Thursday, February 25, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Something to Say

Last month I taught a journal-writing class to a group of women at my church. Though I practically cut my teeth writing in my journal, I no longer write regularly. I justify myself by claiming that I spend my days writing other things, which absolves me from any sort of journal-writing guilt. Honestly though, at the end of the day I feel like I simply have nothing left to say.
The details of my life are mundane:
I eat, I sleep, I work. Repeat.
Of course, there are variations, but not many.
I eat, but I eat the same things on a weekly basis. (We follow a set menu at the Gingerbread House because of picky eaters.)
I sleep, but not much because my body keeps a monk’s schedule, awakening usually at 3 or 4 am.
I work: I write, I shovel, I cook, I clean, I drive, I organize.
These days, there’s little that’s noteworthy but for the snow, and even that’s lost its newsworthiness, as it simply keeps coming.
But then two weeks ago, I found myself in a situation that I had to write about:
I am sitting in an examination room at the Seacoast Cancer Center. I am not here because I have cancer. No one in the waiting room knows that though, and I feel like a fraud. There are people with real problems out there — one woman wears an eye patch, one came in a wheelchair. One man carries a cane, while another carries what I think must be a chemotherapy bag.
And here I am, because of anomalies in my blood work at my yearly physical.
The room I’m in is depressing, even though they try to make it otherwise. The walls are painted sage green. Three walls in a lighter green and one in a darker green. Everything else is khaki neutral: floor tiles, chairs, examination bed, sink, countertop. I, on the other hand, wear an incredibly bright pink sweater. I stand out.

There’s nothing here that’s particularly interesting. No major plot points, no great descriptions. So why did I feel compelled to grab a notebook out of my bag and write?
I suspect it was because this was something out of the ordinary. That is, it was out of the ordinary to me. It was a different beat in the regular rhythm of my days. So I wrote it down.
However, what I see as ordinary might not be what everyone else sees as ordinary. Is that not one of the reasons why we read? Is that not one of the reasons why we seek out diverse books? Sometimes we want to read about someone whose life mirrors ours. We need understanding. We crave validation. Other times, we want to slip into the shoes of someone entirely different and experience what constitutes their “ordinary.” We need a universality of emotion, even if the details are different. That is our humanity.
I value those stories, whatever they are and wherever they may take place. They are a connecting link in time and place and situation from one person’s heart and soul to another person’s heart and soul.
I don’t believe in ordinary. I believe in connections.
Originally published at Quirk and Quill 3.2.15

Friday, February 12, 2016

In the Woods

In the woods across the stream, there is a pile of bricks. There are 79 bricks. I know there are 79 bricks because the gingerbread boys counted them once when they were much younger, when counting things was cool. The bricks are not close to any house, nor are they close to any structure at all. There's no barn, no sugar shack, no hunting cabin. Nothing. They are in a no-man's land of pine and ash trees, brambles and firebush. How did they get there? Did the deer bring them, nosing them along until they formed a neat stack? Did the ants go marching one by one (Hurrah! Hurrah!), carrying them on their backs? Did the rafter of turkeys fly them in? Do they mark the spot where treasure is buried? Are they there as some post-apocalytic stash? I have questions.

In the woods past the old beaver dam, there is a tree with BUTTER spray-painted on it. There is also a tree with FLOUR spray-painted on it. EGGS, too. This grocery list is in a vast area dubbed the Marshy Swamp by the gingerbread boys. It's marshy. It's a swamp. No one goes there except in winter when we snow-shoe over the frozen ground, weaving in and out of cattails taller than we are. Who needs the reminder to pick up butter and eggs from the store? The chipmunks? The woodpeckers? The beavers? And why did they spray-paint it on the trees? Is it an art installation? Is it a permanent reminder of where one's priorities should lie--with the basics? Is it a subliminal suggestion to go home and make cake?

I have questions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Yesterday, after a solid day of BIC [Butt-in-chair for the non-writers out there], my brain was fatigued. The little decisions of revision -- To be or not to be? To keep or not to keep? Is this a separate scene or part of the same scene? Does it matter? -- immobilized me for any other decisions, like what to make for dinner. While most normal people would just order pizza or go for Chinese, the choices for pizza delivery and Chinese take-out in these parts are scant. I can't over-use them or I lose my sole ace. Sole ace. Solace. It's pretty lame when your sole ace/solace is take-out. No wonder writers tend to live in big cities. There are more options for take-out.

Anyway, I turned to Facebook. Let's crowd-source dinner decisions. And Facebook came through. With one single note that I had cauliflower, I got recipes and links to aloo gobi, stir-fried rice/cauliflower, cauliflower alfredo, roasted cauliflower with tahini and yogurt, cauliflower and bacon baked with gruyere cheese and green onions, curried cauliflower, Buffalo cauliflower bites, gobi manchurian, cauliflower in an omelette, and sweet and sour cauliflower. Also, my very first suggestion (thank you, Chris) was for bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. And just for kicks, there was also a link to baked potato soup.

All of which sound amazing to me. Sadly, I didn't see most of the posts until *after* I had already begun dinner, but because cauliflower is on sale at the grocery store this week again, the suggestions may still see my table.

Since I had bacon in my freezer, and since one of my gingerbread boys won't touch cauliflower but will inhale bacon, I decided upon bacon on the one hand and cauliflower on the other. Normally, I make roasted curried cauliflower, but I had a recipe for sauteed cauliflower with garlic and lemon. With one lemon in my hot little hand and one package of frozen bacon, I figured this was good enough. Some nights we feast. Some nights we have food. This was a night for food.

And that's ok.