~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Friday, December 30, 2011

Warm Winter's Light

Sunshine and warmth in winter.
How truly wonderful this alternate environment is.
Delicious in its tastes of sun-tea, 
brown-sugar soil, 
blue-corn skies 
and rays of golden sun warming my exposed toes.
I love not wearing any shoes ... 
this is the place to do it nearly year-round!


The concrete walls surround me in the back yard, 
as they delineate yards everywhere,
yet I see the open sky, 
hear the birds, 
watch the mesquite that hangs 
gently moving over our border, 
a bee hurries by intently, 
and I adjust to the beautiful starkness here 
so different from our former home in Maine--
surroundings even in dramatic contrast 
to the vegetation and landscape of nearby Tucson.


When walking down the long paved road yesterday with the dogs, 
who trotted along on their short legs 
sniffing the air and watching everything in rapt fascination, 
I recalled words spoken before we moved here-- 
saying how I liked Nature to be all around on my walks, 
and then arriving to realize the seeming emptiness 
of this location divested of the abundance of Nature. 
Yet not really. The dogs know more...
What is "nature" after all? 
I see it/Her all around when my eyes were opened 
from within outward, 
the thin grasses, 
the stubborn mesquite, 
the resilient birds who sing in joy even here, 
the glimpse of the huge black-tail Jack, 
an occasional almost-spectral coyote crossing a road, 
and so much more spread out before me, 
stretching so very, very far 
without confinement of barrier tree lines 
or constantly rolling hills. 
Gravel and sand, minerals claiming their right to be here 
reflecting back the miners' supposed claims upon them. 
Always slightly squinting against sun glare 
in spite of dark spectacles, 
the tension of skin reacting with arid space,  
creating creases near the eyes more rapidly than in 
dimmer lit environs settled in mists and clouds and shadows 
more often than not. 
Nature is all around me here, 
She simply wears fewer decorations, 
less clothes upon Her gorgeous tanned body. 
I join Her in the delight of near-eternal sunbathing,
drenching my essence with light during the day. 


Yet at night, pull blankets overhead, 
snuggle into cocoons of warmth because 
as soon as the sun drops over the horizon and 
we tilt away from its glow...brrr... 
a match dropped down a deep well. 


I still marvel at the contrasts--
is it any wonder that I am like a kid in front of  candy store 
eagerly waiting for the door to open in the morning 
so that I can go satisfy my taste for that sweet sunlight? 
I step outside instead of inside. 
Out into a world of brightness and subtle gifts 
where nothing is ever taken for granted by 
Her indigenous people or the native beings who 
crawl, walk, hop, fly and grow. 


As I continue settling into the experience of 
living in this gorgeous-ugliness of desert survival--
over-grazed, over-farmed, abandoned when depleted 
of its meager precious topsoil by those who were greedy and oblivious--
accepting what is,
I smile more, 
I admire more,
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to explore 
an exposed world along with my now-revealing-themselves 
depths previously unknown. 
There is an exquisite aura of vulnerability 
here where nothing is hidden. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We'Moon Rebirth

Rebirth.
Not just in the Spring but in each moment as life brings changes from an instant, one to another, and again.
Birds fly in peace as my heart opens in gratitude, swelling with the earth, the sky, the shortest day as it goes by and begins to grow again in a new cycle, never the same twice.
Grateful for Her transitions that show me how to begin again, to be reborn.
I say Grace as my heart opens and we all join hands in Unity across time and space. 
Light shines through, stronger each day, honoring the night while also welcoming the light of reflection.


Change. 
Rebirth.
A year in retrospect that has been even more full of change than usual; although what is usual--is it only more full of change because so outward and obvious? perhaps every year is full yet often subtle and I miss the changes?
I'm grateful for the changes that have carried growth in ageless hands of blessing.
Grateful for the love and commitment shared with my beloved.
Grateful for the experience of moving--to know and learn a new land, a new dimension of Mother Earth, Gaia, as She spreads Her arms wide offering a unique landscape--a new palette upon which to paint my path.
Grateful for the faith and courage She brought into our hearts so that we could know we would be provided for.
Grateful for this house that has become a home, and is sheltering family; encouraging love, compromise, giving and allowing.


I say Grace for the abundance of beauty and wisdom that surrounds me every moment when I open my eyes, feel Her presence in the world of form through which Her light shines and grows.
I'm grateful for the pause of increasing darkness that enfolds and reveals the Truth within so that the flame can be seen all that much more clearly, flickering, bending, rising and ever glowing, deep red in the Core of Her Love.
I'm grateful for Her teaching of cycles and seasons on the grand scale as well as the tiny; to see my own life ebb and flow each day, each minute, reflecting the outer glory of Her gorgeous bright warm days and clear cold dark nights where the stars never seemed so bright before.
Silhouettes unfamiliar of cactus and distant mountains, of dry riverbeds seldom flush, of a silt the color of Her dried blood that seeps into my the cracks of my heels and presents a new perspective of rebirth; as Dormancy spreads yet Light also grows.
I say Grace as I turn my face to the sunrise, feeling Her loving smile feed mine. 


Grateful for this new home, in a new place, brimming to overflowing with opportunity.
Grateful for rebirth in every second.
Easy to feel deep gratitude whenever I pause because I am alive.
All I need do is look within or around...
Within I feel love and peace; I feel a body that is aging and that has quirks but I FEEL and that is a blessing of life.
Around I see beauty everywhere, in Gaia's creations, and those of Her myriad creature beings, but also in that which is created by humans from tiles on floors to quilts on beds, all are so beautiful.
Grateful for the gifts of Nature in the animals who share my life and the wild ones I admire from afar, as they all embody freedom and delight in each moment...these "Guardians of Being."
Grateful for the food abundant here and now, knowing that its presence is never a surety in a world on the brink of massive change that could come in a second or a month, a year, a decade, or, Goddess willing, never in destructive harshness devouring.


