Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Philadelphia

Sometimes there is sun; other times, you have to create your own light.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cradled

From the minute your feet swing out of bed in the early gray light, your muscles begin a dance with what's below. Heel rolling, toes flexing, weight shifting from side to side, there's a subconscious push against what's underneath: carpet, wood, grass, dirt.

You spend your days walking upon the earth -- desk to chair, bedroom to kitchen, stairway to floor, one place to another -- with muscles stretching and pulling, each footfall pushing down then springing up from the solid ground. You are secure in the knowledge that you are strong. Your skeleton and muscles and nerve endings will work together. You are in control.

But then a day comes when you don't feel quite so strong. You are tired. You are sore. Instead of holding yourself against the earth, you let the earth hold you. Bones and muscles relax and sink downward, and you feel grateful that you are cradled by something larger, something much more expansive than your own will, your own might.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Head, Hands, Heart

Hands:
Your hands are firmly placed on a yoga mat these days. After a hiatus of nearly two years (during which you injured your sacroiliac joint twice, had one bout of the flu, and two tussles with bronchitis), you are stable enough in body and mind and lung and muscle to return to your practice.

Twice a week, sometimes three times a week, you drive to the next town over, park in the lot, and make your way to the studio, mat in hand. Though you've only been to this studio a handful of times, you feel at home on your mat. And really, all you need is a floor upon which you can place your mat, something solid to push against, a small spot on the earth to hold you up, and the air around you to breathe.

There on the mat, you are balance and strength and clarity. You are connected there, whether mountain or tree or warrior or crow. You become one with the world around you, even as you stretch your boundaries while stretching your body. It feels good.

Head:
Paint is on your head, or at least on your mind. Weeks ago, you decided that the bathroom must be painted -- and it would be painted in wide black and white stripes. When the Gingerbread Man found a most desirable shower curtain, the Periodic Table, you dithered over the decision to paint stripes. While black and white stripes would probably be fine with a colorful Periodic Table shower curtain, it's not quite the look you were aiming for. So you consider painting a black and white mural. Or a stylized checkerboard. Or something.

In the meantime, you rip out a rickety storage cabinet and allow the bathroom to descend into chaos, in an attempt to push you forward into some sort of decision, some sort of progress. You begin priming the walls, which are currently a very saturated Mediterranean blue. Almost as soon as the paint hits the wall, you realize that you have the wrong primer. This primer is for new drywall, not finished surfaces. The paint beads up on the surface of the wall.

Tomorrow, you say. Tomorrow you'll return the primer, get the right primer, and someday soon this bathroom will become functional again: primed, painted, shelved.

Heart:
You seem to be full of the wrong words. You type the wrong words into messages. You say the wrong words to friends. You think the wrong words. You're mired in wrong words. You don't trust yourself to show up anywhere in the coming days for fear of popping your size 6 1/2s in your mouth yet again. Even when you say nothing, you're certain it's the wrong thing. You wish you could just send out a giant apology to the world: an airplane spelling out "Sorry! So, so sorry!" in puffy white contrail floating across the sky. You only hope that some small good deed done in time past will make up for your verbal ineptitude, and that someday soon the right words will take residence in you again.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dipping and Crunching

When you were eighteen, you applied for a study abroad program in Italy. On the day you received the acceptance letter, there was no one home. You wanted to call someone to celebrate, but couldn't reach anyone. All that excitement and anticipation was bottled up inside, and you felt like you could fly.

But this was long before the days of social media -- long before the days of email even.

So you sat at your desk in the dormer of your attic bedroom, with tortilla chips and salsa, dipping and crunching, dreaming and planning, having a celebration solo.

This morning, twenty-some years later, you complete a big thing.

A really big thing.

And you feel like celebrating.

But there's no one home.

And though you could shout it from the rooftops at any number of social media sites, you think you'd rather celebrate solo.

So you sit at the kitchen table with some homemade pita chips and tzaziki, dipping and crunching, dreaming and planning, and feeling very much like your eighteen-year old self.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Head, Heart, Hands

March

Head
Wanderlust.

Each spring, your mind shifts to Italy, to Roman skies, to marble mosaics, to churches and monuments. You itch to fly away, to see something exotic, to walk upon ancient roads, to breathe in air that has wound its way in and out of spaces for millenia. You check airfares. You check vacation schedules. You think in Italian, in Spanish, in the words of any other language you can conjure up, though not much remains of anything but English.

When you were thirteen, your grandparents took your sister and you to England for a summer. It was a celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary, and they let you join in. They rented a flat in Surbiton, Surrey, the upstairs of a beautiful house. It seemed palatial to you, coming from your 900 square foot post-WWII urban home. You lived upstairs from a single mother and her three boys, who must have thought you were terribly American. You suppose you were.

