It was the kind of day when the sky presses low upon the earth, urging its denizens into attentiveness – every sound just a bit louder, a bit closer, the outlines of the everyday carved into distinctly sharper focus against the backdrop of something…unfamiliar.
A ceiling of clouds hung close and heavy, locked in the restless wind so it had no escape, the tortured air twisting, wrapping, weaving its witchcraft around the physical world, drawing life and breath in closer…closer…until that darkest cloud of anticipation fell.
The peal of a bell forced its way through the choking thickness. Neither the happy expectation of a doorbell nor the warm beckon of a church carillon, its song a strong and persistent welcome home nonetheless.
A half-balled wad of paper sailed across the room – whoosh – into the can.
The sun moved with purpose past the windows of the room and as the light waned, so did his confidence and page by page, chapter by chapter, words sailed across the room, the tightening wads a clear indicator of his mounting frustration.
He looked at the clock; bloody hell, I’ve only got an hour.
He rolled his chair across the room and began reclaiming the discarded prose from the trash can page by page, chapter by chapter, lovingly smoothing and stacking each one in its proper place and collecting them with a black shoelace.
A sharp knock and a voice at the door: “Sir? I’m here to pick up your draft, sir.”
He opened the door, thrust the wrinkled stack at the messenger and sighed, “Here – tell them to start with this.”
Sunday evening again. My least favorite time to write a TToT post.
Why, then, does it seem that I’m always doing mine on Sunday evening?
I thought I might skip this week because I have been sick. The yearly mandatory bout with bronchitis. I tried not to let it get away from me. But it did. It always does. I think I just have to concede that I have a chronic bronchitis thing and be done with it.
But let’s commence with the thankfulness because, honestly, I have too big a headache to give this much of my energy. Sorry. That’s just the way it is.
So first off, I’m thankful that I’m writing this at all. There, I said it.
Frozen homemade spaghetti sauce with cleaned and prepped fresh broccoli, all courtesy of our wonderful CSA membership. This means my family got a good dinner and I didn’t have to do much work (or cough all over it) to get the job done.
I’m thankful that I didn’t tell off someone who really irritated me this weekend. Considering my level of crankiness due to being sick, that’s not bad. And I’m so very grateful for my mom’s friendship and guidance in that situation and in all others, always.
I have not made much tangible progress with my NaNoWriMo projects this week once we got past day one. But. I’ve been planning and plotting and doing some reading and research so as soon as I kick this germ out of me once and for all – or at least enough that I can concentrate on writing – I’ll forge ahead and hopefully catch up. And hey, I didn’t go bonkers and decide I’m a failed writer because I got behind the eight ball, like instantly. OK, maybe once. A little. But I moved on.
Here’s a little convoluted hypo-gratitude for you: I’m thankful that I’ve had bronchitis enough times to know exactly what my doctor would tell me to do and that I had all supplies and treatments on hand already. I caved and started the antibiotic this afternoon, but it was clear that we had reached that point. And I’m glad I had some at the ready in the medicine cupboard.
For hot tea and the Hub’s amazing coffee and all other manner of warm drinks to soothe my body and soul, I am grateful. For a pile of good books to plow through curled up in bed or on a chair or on a couch. For enjoying a beautiful autumn day (twice) from just inside the sliding glass doors while plowing through books. For my Hub and Zilla for being perfectly happy to have an at-home weekend while I’m sick and for the fact that we were planning that anyway since last week was crammed full. For the best snuggles ever with my Zilla. For tissues.
The demon smirked quietly to himself; maybe if she didn’t find it so thrilling to keep feeding me, she wouldn’t be in this position. But he liked her here – needy, never satisfied, desperate for the next volume and the next to feed this gorgeous compulsion he embedded in her brain.
He was always near, his breath in her ear sometimes the faint rustling of pages sliding smoothly against one another as they are turned, sometimes the staccatoed slap slap slapping against one another as they are hurriedly thumbed and flipped, his scent a familiar heady mixture of vanilla-anise-fruit-almond-wood, redolent of long-forgotten secrets tucked away behind eyes that still sparkled from out of a leathery face.