Life can change in an instant, it does change continually, and so I am grateful in my core for Now.
Being present is a gift I didn't appreciate when I was much younger looking 'out there' for fulfillment...and yet grateful for that journey of youth for it brought growth and a bits of wisdom each moment of the stumbling steps.
Truly, reasons for gratitude are everywhere, and mind-boggling were I to try and list everything I'm grateful for.
So, I am simply Grateful...for life...birth, death, and rebirth in every moment.
Blessed Be
_________________________
Contemplative writing prompt from We'Moon iPad app 2011 (image above).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sky is Home

She kneels upon the earth, after swooping, falling, her legs spread to brace herself, balancing, opening her feminine core to the energy of the Divine Mother.
A creature of the air that transcends and integrates all the elements into One as she kneels to kiss the earth.
She has to land periodically, she cannot remain upon wing forever, and so she is grateful to earth for offering her rest and peace, a place upon which she can pause, wonder at her fellow/sister creatures who crawl and walk and swim and transform. 
Her sturdy thighs are thickly muscled, surprising how they resemble a much larger being than the twig-like lower legs of air-filled bone easily lifted and tucked inside her body when air and space call her home. 
Home for her is not the nest where she temporarily raises her young, and home is not the earth she kneels upon, precious though it may be.
Home is not a circle, a burdensome line holding her within its fragile shell.
She was born that way, cramped tightly into a hard shell she pressed against, expanding until it cracked...first a bit, then a tiny hole poked through by her sharp little beak and she tilted her head as much as possible though it was hard to do in that tiny space of before-birth, and she held one eye near the hole and saw the entire world and--CRACK!--she broke free from her shell of protection after she saw the world that awaited her with all its colors and textures and beckoning wide open spaces! 
Her body damp, her feathers barely there, wet and clinging, she fell forth into the dry crackling nest with the thin layer of down, and immediately felt her skin begin to dry from the air that called to her, tickling, enticing, telling her stories of the sights she would soon see on her own.
For her nest is not home, only a place to rest and become a real being she had only dreamed about.
She tipped back her head on the thin scrap of skin called a neck and opened her mouth and sounded out, sending her voice out into the world upon the breeze and heard an answering call.
Quick as the wind blows, she ate and grew and took such joy in the feathers that would soon lift her up to home where she would never be confined again. 
Where she could soar and see and live fully free.
And yet.
She did not forget. 
So in gratitude she returns to the earth to kiss her grounding where she shall go when death steps in and calls her soul to return for a new beginning. 
Earth where her food comes from.
Earth that holds the water to bathe in and soothe a parched throat.
Earth that offers her a never-ending visual extravaganza of ever-changing scenery and seasons. 
She glides through a thick gray cloud and giggles with the momentary hide-n-seek of the elementals.
Then catches a current and bobs up and down, riding it like the dolphins below play upon the ocean waves. 
They talk and share and she knows there is less difference than one might think between her blue and theirs...the waters of the seas and the currents of the breeze.
Patterns and currents and flows and eddies.
One so light and the other so heavy, yet she sometimes gets to play with both when the mist is on the mountain, and the world she sees becomes a subtle mirage of the normal one, the trees try to disappear as if to play her game of hide-n-seek even though they are rooted to earth. 
Then she gets to seek her special resting place for it is now disguised and not easily seen from her flights on high, and they play in this world where home is different for all of them.
Yet earth is precious, nurturing, nourishing, welcoming, harboring, and transformative in the end.
And so she kneels to kiss the earth.
___________________________
This was a visual writing prompt from my We'Moon 2011 iPad app (image above).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Inspiration


"Writing continues to be a scary proposition for me, as I don't see myself as particularly talented and I wonder how much longer I'l be able to massage novels out of my meager storehouse of gifts. Daily, I show up at the computer, and I hope for the best. But when I'm reading someone's stunning first novel--like Cold Mountain or Ingenious Pain, a British first novel that I'm reading--I think, What am I doing? My God, I am so insignificant a storyteller in comparison with these guys. But then I tell myself that all I can do is my best, telling the story as well as I can, leaving the rest up to God.
Journal of a Novel, February 24, 1998"


The above is taken from Elizabeth George's Write Away and I find it inspiring to know that authors I enjoy and admire could have at some moment felt as inept as I do. Their confidence can feel intimidating, but when they share their own fears or insecurities, I realize we are each of us merely doing the best that we can. And doing our best--being our best--is enough.

As I finish reading Write Away, the last 'teaching' book for now, I prepare to dive fully once more, with as much courage, confidence and commitment as I can muster, into writing. And see what happens...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thanks to Dad


On one of the last trips my parents made to visit us in Maine, Dad talked about this great BBC show called "New Tricks" and kept singing the theme song. I only caught a couple episodes in Maine but once we arrived in Arizona, they've been showing them on PBS so I've been able to watch nearly all of them. They really are great, and the song spins 'round in my head sometimes for hours afterwards, and every time I watch, I think of Dad and am grateful for the times we spent together.

Mom and Dad were big believers in staying active; they kept traveling and learning and enjoying life. Three years after losing Dad, Mom does her best to keep on keepin' on.

The lyrics to the tune:


it’s alright it’s ok 
doesn’t really matter if you’re old and grey 
it’s alright i say it’s ok 
listen to what i say 
it’s alright doing fine 
doesn’t really matter if the sun don’t shine 
it’s alright i say it’s ok 
we're getting to the end of the day 
high-tech, low-tech take your pick 
cos you can teach an old dog a brand new trick 
i don’t care what anybody says 
(at the end of the day) 
there’s a place that i can find 
a drink or two to ease my mind 
golden days 
it’s alright take your time 
everybody thinks that you’ve passed your prime 
it’s alright it’s ok 
you've still got plenty to say

In Loving Memory of My Father
Jerry Ervin Graves
May 25, 1936 - August 9, 2008
His form is gone but his essence lives on. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Words

Just gotta say...

If you would like to increase your vocabulary, look no further than Elizabeth George's books in the Inspector Lynley series! I consider myself well-read and, yet, for the first time I can recall there is nearly one word per chapter that I have to find in the dictionary before I can continue. Thankfully, I started reading this series on my iPad so it is simple to just tap the word and it pulls up the definition. Phew.

One of the reasons that I ventured into Elizabeth George's series was because I had begun reading her guide to fiction writing--Write Away--and, feeling deeply drawn to it right off, realized that I needed to connect to her fiction as well. This hasn't happened for me with most of the 'guide' books I've read this past year. What was different about this one?

Just now I went back and re-read the first few pages and there isn't any single sentence or phrase that captures me. So what is it? Maybe it's because she starts by discussing character? That could be it. Certainly, I feel like my own writing is more character-driven than anything else, with even the location personified in my mind. Ms. George then gives attention to setting followed by landscape. Hmm. Only then does she address plot.

Ah-ha! That's the kinship I feel with her writing process. My first draft is primarily characters, setting and landscape! The plot felt forced from inception and easily fell to pieces when picked at. That led me to my current immersion in the study of craft which easily and repeatedly clarified what was missing--conflict. So I essentially have a first draft set in a place I love and filled with characters I find interesting, but missing the driving force. LOL But you know what? I feel okay about that because I'm not done! I've now made good progress toward resolving the problems. Let the revisions and rewrites begin...

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Window


What do you see?
I see strength and courage and beauty.
I see color and texture, grounding and whimsy.

Travel provides opportunity.
To step out of one's comfort zone, to expand and grow.
To regain confidence and a sense of self--of individuality lost and found.