You navigated London and its surrounds via bus, tube, train, and foot. You don't remember many specifics about that summer other than it was formative for you. That summer indelibly printed onto the landscape of your memory the call of place. You visited cathedrals and castles, ships and museums, and within those places you encountered stories, histories, natural and man-made beauty, and traditions that all came together in a way that called to your heart.

Since that time, you spent a semester in Siena, Italy, a month backpacking through Europe with your sister, ten days on another study abroad in the Lake District and London, a week in Rome, a week in Oxford, six weeks in Seoul, South Korea, and a week each in Istanbul and Greece.

And each spring, you crave more places, more possibilities, more stories. Some springs, you get to plan an adventure. Most springs, you settle for an adventure in your backyard. But that's ok. The sky is impossibly blue today, the maple trees are tapped, and there is magic in the woods.

Heart
Anniversary

This month marks your nineteenth wedding anniversary. Soon, you will have spent more of your life having known and loved your husband than not. Each day is a gift; each year a miracle. You adore your husband, and you're so thankful you've had so many years together.

Hands 
New Spaces

Since finishing another draft of The Lady's Lot, you have reconfigured your desk arrangement. It is now: (1) clean, (2) organized, and (3) a standing desk, with optional sitting space. Hot-cha.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Changdeokgung

Never worry about the delay of your success compared to others, because construction of a palace takes more time than an ordinary building.









































Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Words

Words, words, words. Normally you would post a photo today. A photo of some place you'd been, some place you'd lived, some place you found beauty or pattern or shape or color.

But today is a day for words.

Today you will finish a draft of a third novel. It's a good novel, a funny novel. It is not finished yet, but it's getting there.

And you want to finish it, so today is a day for words.

You will sit at your desk, working in twenty-minute spurts until the bus comes delivering the gingerbread boys, and you must stop. You will sit, rewriting the ending, deleting and adding and tweaking as the snow comes down outside, swirling through the treetops, landing on pillows of snow.

And all will be well, for the end is near.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Bermuda





















"It was a great cave in the midst of a city; and what were the altars and the tinsel but the sparkling stalactites, into which you entered in a moment, and where the still atmosphere and the sombre light disposed to serious and profitable thought?"
-Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Ellis Island

“Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

"You owe me."

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.” 


-Hafiz

Monday, February 3, 2014

What Is on My...

...February...

Agenda
If you know me, you probably know my deep and abiding love for the most important holiday in February. It's a day that we anticipate year round at the Gingerbread House:


"Wake up, woodchuck chuckers! It's Groundhog Day!" The gingerbread boys don't share our enthusiasm, but they will someday. How can they not? BING! 

Winter has always been a very long season in the places I've lived. Not perhaps Russian-long, but long enough to suspect that there is nothing under the two feet of crusty snow but more ice. Long enough to have forgotten what sunlight feels like. Long enough to think you're bound for the same destiny as the dinosaurs. Truly there have been some years when I felt Phil Connor's words shoot like an arrow into my soul: "It's going to be cold. It's going to be grey. And it's going to last you the rest of your life." Icy slush, cold toes, leaking boots, frozen windshield wipers, runny nose, fierce wind, and the shoveling. Always the shoveling. Spring, at times, seems a lifetime away.

And there, smack dab in the middle of winter, sits an absolutely ridiculous holiday. How can anyone not appreciate the value of an ROUS seeing his shadow? 

Basement Floor
A box. A large laminate box awaiting the arrival of sixteen day-old chicks. Fifteen of them are surplus stock and will be a mix of brown-egg layers. The final one is an Easter Egger, the mutt of the chicken world who has been bred to lay colored eggs. We are hopeful that more of these chickens will stick around than our last bunch. 

And did I mention we're excited?

CHICKS!

Nightstand
I'm prepping for School Library Journal's Battle of the Books. While I have loved following along in years past, this year is a bit special, as I know three of the contenders: Julie Berry (ALL THE TRUTH THAT'S IN ME), Rita Williams-Garcia (PS BE ELEVEN), and Kathi Appelt (THE TRUE BLUE SCOUTS OF SUGAR MAN SWAMP).

I've known Julie since I was thirteen. She's one of my dearest friends, and I'm so thrilled that her work is being recognized. When Julie first began writing ALL THE TRUTH, she shared the first ten pages of it with me in a hotel room at a conference in Nashua years ago. I was immediately engaged by Judith's voice (or lack thereof), and wanted nothing more than for her to hurry and finish writing it, so I could find out what happened. I hope her novel receives some serious love during the BoB.

Rita is faculty at my alma mater, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Though I never got to work with Rita, at least I got to dance with her. The woman can dance. She's a fine writer, too. :) You can't help but fall in love with Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, just like you can't help but fall in love with Rita.

Kathi was my first advisor at Vermont College. When I read her first novel, The Underneath, I truly wanted to throw in the towel and take up chopping onions for a living. It was just so good. She is full of wisdom and compassion and graciousness and heart. And she always says to write like your fingers are on fire. She's been a true mentor to me, and her words always make my heart sing.