It began with a simple experiment: to keep a list of all the books she read in her lifetime, something that could be passed on to her children and later on to theirs so they might share her literary experiences and add their own.
When she discovered the empty leather notebook on one of her used book store digs, she knew it was the perfect vehicle for her legacy. Little did she know that within those fine papery leaves and scarred leather cover lived a demon, born of words and waiting for just the right soul to free him.
Soon her simple experiment became an obsession with reading all of the words ever written and with each dollar she spent on more books, she lost another friend, another loved one, another moment of her life.
You’re in so deep and you’ve lost everything, she felt him whisper, but none of it matters. You have your books now and you have me and we never have to leave this room again. Keep buying…keep reading…
Stick with me, my darling angel girl, and we’ll go everywhere…
First, let me say that I most definitely do not enjoy writing my TToT posts on Sunday evenings. If I’m here on a Sunday evening with fingers to keys, it means either A) I had a hard time figuring out what to put on my list, B) I was out doing stuff all weekend and never saw my desk or keyboard, or C) I plain old just didn’t get to it.
Whichever answer is true – and this week it’s B – I still don’t enjoy the Sunday night write because it just feels so forced and deadline-ish.
But. I’m doing it still.
The tremendously short version of my list of thankfuls is that we’ve had a wonderful weekend enjoying the completely not-fall-like weather (mid 70s the last two days – bizarre) and taking a little weekend getaway that we love. Fun. So I’m thankful we were able to do that.
I’m thankful the port-a-johns at the farm where we visited a fall festival today were unbelievably clean. I kid you not. And I’m glad we got to enjoy a nice very not-crowded afternoon with Zilla and a cousin at said fall festival. They had a good time.
I’m tired as can be, but I’m glad for that, too, because it means my body can get up and move around fairly well and my muscles got used in good ways. I’m also pretty thankful for a little ibuprofen and some tea and a comfy bed on which to put up my feet and recover.
I’m pretty thankful that no one in this TToT crew is going to mind that this is short (although is it really at this point?) and haphazard because hey, whatever you do is fine and this crew does not judge.
Finally – this is the thankful where I finally get around to explaining my – I’m thankful to have a (sort-of) plan that may help me reach some of my personal and professional goals. I’m about to kind of disappear for the next month. See, I’ve decided to go ahead and give NaNoWriMo a try again. Last year I put a project in the system and got exactly nowhere. This year I have three projects in the works that I want to make significant progress with and so I’m doing it. I have all sorts of reservations about NaNoWriMo – the obligation versus desire factor where writing is concerned, the actual quality of anything banged out in a 30-day mad dash, the realistic potential to sit and write that volume every single day… But you know what? I need these three things out of my head and in any form of semi-half-baked completedness on screen and page.
So this space may remain empty many days. It is my hope to continue posting semi-regularly. I may not get around to read or comment or share at anyone else’s page for a few weeks. It is my hope that I will because I love reading all of you. My house probably won’t get cleaned very often if I’m writing that intensely. It is my hope…. Pfft. Who’s kidding whom? I wasn’t going to clean anyway.
I may or may not “succeed” in producing anything for NaNo. But if I’m absent in the online world, let’s assume it’s because I’m getting something done. You know where to find me if you want or need me and I’ll pop in at least for a bit – you know that much is true.
And now I have to end this and move on, mostly because I’m falling asleep at the keyboard and it is time to go finish out my evening, put my kid to bed, and relax.
Pretend I left you with a snappy and entertaining close here.
From the time he was old enough to look up at the evening sky through an empty toilet paper roll clutched in his hands, all he could imagine was being up there among them and not stuck here on Earth. The night skies offered Jack a place to focus his attention, to imagine and dream, and to escape from his sometimes miserable life.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone when he decided to study astronomy, but after a while, Jack realized it would never be enough. Although he loved his studies, he just couldn’t see himself stuck in a planetarium or a classroom for the rest of his life. Jack decided the theory and standard career was fine for now and immersed himself in learning everything he could about his beloved stars, but what he really wanted was to get in the cockpit of something – anything – that would fly and get him up there among them and away from all of the bullshit he knew down here.