We discover a core strength,
a mineral gleaming with endurance,
a gem of unbelievable power that sustains our foundation.

Enjoy the journey.




Friday, December 9, 2011

Non-Linear

Crooked narrow streets, walls of rock built to hold back the falling, sliding elements on one side, and drop-offs beyond rickety guardrails or fencing or nothing on the other.
Flat upon the ground, erupting from the center, the roots grow upward rather than down and in, the spreading paths of homes tracing a steep journey up, climbing, as if to place themselves in some way beyond the reach of the dragging darkness beneath the historic mining town of Bisbee.
Incongruity of poured concrete steps against the gorgeous stone walls built by hand--artisans, craftsmen, who knew how to create beautiful strength without mortar.
Corrugated tin roofs reflecting the bright sun to catch the vivid colors of little houses determined to cling to the sides of the mountains.
A car snakes its way down the street below, tires a loud whisper upon the worn mix of gravel, deteriorating concrete, and dirt that has escaped down the mountain in spite of the best efforts of man.
A curious town. Lots of character just oozing ambience and history.
Old, weathered buildings, poorly constructed with materials it must have been a struggle to lug up the steep slant of earth and rock.
Colorful houses making a statement of presence and a sort of willfulness rising from them like incense.
Seems most residents just keep slapping on a patch here, bit of paint there, shore it up here...
Structural challenges, a complex interweaving of utilities and plumbing performs its own dance of decoration on the outside where gravity is first defied and then given free rein. 
Newer retaining walls are obvious in their concrete block coats, wearing less personality, yet sometimes spiffed up with brick or stone edging or glass inlay.

Here the bottoms of bottles are popular as decoration and show their thick green and blue bottoms.
A little garden, variety the key with cactus and silver-weed, vines and twisty-limbed trees who aren't tall but make up for it with individuality.
Quirky. High up, nearly to the top, peace and quiet float on the dust motes.
Tiny porch, tiny yard; a tiny house on a hill filled with bright color and sassy bric-a-brac.
A sunny corner holds a lounge chair; the perfect comfy-cozy spot indoors for reading and writing, although outside was better.
A faint odor like burnt coffee drifted up on the air currents regularly; what could it be? My nose would twitch and wrinkle... Way up here, just a quaint and curious puzzle.*

A walk up and down the winding streets delivers new sensations around every corner...
Discomfort rises, I feel my stomach tighten, and it's not just from the steep incline. I recognize my fear as I hear strange dogs bark nearby; our recent attack a few weeks ago still fresh in my memory. Yet the boys don't seem any more bothered by it than from a person walking near.
The buildings old, some dark and forbidding, their frowns warning me that I am not welcome and I don't step into their shadowy alcoves.
Others have painted and primped their faces, giving a come-hither look, beckoning me closer...

A 'secret garden' is where I sit, sun shining, and voices echo back and forth from the mountains, softly bouncing voices and sounds of dogs, people, a rooster crowing, buildings and machinery. 'Voices' of the world in miniature, crowded closely.

Like a child's playground, all the colors and shapes! The textures so varied, like a microcosm filled with diversity as if to compensate for the stricture of the narrow canyon, bursting out at the seams, packing maximum 'bang' into the space allowed.
Porches and decks stick out all over, jutting their chins in defiance.
A concrete park painted with colorful games; an alternative to the barren, rugged earth stripped not only by the mines nearby but also by Gaia Herself as She explored a new landscape, a new and unique way of experiencing Herself in life.

Everywhere is curves, angles, corners and pockets--not sure there is such a thing as a straight line in this wonderful little town. Here is presented a delightful display of non-linear response to all that life has thrown at the people who chose and still choose to make this place their home. A visual imprint of non-control, the ability to adapt.

________________________
Prior to making this trip, I read "Going Back To Bisbee" by Richard Shelton. It was a wonderful way to learn a little about the history of the Arizona Southwest so that as I drove the landscape and towns were given meaning other than through my own perception of them.

I only stayed two nights at the Sleepy Dog Guesthouse (which I highly recommend!) but plan on returning for a longer stay and more exploration.

__________
* A Google search revealed the origin of the aroma was indeed coffee from the Bisbee Coffee Co. where they roast the beans fresh on the premises.

Friday, December 2, 2011

tween shadow and wall

In the thin line tween shadow and wall
is found true adventure, whispering small
voices we hear in the night 
and listen to with heart open, not out of fright.
The line that is there is no line at all
only illusion that causes a fall
from the opening measures 
of this moment's place in time 
and with flowers of grace 
and hearing the chimes 
I see the line fade...
Not dividing shadow from wall 
but merging the two in one joyous call 
to be strong and loving and share all 
your gifts without fear of transgressing. 
All obstacles lift high 
on the wings of the nowhere of time 
that like the no-line are fashioned 
from fear and treated as crime. 
Look at that edge, 
feel its wisdom of knowing 
that there are no divisions 
tween darkness and light 
but only our own situations of what might 
be or have been as we travel 
the line without and within. 
Seeking the knowledge of magical line 
that vanishes whenever we seek outward to find 
ourselves in the middle of two that are fighting 
yet know that our candle of love we could be lighting. 
Nowhere is this more blatantly true 
than within the heart struggle of ego and you. 
Look, see the edges that blur 
when we look more closely to see 
them and then after that are the spaces unseen.
The line between the wall and the shadow 
is nothing more than perception 
betrayed by the false mind of ego 
who is leading the way 
because we allowed him the power 
but we can retrieve him upon each new hour 
and take into custody all his transgressions 
to build up a new world of loving and blessings.
My finger it follows the mystical line 
wondering what other secrets I might find. 
Me, hovering close to the wall that can speak, 
whispering words I barely can hear 
until shadow steps in and covers my fear 
with a blanket of darkness that falls 
with the growing light,
removing the edge I no longer can see 
dividing us--it is here no more--we are free.
___________________________________
It's been a while since I felt the flow of a rhyming that trickles through pen with impeccable timing. I know not the reason when or why my head turns to words that follow each other with similar sounds and falling to pages awaiting the swirl and flow of the messages within each letter that whirls. I love how words rhyme, I always have, even though 'real' poets sneer at their simplicity and sometimes awkward chunkiness, like crunchy peanut butter, not smooth. Maybe so, but I love the flow, the sound of echo...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grateful for What is Not

Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub
By vacancies joining them for a wheel's use;
The use of clay in moulding pitchers
Comes from the hollow of its absence;
Doors, windows, in a house, 
Are used for their emptiness:
Thus we are helped by what is not
To use what is.