This year, I'm trying to read all of the books so I can have an educated opinion. I still have ten books to go!


Mind
The other night, I lay wide awake, as is often the case. Sleep does not come easy for me, and many nights find me comfortable under the down, but very awake. I lay there with thoughts firing like spark plugs. I was tired, and knew that I needed more sleep, and yet sleep simply would not come.

I tried to shut down my thoughts, tried to turn out the light, so to speak. As I was forcibly trying to shove my thoughts away, squash them down, fold them up into a compact square, make them leave, I realized I just needed to let them go. I needed to let the thoughts float up into the air like bubbles, or drift away on ripples. Let go.

It's not easy to mentally let go of things, just as it's not easy to physically let go of things. One woman I know hangs onto her possessions like they're a life raft in a hurricane. The gingerbread boy often races back to me when the bus is turning the corner, just to give me one more hug. I have a six-month's worth pile of magazines that I should just toss, but instead they sit gathering dust for that day when I'll get around to reading them. I suspect that day will never come.

And letting go of your manuscript? 

That's hard. 

I have released bits and pieces of two separate manuscripts this past month. Part of me wishes I had not been so hasty. The other part knows that sometimes, you just have to jump.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Athens

"There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination.
Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments,
cellularly, like a laborious mosaic."

-Anais Nin

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Travel Tuesday: New Hampshire

"I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person."
-Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Insadong

A Korean tin man?

"When a man's an empty kettle,
He should be on his mettle
And yet I'm torn apart
Just because I'm presumin'
That I could be a human
If I only had a heart..."

-The Wizard of Oz




Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Athens

"God enters by a private door into every individual."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

What Is on My...

...January...

Agenda
Nothing yet. Hah! I love New Year's. I love the open, empty expanse of a brand-new page in life. I tend towards synesthesia, and visualize the year sort of like a ladder. December is very far from January--visually, as well as emotionally and socially. I anticipate hibernation: days spent revising in front of the fire, lemon-poppy seed muffins just out of the oven, a pot of herbal tea at my side, snow falling.

It's nice that I live in a fictional world, isn't it? More than likely, I'll be pulling my hair out about  a scene, scarfing leftover Christmas chocolates, drinking day-old bottled water, and pulling a wool blanket tight around my shoulders because I'm freezing. However, hope springs eternal. Maybe there really will be lemon-poppy seed muffins.

Back
An ice pack. A year ago, I sprained my sacroiliac joint after a weekend of thinking I was invincible: running a 5K, shimmying up a rock wall, heaving 50 lb bags of grain over my shoulder. I came undone when I tried to close my dresser drawer the next day. Pop. Pain. Physical therapy.

This past weekend, we hiked along the Mohawk River with my mother-in-law. I was careful where I stepped, but not careful enough. My foot went through the crust of icy snow up to my shin, and my back completely seized up. When I finally got my muscles relaxed a bit, I realized the problem wasn't with my muscles; it was in my sacroiliac again. How could it be that I fell six inches and now am bound for PT again? Sigh.

Ice, ice, baby.

Mind
On our road trip to New York over the holidays, we listened to three audiobooks: Liar & Spy; Bridge to Terabithia; and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. When Bridge to Terabithia finished, I remarked that that had been one of my favorite books, a book I read time and time again as a child. My husband asked me why. I couldn't answer, other than it made me feel something. Each time I read it, I would hope that this would be the time that Jess would invite Leslie along with them to Washington. But it never was. The ending was always the same. And I always cried.

Why was I drawn to that book? Why am I drawn to certain books now? What makes a book good? What prompts a reader to return to a book, when life is short and books are plenty?

I suspect that is a question I will ask myself over the course of my career, a question I will pose with each book I write, a question I contemplate even now as I approach revisions.

Nightstand
Agatha Christie. Yes, I should catch up on the Newbery contender lists, but instead I make Dame Agatha my bedfellow. I'm not certain why it is that I seek comfort in fictional murder (see above); perhaps it's the clever way solutions are teased out of seemingly impossible situations. Perhaps it's the 1920's vibe. Perhaps it's Poirot's mustaches or Mrs. Marple's knitting needles. Whatever the reason, I'm diving in.


Roof
Snow. Lots of it, with more coming. I don't mind, though, as I like the landscape monochromatic. I would be snow-shoeing in it, if I could walk, curse you sacroiliac! 

Resolutions
My long list of resolutions seems to rally around the edges of things, looking forward as well as looking back, shifting through boundaries of time, through borders of place, and into perspectives and points of view.

Time management, genealogy, parenting, travel dreams (Reykjavik? San Juan? Mumbai? Beijing? Yosemite?) The world is a big place, and I love it.

My life is big; my dreams are big. My goals are big.