When he applied for the Academy, Jack never dreamed he’d actually be accepted, but somewhere along the line, when he was concentrating on being anywhere but home, Jack somehow managed to become a serious student and get his act together. Hours spent on homework and at the library were the excuses he made to spend as little time as possible with his so-called family, and they paid off big time when that acceptance letter showed up – his ticket out of there.
He threw himself into his education and training with a genuine excitement that would send him hurtling at top speed through the next few years. No more making excuses just to get away – this was for real, for him, and he needed to make the most of it to compensate for the years of disappointment and failure that characterized his childhood. Jack flew through the ranks to become the youngest astronaut on record and signed on to help manage one of America’s earliest space station living communities.
“There’s a surprise for you, Dad,” he thought. “I managed to accomplish something great and find a way to get as far away from you as possible.”
Life on the station was exciting and busy and Jack had worked so hard and waited so long to get here. He was motivated, determined, and successful. He was a top scholar, a seasoned pilot, and an eager adventurer. He had won honors and accolades for so many things, was appreciated by so many people, except for one…the only one he had ever wanted to notice and the only one who never did. But that was part of another time, another season of his life and Jack had to shake that off and leave it behind; he was ready to join one of the permanent space communities and get as far away from his past as possible.
Then it all fell apart.
A freak accident left him with two broken legs, a pile of broken dreams, and a severely broken spirit.
After a long period of physical and mental recovery, he was finally living out the dream he had cultivated. Life on the station was exciting and busy and Jack had plenty to occupy his mind between acclimating to life in space and helping to manage the community.
He never thought about how much he missed Andie, never thought about all the time they had spent dreaming and planning, dancing under the stars with the sounds of the night their only music. He still couldn’t understand how or why she loved him after the way he treated her when she showed up dripping wet for his first physical therapy session; he definitely did not deserve her.
But this…now…this was nothing like life on the station and nothing like the life he imagined all those years ago when he stared up at the twinkling stars from his tent in the backyard. This was the aftermath of broken dreams and a broken world and for the first time in a long time Jack had no idea how to fix any of it.
Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less.
As you can see, this week’s post is far from six sentences. I wanted to play a little catch-up and see if I could incorporate the last several prompts that I’ve missed. I believe I have 24 sentences here, drawn from the last four prompts:
RANK, STAR, SEASON, and FIX.
Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more stories from some wonderful storytellers.
Jack’s mind rocketed back and forth through time grasping at fragments of memory as he lay trapped inside his own pain, half hoping for death. His only escape was to linger in moments when he was happy, when he held Andie close and breathed her deeply as though he could draw her inside of him. The fire in his lungs reminded him of his present; he saw her beside him, head bent in her hands, but remembered her a different way.
He remembered her head resting against him as they listened for hours to a scratched old Meat Loaf album while waves crashed on the beach. Lyrics floated up to his consciousness, replaying the soundtrack of that summer when it seemed they had nothing but time…”time until the end of time…”
And now here they were at what must be the end, but he couldn’t lose her again; heaven can wait, he thought, even if it means being with her here in this hell.
“Does that damn dog ever stop barking?” Tim grumbled as he threw back the covers and stuffed his feet into the moccasins sitting at the ready beside his bed.
The neighbors bought the dog back in the spring and for some reason, it hated the husband – not that anyone else on the block could stand him – and barked at him constantly. Tim thought for sure that after the jackass moved out the dog would finally shut up. But no – it barked every single night even after he was gone. He stormed down the stairs, tired of being ripped from sleep every night, and caught a glimpse of the hall clock…was it always at the same time?
It was only as he yanked open the front door that he saw the lights, blue and red flashing in an eerie silence that was oddly juxtaposed next to the dog’s insistent barking while responders pulled a white sheet over something in the driveway and led a man in cuffs to a waiting cruiser.
Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to read more stories from some wonderful storytellers.
Precious few words found their way to this space over the last several months – a mere dozen posts since the first of June, and none of them in August. It’s been a strange and wonderful period in which my mind has been filled with words and ideas, but my published page has remained empty.
As I look back over the last few months, I realize it’s a period I can only describe as fallow.