~ Tao Te Ching according to Lao Tzu by Witter Bynner
© George Burba | Dreamstime.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Flares

© Diego Vito Cervo | Dreamstime.com
Explosion.
Blow-up.
Outburst.
Anger.
Where does it come from?
Where does it go?

Seems like those thankfully-rare flares are so much more than related to the one incident.
Not a single match by itself, oh no, they are the spark that flies into the open and full matchbox or into the pile of twigs with dry tinder holding their breath for that 'inciting incident'* that is the fire that flies off the handle once sparked.
Weird how that happens...

Swallowing down unlit matches--not as brave as those who swallow lit torches at a carnival--one at a time, here and there, until they are all gummed together with the gasoline of stomach acids in the subtle body and--WHOOSH!--up goes the fire, the conflagration that overwhelms and scalds and burns so fast.
Flaring up before one can even stop it, consuming and exhausting in an instant. The slow burn at the beginning that smolders beneath the wet leaves in a loving aversion to confrontation.

What good is that when the burn becomes the forest fire scorching or destroying everything it is path? Ugh.

And then comes the remorse, the awareness and shame that shimmers in its own orange bowl of bubbling brew fit only for pouring out where it poisons the ground beneath it. Not fit for consumption, yet sometimes we do--we take it in and bury it deep in our tissues. Nasty stuff, congealing in its own thickening lard after all that heat. Yuck.

Even now, though, it can be released safely because warmth can bring healing as well, the gentle warmth of a candle glowing within a heart of forgiveness in a house with many windows thrown open to bring in fresh air of new beginnings. Gentle simmering melts the shame. Or compassionate waters, salty and purifying, can pour into the bowl mingling with the thick oil, thinning it, further, more and more until it can flow easily into a non-harmful juice to be transformed.

Yet perhaps important to taste the orange goo of anger's residue before pouring it out or transforming it. Don't ignore it just because it's ugly and smells like rotten eggs or month-old garbage left out in the summer sun. Take a good look, even admire the color if you can for what it represents, for what was behind it, for what it brought to light--that golden light of the healing heart that can transform all into love. Inhale deeply of the burnt flesh, decaying, until it makes us gag so we don't forget it. I still recall a phrase from an old TV series: "stop and smell the burning flesh of sinners" (can't remember the context or the show but the phrase stuck). Grotesque? But if I don't stop and smell of my angered ego's charred flesh, how can I make changes? How can I make the salve that will heal? Without looking at the mess, how do I know where to place that lovely creamy salve?

To reflect upon the anger--no matter what other words I may use to try and disguise it or defend it--is to see, smell, taste, touch and eventually know Truth. And then, only then, can I continue to move more fully forward with compassion toward Self, and, therefore, toward others.
__________________
* read that word combination inVicki's blog earlier this morning

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

waiting not

infinity
never ending
life


catch a falling star and become one myself
worms crawl in and out yet all life continues
anything is possible


no point to fret over what we cannot control and cannot see--
I cannot see what lies behind the mind and actions of others,
all I see are my non-senses and perceptions
react and respond ... act


Take action in my own life instead of just waiting for what I think someone else ought to do--I could wait forever, spend my life waiting instead of acting with joy in each moment. This moment--what is it and what does it bring--what do I bring to it? Sunshine, dogs, chair, quiet, writing, walking, singing, healing, meditating, preparing food, honoring self and others. Kiss my loves. Love my life. All will be as it should. Yes?


Sun warming my back as I sit facing my shadow. Sun hat shading the page so I can see and the heat penetrating my cold spine, warming its stiffness into softness; like a flame warms the oil I feel the juices of my vertebrae, loosening, becoming more fluid allowing freer movement within self. Thick molasses becomes a syrup flowing easily from the heat and as other liquids join in, all flowing the same direction for now, dark and light together, sweet and bitter co-mingling, their perfect blend a blessing. Blending within, I feel the softening deepen and soak up the balance, the wisdom of accepting differences. 


Blessings of change to open my heart to see moments of peace. 


Not waiting, rather embracing living, being here and welcoming the tickle of the breeze on bare toes warming in the sunshine. See the white miniscule flaking of skin on the high arch of a foot that shimmers like silk stockings in the sunlight a surface that sheds and grows moment by moment, always changing. Light blue veins tracing patterns of life allowing movement. Action. Wiggle those same toes and feel the blessing of knowing they can follow a path from chair to porch. They act. They twitch and bend. They aren't waiting, they are doing whatever they can right now, even as I sit.


Dogs watching the gates, one over to that side and one here, fully present, they observe the actions going on around them--see a car drive past, watch the bird in the tree then fly away, listen to the neighborhood dogs bark without their people home. Are they learning who those other dogs are? Listen and respond. Reaction or action. No thought but inner-intelligence acting senses. See and walk, toward or away. Halt, tilt head. Listen again. 


A whole world exists in this single moment--no need to wait for the next one. Even in silence of self, so much going on elsewhere--choose to act or remain still.
Being here now,
we are not waiting.
We are living.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

purple heart

resting upon the ground
her purple heart exposed
to the elements
she feels the frost settle upon her skin,
edges dusted with fine crystals
she is decorated for the holidays
sparkling even in her death
her transformation beautiful to behold
as she rests
at ease in the moment


crystalline tears fall upon the ground
mingling with the frost
some are salty
some are pure energy
shimmering in wholeness
alive within self and
sharing all that is


she senses this approach
of a kindred soul
one who sees as she does 
and her waiting is rewarded
she feels the eyes upon her
knowing her fragility 
for they share a similar fate
a gift
of change
a shift
into something else


the eyes are kind 
a-glimmer
with reflective tears of knowing and wonder
for they see the beauty
the miracle
that is life and death--
death of the way things were
letting go of the way she clung to the branches of her tree
of wanting to drift upon the wind and descend to the unknown
yet time passes and she realizes that her time has come to let go
so many have gone before her and they call out sweet encouragement
and then...
she sighs as she falls
no wind so she simply see-saws to the ground
even twirling a little on her journey
to enjoy the passage from one life to another
and gently lands upon the earth


she has never known anything so solid before!


she has always been up high
caressed by breezes
seeing far in the distance
held by a single thread of life force 
channeling from her to her family tree
a delicate tendril connecting them intimately


yet this new sensation is nice...
she feels safe and supported
she relaxes upon the ground so firm and
feels a full wave of vibration touch her everywhere all at once
unlike her other life of constant motion
where she was touched with sparks and
quickly passing fingers of flight and fancy 
twirling her this way and that
always dancing


this is a glow of peace that permeates 
her entire being whole and full
she sighs upon her soft bed of grass and moss and humus
she knows the transformation is coming
she can feel it continuing to spread 
throughout her veins
her nerves
fleeting thoughts and misty memories 
weave their way along her edges
beneath the frosty embroidery


was it yesterday or tomorrow that she let go?
she now realizes all time as happening now 
in the presence of her gentle rest
the release of flying high
dancing among the stars when she looked up
or on the flowers below
when was that?
is it to come or already passed?


