel and waiting in line at the grocery store, playing “what if?”  And last week, just as I was pulling my car into a parking space in front of work, the tumblers clicked into place and a missing piece revealed itself.  

Writing is so much more than words on a page.  Conjecture, research, daydreaming and formulating, they all matter too.  A story can’t come to life without all of the above.  Most recently, my morning writing has involved fleshing out what I learned this summer while thinking.

So scrap the guilt.  The next time you feel bad about not having enough “writing time,” don’t worry.   


Monday, September 2, 2013

Low Tide at Little Harbor

The Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney who died last week, spoke of poetry as "an ark of the covenant between language and sensation."  Those words themselves are poetry.  I publish this try in honor of him.

Warm taupe widens late summer.
Spare green, the marsh grass
wearies under bottle brush tops
that loom, and broom
a lowering sun.
Pluff mud, that organic punk,
a primal slough
slurps at sandals,
halts ascent to distant diggers
forking a brown sugar bar.

In the Kelly clean of spring
You pray not to arrive here,
to forestall the leach of color,
this antiquing air.
But on the marsh,
the season holds its place,
a breath between new and old.
A slackening tide.

Amid the muting of the cicadas’ bleat,
August yellows a reminder.
We only recognize how much we love,
after a long goodbye.

Liza Carens Salerno 8/2013