A fallow field is plowed and harrowed, but left unsown. Since ancient times, farmers have utilized the practice of leaving fields fallow in order to improve the quality of the soil and allow for rejuvenation. Doing so results in more fertile soil and, it would logically (and hopefully) follow, healthier and more abundant crops.
I wonder if this process is also true for the creative imagination. Think about it. The term fallow is often used to describe a long period of time in which a writer, musician, or artist produces no new work. It is a period during which very little happens – or in which little seems to happen. But progress is not always marked by tangible or visible means. Perhaps allowing creative energies time to lie fallow may produce similar benefits – rejuvenation, fertility, and abundance. And just as the farmer makes a conscious choice to leave a field uncultivated, the choice to allow a period of creative rest should be no accident. It must be an act of will, an intentional short-term investment in order to yield long-term benefits. There may appear to be no activity, but beneath the surface there is work being done.
It has been a while since I have shared my words with anyone other than my Self. Rather than fear this period of inactivity, though, I have welcomed it. Rather than see it as a sure sign of failure, I believe it is a sure sign of great things to come. Even more than a period of rest for my mind, it has been a period of silent and unseen cultivation for my heart and spirit as well.
I look forward to sharing the fruits of this unseen labor with you.
I worked on a thousand things all week, produced results, and yet I somehow feel as though I have accomplished little because none of my projects can be moved to the “finished” list.
But maybe finished does not always equal successful (or vice versa) and just being in process is quite a good thing all by itself. To be about the business of living, doing, and becoming is a noble endeavor indeed. It is far too easy to slip into the trap of thinking about what we should have done and I know so many of us do it, at least once in a while. I am really trying to remain focused on what I am doing with my life, not what I or anyone else thinks I should be doing.
The Hub, Zilla, and I are taking advantage of the summer to enjoy different experiences – so much so that I’ve managed to miss the last couple of TToT link-ups (Oops and sorry!) (But #sorrynotsorry, you know?). We’ve been to the library, read to therapy dogs, watched a movie under the stars (almost) right in our own backyard. Our township shows movies in the local parks and we just happen to live adjacent to one of the locations. That was mighty cool. Zilla’s been to summer enrichment classes and swim lessons. I’ve been working on my kids’ book series and purge/clean projects at home. The Hub has projects at work and home in process. Now that Zilla’s a bit older, we’ve been introducing her to the wonder of board games and card games for the older crowd. Last week she learned how to play Life and Monopoly (Lord of the Rings version, thank you very much) and how to play Solitaire the old fashioned way – with real cards.
That all kind of adds up to a whole lot of thankful right there. But it’s only the beginning…
I’m quite glad that I’m sitting for a few minutes with a hot cup of the best coffee in the world by my side so I can get this post written in the first place. Thanks, Husband, for the best coffee in the world. Always.
Keeping with the Husband theme, he deserves a spot at the top of the list always because he is among the best of men and the best of husbands. He stands by me completely through the better and worse and I am thankful to fall asleep and wake up next to him each day. Well, assuming he makes it up from his technology den before falling asleep, that is. But even then, I can be thankful for the entire bed to myself (and the three Rottens) for a few hours. Silver linings.
Time makes my list this week. Summer allows me to spend unscheduled, unhurried time with my daughter. It doesn’t matter what we decide to do (or not do), but we are enjoying the time together. I think the highlight of my summer so far was the day she said she loved grocery shopping with me because we get to be together. I think her point was that we were doing something necessary, a chore, and still enjoying each other’s company. I love having her along and I will miss that come fall when she is back in school. Of course it does take longer and cost more with her helping…but so worth it. Plus, she’s learning in the process. We read labels, decide what foods are good choices, plan meals based on what is available that week, practice math and money skills, and so much more.
I have also enjoyed some alone time with my Husband seeing concerts and eating a few meals sans kid. This week we’re getting an extra big dose – we escaped for a quick daytime sushi lunch while Zilla was in school, had dinner together while she was at a social thing at her karate school, and tomorrow we have dinner and a concert date. The couples-only time is so important for so many reasons. Of course, the mom guilt creeps in a bit – are we spending too much time without her? Does she feel neglected? I think we’re good, though, because she is always busy in her own right while we’re out and is always in the care of people who love her. She’s beyond excited to spend time with my Sister and my Mom at my sister’s house tomorrow and I love that.