she sighs and shimmers in the dawn
happy and ease in her crystal veil
______________

* The above was a contemplative free-write inspired by some images posted on Shine the Divine's blog; one of Laura's posts held an image of a purple leaf and was titled Frost Sugared, while the other held an image of a leaf with a heart in its center titled Keeper of Sacred Memory. In my mind, these images merged, and I was led to the composite in discovery of the story. I couldn't fine a purple heart frosted leaf photo though!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

merry go round

merry go round in a field of flowers
awaiting the children who come 
in the daylight hours
and at night 
when the wind whistles 
all the horses on carousel
round and round we go
this life of beautiful illusion 
invites us to get on board and 
ride the magic 
and we do 
joy is in knowing the illusion 
participating in awareness
partake of the colors and lights
sounds and sights
but get off when it pauses
and treat ourselves 
to the peace of sitting on the bench 
and watching the laughter of the children 
who are innocents 
but growing egos 
and it becomes more than a game
more than simple joy
fighting over who is next and shoving in line
and then limited seats 
on the painted ponies losing their shine
and someone says
'I will build my own'
until there are no more green spaces
or vast plains or high desert pastures
only whirling colors and rides
and lights and noise
and still there are never enough seats 
on the merry go round
then give me the quiet bench 
in the corner under the shade tree
or the sparkling brook where we are nourished
happy to get on the merry go round
ride a short while
and then relinquish my seat to another
and another
and look at how happy they are at first
squealing in joy
the short adrenaline rush 
where the pony goes up and then down 
we clutch the pole so we won't fall off
wanting to get off on our own
step down without falling but 
sometimes dizzy from the motion 
we stumble or fall in spite of our best efforts
pick ourselves up, rest, take a break
then choose when/if it's right for us to get on again
some go every day, or every weekend
others wait for the annual event 
that draws them out of their comfort zone
to explore the glitter and glamor of the world
'lights--camera--action'
and hold on as long as they can
bullies don't let the younger children ride
holding onto their seats
struggling against those who say
'you've had your turn'
and crying
'it wasn't long enough' or
'I want more'
really?
we are each deserving of enjoying the spectacular 
if we want to participate
yet some never get to ride 
they have neither money nor status to buy a ticket
but the wise, oh the wise... pause...
swing from the branches of trees bending low
and run through fields of wild flowers
jump-splashing in and out of puddles
making mud-pies and
pretending they are wild horses
mustangs roaming the wide open plains
you can have your merry go round 
if it means that much to you
I will walk along the road gazing at the sky
feeling the cool breeze
eating a blush-pink apple
feeling the strength of muscles 
that must carry me the distance
however far that is...
to the corner of my bedroom or
to the top of the mountain
I would rather ride a real horse once
than a carousel horse forever
_______________
"merry go round" was a writing prompt from Peggy Tabor Millin ClarityWorks

Monday, November 7, 2011

DogGone Dreams

Surrounded by love--friends--they are snuggled up to me, each one near enough to smell and touch and hug, they all came to be with me last night, dogs of the past, beloveds who walked with me a while and shared their loving presence. 
They joined me in a cabin on a spiritual retreat and we all crowded together. 
Trust. A lesson in trust and letting go, knowing they had been with me before, I didn't hold on so tightly. Well, I did at first, fear coursing through me that others wouldn't value them the way that I did, but we were all fine.
Given their freedom, some of them came even closer to me in my dream than they did in life. We were all cuddled and loving each other, and I felt myself letting go and the love swelled, filling the space. 
Attending the classes at the retreat, spirit flowed. New teachers, human ones, new friends of presence, human ones, all of us there to open, learn, grow, heal. Sangha. Gathering of like-minded, or rather like-hearted, beings. We were all together. 
I was so happy that those who had gone before joined me, such a comfort and a renewal. I didn't know I needed them--missed them--until they came for a visit and my heart overflowed with love. 
Each precious soul...I have been blessed every step of my journey, always a dear furred friend nearby for solace. Deep gratitude and love, I feel. Waking to renewal and loving peace, even my body felt lighter from their visit.
Never alone and all are One--all of our energies always connected. When I touch one, I am touching them all and feeling their love. When I see the sky, they are there, soaring, drifting, and we are together, we breathe together. I see the earth and their footprints are next to mine. 
Their lessons are already learned, they are here to teach and share loving support, to be here and help me/us. We humans have so far to go, having lost our way, but they can bring us back for they are the hands/paws of Gaia, touching us as we touch them, hearts beating in love, and eyes shining with faith--always. 
They trust we will 'get it' if they are patient...may take many lifetimes, theirs and ours. Theirs shorter as they pop in and out like firefly lights, dying and letting go--some of our hardest lessons. When we finally realize that this life is perfect, however long we have, then we are in harmony with them, our animal guides. 
They rejoice when we embrace the present, knowing it as all. Glimpses have I of this each time I write or create in some small way or when I walk or stand or pause in Gaia's glory. Then I am touched by this wisdom, just as I am touched by a gentle paw upon my leg or a delicate chin upon my shoulder.
Even when I feel pain, I am alive in this world and know it, experience it more fully--to feel pain is also to be present, to be brought back to the present from where mind or ego has taken me so far away. They don't dwell upon the pain or disability, can I do/be less?
This is their gift, the gift of animal-kind--I can be only here and now when these precious beings hold me in their attention and I hold them in mine. We share this gift beyond measure.
Deep gratitude for last night's dreams of dogs long gone--DogGone Dreams.
_____________
Such beautiful, loving energy from the strong protector, the loving goof, the elegant and gentle, the loud and boisterous, the sweet and simple... Bringing blessings, always blessings...