I am amazed at what a strong and beautiful girl our Zilla is becoming. This week she dealt fabulously with some kid issues, earned her red belt in karate, and made her own breakfast. The unthinkable has happened – all the baby is pretty much gone from her and what remains is this lovely and fun person who needs me to help just a little less than she used. to. It’s bittersweet for sure. The only moments I catch a glimpse of her baby self is when she’s asleep, totally relaxed, and those sweet little cheeks take on that soft baby chubbiness for a few hours. I think that may be the real reason moms get up and check on their kids fifty times a night – for just one more moment of that.
We have experienced the beauty and wonder of nature this summer. We’ve spent some time hiking at our mountain (sadly, those photos are down the composting toilet with my phone) and on our last trip saw more and closer raptor sightings than we have on most of our trips. Awesome. We watched a pair of blue jays defend their nest from a redtail hawk who decided to perch on their lamppost and visit for a while. Fascinating. Sadly, Zilla and I saw a fledgling bird in its final moments of life as he died in our driveway. Unfortunately, we were too late to help him and he wouldn’t have survived the trip to the nearest wildlife rehab facility. We talked about life and death and I was glad for the opportunity for lessons the situation provided. We’ve watched sunsets and moonrises, enjoyed gorgeous summer days and watched truly fierce-looking storms roll in.
I am so glad we have a share in our local CSA farm. We love our farmers and how they run things. We love the fresh, local, organic produce each week. During CSA season (for us it’s usually June through early November), I love planning our meals around what arrives from the farm. It makes me so happy that the Hub and Zilla are willing to try new and different things and that most of the time they like the results. I love how the array on my counter top and in my refrigerator inspires beautiful, healthy meals. Pinterest, of course, is a great resource for ideas.
Of course, there are always smoothies as well. This was one of the most beautiful looking and delicious that I’ve made yet. I think it was kale or spinach, mixed berries, cucumber, water, and flax seed. Oh, and peach! So good.
I received a sweet memento in the mail this week from our Listen to Your Mother leaders. It was a nice way to remember such a great experience. I was reminded what a cool thing that was to do. I believe that people and experiences touch our lives at particular times for particular reasons, even if we may not know exactly why right away. I’m certain that being part of Listen to Your Mother was one of those scenarios. There are over 500 videos to enjoy from this year’s shows (by all means check them out – they’re wonderful), but here’s mine. I loved sharing this story so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll share it again here. Be gentle, OK? I was recovering from a horrible upper respiratory thing complete with laryngitis and it was by far the WORST camera angle on me ever.
I am glad for plenty of time to read my always-growing pile of books. Between what I already have on the shelf, what I’ve recently acquired from the bargain table, and the public library, I have no dearth of material. Are we friends on Goodreads? We should be. Find me over there. I’m sure I can put a widgety thing on my front blog page, but I’ll have to figure that out later today.
I am glad for the company of cats when I am here all day by myself. These guys are loads of fun. I have to give Cat One a little shoutout here for taking his meds like a man, so to speak. A few months ago, you may remember, he had some intestinal issues and now takes a kitty laxative twice a day. The stuff is a nasty sticky liquid and he hates it. He often spits it out and drools it all over himself and all over everything. I called our vet and they contacted a local compounding pharmacy to do his meds in compound form so it can be flavored – are you ready – like chicken. Yup. So when I tell him it tastes like chicken (which I have been for three months), it’s actually true now. He seems to be accepting it better than before and most of it stays in him rather than on him, so that’s progress.
I guess taking a couple of weeks off makes for one very full TToT post! That’s it for me today. My coffee cup needs to be refilled. The house has grown a bit dark because the rain and storms have taken over once again. I love the sound of the summer rain. We’re going to spend our rainy (and disgustingly humid) summer afternoon teaching Zilla how to play Dungeons and Dragons. So if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere I need to be.