Monday, October 31, 2011

now we rest

Now that all my 'friends' are finally out of their boxes . . . 

the rest of us can relax,

and curl up . . .

with a good book!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

dark as coffee

Her skin was dark as coffee. 
She sat across the way, 
smiling with a serene glow that seemed to emanate 
from somewhere unknown, 
and her graceful limbs were relaxed, calm. 
From one moment to the next, 
I see her shimmer--
black Madonna, 
Mesquite tree, 
old bark as dark as coffee. 
Some would say there is no glow, 
they see only rough, dry, scaly trunk, 
yet shift perception and 
see the light from within for it is always there, 
the energy of Life that permeates everything around us, 
each element portraying its own essence 
shining through large or small. 
See 
the earth in Her feet, legs and torso, sturdy and obvious, 
the water She retains deep within that we can see by way 
of Her leafy green hair, slender to minimize evaporation, 
the fire in Her warm skin and limbs, 
the transformation of sunlight and Her vitality 
even in the hottest summer when She conserves resources, 
the air as She breathes and sways, 
Her movement a dance as She grows and fills the space around Her. 
Dark as coffee, she is chosen by the artist to create a tiny divine figure 
polished to a mahogany hue, 
the gentle curves become a woman, 
Her spirit shining through 
as the carver brings an image into form...Blessed Mother. 
She is holding the key to compassion 
that unlocks the door during the dark night of the soul. 
A dark night that may be a fleeting moment or a lifetime 
or are they one and the same? 
Who can know for sure within this illusory life we seem to live 
yet so much happens that we do not understand, 
our senses limit us within their reach and 
we can only guess through imagination and inner vision of Her Truth. 
Ebony and ivory, living side by side and peace formed 
through a symphony of rhythm and song 
that reaches beyond the limits of time and space. 
Our world orchestrated through our energies coming and going 
or pausing to listen when another is singing. 
Our world an incredible vibration of Life that soars and falls, 
flows and builds, transforms in immeasurable diversity. 
I am one and we are One. 
Same. 
Feeling the sadness of unknown origin flow through me 
without getting stuck because I see it, 
I feel the sticky fingers like a tree frog wanting to cling 
to the sides of the twisted tree that grows to survive 
yet allowing it to jump away--not stay--and then its life resumes 
and the twisted limbs become beautiful in their shapes of survival 
rather than frightened into a quagmire into which they could have fallen. 
The tree frog, out of its natural element, 
flies through the air for a moment without wings 
and glories in his freedom to sit in the sun on the rock, 
transforming into a lizard, basking, glowing, 
while the Mesquite nearby rests, 
crossing Her arms in a posture of peace, 
gleaming with inner wisdom, 
sharing shade in outer compassion, 
Her bark as dark as coffee.
_________
This was another writing prompt provided by Peggy Tabor Millin, ClarityWorks.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sedona and Grand Canyon





If you want to see more of our trip, there is a video HERE.
However, patience will be needed to allow the video to load;
I recommend the 'small' version.
The music is the incredible R. Carlos Nakai.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Revealing Self

I'm spending so much of my spare time these days writing, reading, and reading about writing that none of it is getting transferred to this blog. Whoops. I guess part of it is that I'm excited to finally have more spare time now that most of our big projects at the new house are completed. That said, I do also read my favorite blogs--the ones noted off to the left of this page--even going so far as to back up and read those entries I may have missed. Don't want to skip something important!

Now for what I've been up to since my last blog post...

I've joined the little local library's book club that meets once a month. Our first meeting was about "The Glass Castle," a memoir by Jeannette Walls. While several other women in the club disliked the book, unable to see past the child neglect, I thought it was a wonderful read even if the story was disturbing at times. I couldn't condemn Jeannette's mother because I connected with her; in fact, almost felt a kinship with her. But our discussion about this book was lively and thoroughly enjoyable. I was so pleased to have found this group. The next month's book was "The Lace Reader" by Brunonia Barry. This one I had read shortly after it was released in paperback because a friend recommended it, and I loved it. I was shocked when not a single other person in the book club even liked it, let alone enjoyed it as much as I did. But I laughed and again the hour-long discussion passed quickly with everyone making comments. I look forward to our next meeting!

As I've continued reading books on writing, following are a few of the remarks that stood out for me.
"Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's." 
Stephen King in "On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft" is a proponent for leaving out most of the specifics of a character's appearance. This does seem to be a delicate balancing act, although also a subjective topic. I have read quite a lot of King's books (like most of his readers, my favorite is "The Stand") and enjoyed them at the time, but I have eclectic taste when it comes to fiction so I have also enjoyed works where the author painted a very clear and concise picture of the major characters. I'm not sure where my own descriptions will fall.
"If you jump back and forth from deep inside a character's head to a far-distant overview of the action, then back in close . . . The smoothness of your narrative will be compromised. One way around this is to start chapters with the more distant narrative you want to include, then move in closer into the character's mind and stay there." 
I appreciated all the comments on viewpoint in "Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint" by Nancy Kress, especially about third person as that seems to be the viewpoint I prefer, both for reading and in my own writing. I now have lots of ideas and exercises that may help improve my manuscript once I begin the self-editing process.
"Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art . . . " 
Wow, this one struck a nerve. Actually, Ray Bradbury in "Zen in the Art of Writing" had all my nerves humming!
"What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw."
Quite inspiring, yes? I may have to print that quote out in BIG letters and tack it to the wall in front of my computer. "Zen" is a fabulous little book.
"The project I'm preparing will have personal relevance . . . . It will be a process of self-discovery. I can't imagine spending a year or more on a novel and not emerging from it with greater self-awareness than when I began. That way, even if the project doesn't attract a publisher, my time has been well spent."
Perfect. These words written by David Morrell in "Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing" were like a bonfire blazing in the night, leading me to my Self. The manuscript I'm working on began as something fun; now I can clearly see how it can be more. All the ideas that have been flooding my heart and soul since I set the manuscript aside have become a tidal wave; I am enjoying the rush, the excitement renewed, and I will sort out everything as I go along.
"People, events, or our own negative thought patterns can threaten our faith and drive it underground unless we remain aware and alert. Protecting our faith in ourselves requires vigilance in the present moment because that is where faith exists. If we stand on faith and project into the future, we move from faith to hope, from attention in the present to expectation for the future."
I will be turning to Peggy Tabor Millin's book "Women, Writing, and Soul-Making" repeatedly, I am sure. Her words touched me on many levels, and I know that I will resonate with the spirit of her messages each time I open her book.
"When we reveal ourselves through our writing and do not turn away, we connect with the reader and impact lives."
This statement by Millin reminded me of Bradbury's "self-consciousness is the enemy." Even when blogging, I find that the posts that seem to touch readers the most are ones where I had completely stepped aside from controlling what I was writing.

Lastly, has anyone ever read Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" who didn't like it? I cannot imagine that is possible. What a gem. I had to give up putting tabs on phrases that grabbed me because the edge of the book was becoming a mess!

However, I did want to comment on her chapter titled 'We Are Not the Poem.' So many times, I have wondered if someone reading my journals from my 20's and 30's might think I was certifiable, destined for the loony bin, suicidal, delusional, or had lived an awful life. Even this past week, I wrote two very different writing practice entries; one from a writing prompt of Millin's called 'a golden curl' and the other a stream of consciousness flow called 'illusion of safety.' Every writing expresses a unique moment of sensation or emotion. Goldberg says:
"They were my thoughts and my hand and the space and the emotions at that time of writing. Watch yourself. Every minute we change. It is a great opportunity. At any point, we can step out of our frozen selves and our ideas and begin fresh. That is how writing is. Instead of freezing us, it frees us."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fog

‎"Writing is the act of burning through the fog in your mind. 
Don't carry the fog out on paper. 
Even if you are not sure of something, express it as though you know yourself. 
With this practice you eventually will."
~ Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones





Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing Prompt: "taking out the trash"

Looked across the way when 
taking out the trash and
saw silence
felt a darkness
in the windows of the house next door
where drawn curtains and smudged glass
hid more than they revealed
carefully crafted so that Light could neither escape or enter.


A wail rose in my throat
for the poor defenseless beings inside
where the trash never left but
grew and grew
becoming huge piles of refuse that 
molded and mildewed and
stank up the confined space.


Dark
the mushrooms grew
not the magic ones of 
childhood and forest and fairy circle but
those that poison and contaminate and
kill off all the Fire even when it tries to rise and shine.


Don't allow the crap to consume
to build up
to accumulate.
If no routine for taking out the trash then 
create one--
take it to the dump
or put it out by one handful each day
for Mother Earth to transform.


Not everyone is able to use a curb-side service
convenient though it is
for not everyone has reached that stage
and even then
sometimes too much is thrown out
good ideas with the bad
happy memories with the traumatic
because it's so easy.
Who wants to pick through the trash to find
what needs to stay or go?
Asking...
Maybe if I just toss it all then
my house will be clean?
Perhaps.
But then there is nothing to transform with/in
all the elements are mashed together like in a trash compactor and 
so tightly bound that we lose sight of
the True Me
for even the icky, sticky, gooey bits might be important--
salvageable
recyclable.
Can I re-use this hurt?
Can I learn from it and then share the lesson with someone else?
How can the trash become gold?


"One person's trash is another person's treasure."


So might it be with all this supposed
so-called 'trash'
that has piled up inside.
How to sift through it all?


Look at the house next door...
not next door at all but 
the mirror of my own home.
A reflection I stare at but
don't want to see because
who wants to look at the trash and
crap and stinking piles of refuse
that has accumulated?


Bring out a bull-dozer and just push it all into
one huge mountain of crumbling, thick, globs of
manure and decomposition but
that way none of it can be used again and
it's all gone and stagnating and 
pushed down deep
buried so far under the foundation 
that excavating could take years 
lifetimes even.


Okay.
Before throwing it in the trash
at least before taking out the trash
look, think, feel it out.
Can it be transformed
learned from 
reused
shared
and ultimately
put to good use
for a 
truly clean house?
___________________________
This writing prompt is a daily one compliments of Peggy Tabor Millin's Clarity Works. The day before this prompt, I had been contemplating and organizing my plans for offering holistic classes through the local wellness center in our new location; how to share, how to help, how to connect. I had fun with this particular day's writing practice where the words flowed so fast my pen could barely keep up, and provided so many ideas for sharing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being Begin

plucked from the ether and
dropped to the earth
to enjoy the blessings 
of precious rebirth
land on a soft bed of moss evergreen
while the wee folk cavort--merry, unseen
I land with a feather-light bump on Her belly 
and know from the first that we all will be well
captured by ravens that caw in the trees 
carried on wings that fly with the breeze 
soaring over desert and scaling the mountains 
to race with the dolphins and splash in the fountains
we are all One in this glorious world
ever creature that lives, every boy, every girl
jumping and shouting 
my heart full to the brim 
while adventures are calling 
me out on a whim
I join with the air as we sway to and fro 
among all the flowers that shimmer and glow
I join with the fire as the sun heats the sand 
and cook with the flames that are guided by hand
I join with the waters of vital resources 
that lovingly share without guilt or remorse
I join with the earth in magnificent splendor 
while walking or sitting in stillness...I wonder
where upon all of these joys do I pause 
and how to give thanks beyond all the causes
of heartache we bring to the innocents here
how do I help and wipe away tears 
of harm that have fallen through arrogant minds 
that see not and know not through eyes that are blind
all I can do is embrace Her wonders 
of life and love and beauteous thunder 
that crashes in storms amazing in power
Her strength that reduces our egos in each passing hour
we cannot come close to the glory She gives 
in all that Creation has brought here to live
even destruction is a need to transform 
and step back, I see Her love in this normal 
pattern of shifting, cleansing, renewal
She is our home and we are her fuel
we are a nutrient 
energies sent
to give of ourselves so that more may flourish
that is our calling to love and to nourish
each one of us has a capacity clear 
to share and grow with all far and near
listen to what Her voice is now saying
cannot we hear the path She is laying
before us strewn with emeralds, 
diamonds and stone
for all are as equals
none are alone
I feel her this morning singing within 
and laughing with me as I write with pink pen
to script what I hear falling rapidly down
to catch just a glimpse of what may be found
here on this paper a gift from the trees
who harness the breath for all of our needs
reflected within
being begin

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changing Smile



Road Trip.
My 'fix.'
Journey to the pines, the mountains, hours away.
Changing tapestry leads me on further and further; I could have continued for days.
Expanding vistas above and below, desert cactus giving way to grassy meadows in the high plains, as sharp sun eases into a pillow of clouds where at one point they create a rectangle around pale blue sky, like cotton balls stuck to an invisible frame of unknown origin.
And I drive.
Ahhh...
The pure bliss of motion and transforming landscape, windows down once the heat begins to abate, and I breathe in the enriched air of beloved pine boughs glistening and inviting
There.
Stop.

Barely planned, a spur-of-the-moment trip, clothes inadequate for traipsing through a narrow trail with tall weeds and thin grasses and bold branches reaching out to connect and caress my hair.
The boys and I find a rocky outcropping, we sit, blessed moist air inhaled upon a cool breeze, softening lung tissue, easing stress.
Droplets of rain fall upon parched skin.
Listen to Her familiar voice singing through babbling brook and chittering folk hiding from view while a lizard scurries over a near rock before quick doggy eyes glimpse the crouched form.
Green, deep and vibrant, glorious.

The Museum of Northern Arizona grounds--inside and out--are serene, and I enjoy meandering through the exhibits so beautifully presented with loving attention to every detail. I will return when I have more time to leisurely absorb the history, beauty, art and skills shared of the native people of northern Arizona. Their Spirit flows through the lines of thread and paint upon woven blankets and bowls, upon pottery, canvas and mural.

The dogs are waiting in the car parked in a shady spot, comfortable with the more than 30-degree cooler temperature, yet the four-hour drive home beckons in the mid-afternoon overcast with thunder clouds and sporadic rain that falls in clumps like Gaia is dropping it from cupped hands, a little here, more there, and then a pause...wait...before dipping Her hands into the eternally full well of blessings once more.

Odd how much I enjoy long drives when often I can barely get myself down the road to the grocery store until the cupboards are nearly bare. The call of the open road feels deeply ingrained within my very cells and, like a Gypsy, I adore the journey even without a destination ... maybe more when the not knowing where I will stop is pulling me onward.
The unknown mystery of Her changing smile.
What will Gaia be wearing when I get there?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Salt

She flows through me and winds Her way in the world;
as a stream we touch those who thirst 
and feel the hunger of kindred souls.


All I am is a stalk of grass within the Field 
that has somehow managed to find that elusive grain of salt, 
that tiny nutrient that wasn't far from my roots 
yet had less to do with me than with the Whole of Life 
enveloping all existence in form. 
The salt that was carried within my reach 
so I could stretch out and feel its energy 
calling to me like a song, 
like the vibration of a crystal 
tuned to the frequency I needed, 
or me tuned to Hers in my unaware need 
yet we found each other and I am nourished. 
Where do I find the humble essence of knowing 
that it is through Her Grace that the perfect amount of salt fell within reach? 
Too much can poison yet
Gaia's trickling tears carried the nutrient 
toward my yearning lost tendrils 
that weakly grew in one direction ... alone. 
Did another being join to push and shove, 
swallow and release, 
the salt within reach? 
I received a gift that brings joy and wellness, 
one that I say grace for within each moment. 
How to share with humility and happiness? 
Is my smile genuine in Love? 
Do I pause to witness the journey of the one on their own path 
and offer them a grain of salt, 
the nutrient, 
the seed just as it was gifted to me? 
I know not why the salt appeared 
with its taste so appealing I could not resist 
yet once I felt Her song on my tongue 
I was carried within the melody 
and we flow in harmony 
through the winding ways of the world, 
nourished together, 
by each other, 
releasing and opening, 
sharing. 
Ahhh ... there is it, 
the secret--
non-attachment to the salt. 
Let it fall from my eye, 
from my sweat, 
from my heart 
and realize that 
I do not have to see who tastes it 
or know who adds it to their daily bread as I do. 



She flows through me and winds Her way in the world;
as a stream we quench those who thirst 
and feed the hunger of kindred souls.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Suet Pudding Anyone?

While settling in to our new house in Arizona, I thought it a good opportunity to start reading some more books on writing during my self-imposed breaks. (I am quite an expert in the art of allowing oneself plenty of breaks from manual labor.) I feel a little bit daunted by all that I have to learn, but also inspired by the encouragement of the authors.

"What is important is not the lucky break, the stopping of the train--that's only part of it. Life is full of trains that stop. What counts is what we are doing with our lives when there is no opportunity and not a train in sight." ~ Phyllis A. Whitney, Guide to Fiction Writing

Ms. Whitney is sharing the above based upon her own experience of hard work and lucky breaks; she emphasizes that we continue to write, to learn, to grow as writers so that when that train stops . . . we can climb aboard.

Every book I've read during the past couple weeks has provided great suggestions on technique, methods from the perspectives of both mistakes and excellent examples.

In How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James Frey offers a chapter on the topic of 'premise' which I thoroughly enjoyed. He mentions Aristotle's "unity of action" and how the ancient writer declares that stories should have "all the organic unity of a living creature." Mr. Frey summarizes that:

"The premise of a story is simply a statement of what happens to the characters as a result of the core conflict in the story."

Reading about the various views of premise, plot, or theme has helped me clarify my first draft of the manuscript on which I'm currently working. I have a lot of rewriting to do, yet I'm excited about it because I can envision a better story.

Also, my first draft contains significant amounts of informational dumping. How to avoid that? I liked Chris Roerden's explanations and examples throughout Don't Sabotage Your Submission and I will be able to remember her "slice, dice and splice" approach. Catchy!

In Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, his advice is helpful throughout, but I am particularly drawn to his comments regarding another author--David Morrell and Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing (which is now on my wish list). Mr. Bell writes that:

"Morrell's method is geared toward getting deeper into your story idea, finding out why you really want to write it. It's a trip into the subconscious and the place where real writing power resides."

Many of my scenes are total disasters, but at least now I have ideas about how to fix them. Jack Bickham gives clear, straight-forward advice in The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes when he lists a process for deciding, in each scene, the goal, the scene question, opposition to the goal, writing moment-by-moment with summary, and then how to end by answering the scene question badly so that the story continues. And, in The Writer's Digest Guide to Good Writing, Arthur Gordon (1941) offers a simple, specific tip on pace: "Plan each scene of your story as if the scene were a complete story in itself."

Speaking of which, I am finding The Writer's Digest Guide to Good Writing to be a thoroughly delightful read, filled with light-hearted anecdotes and sage advice. Perhaps because it begins with pieces from the 1920's. Like this descriptive paragraph on the "had horrors" from Laurence D'Orsay:

"If a story has strong and well-sustained entertainment value, an editor will overlook many technical flaws. But one thing he will not overlook, as a general rule, is a bad attack of the had horrors--a stodgy lump of bald and undisguised retrospect on the second, third and fourth pages. For that is destructive of entertainment value at the critical moment when, having caught the reader's attention by a good opening, the writer should strive to hold it by going straight ahead along dramatic lines. It is as if the chef offered you a slab of cold and greasy suet pudding after you had polished of the hors d'oeuvres, instead of serving some appetizing and nourishing soup."

BLECH! That image will stick with me, how about you? And, also in that book, Louis Dodge comments we must "say something" because it is not enough to write well yet say nothing:

"A story which says nothing (but does it well) is like a person who is faultlessly clad and good to look at, but who calls and says a few conversational things in a careful manner and goes away leaving an effect of strain. After the advent of such a person, how restful and good it is to welcome the friend who drops in informally and brings a real message of warmth, of positive meaning, of an original point of view. Better a beggar with a real tale of woe than a great diplomat who wears a mask."

Those are the kinds of phrases that will remain with me, helping me along as I turn to rewriting and revising my first draft.

Lastly, I return to another comment by Ms. Whitney because I felt she could have been referring to me specifically, and a problem I find myself falling into when I write:

"The developing of an active purpose for your main character is not easy. Unless I am careful, I frequently find that all sorts of problems--both my heroine's and those of other characters--are latent but not apparent. Or else some other character is working at his problem, while the heroine watches passively, as if she had no problem of her own--in which case she drifts along, just letting things happen to her. When this is the situation, there is no purpose, no 'attempt to resolve' on the part of the main character, and reader interest is likely to lag."

OUCH! At the same time, I felt good knowing that even a prolific writer whose stories I enjoyed so much may have experienced what I do when writing.

All in all, I have to say that I am encouraged to continue my writing journey...
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