Tag Archives: Prose

NaNoWriMo 17

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NaNoWriMo.

At first, all the letters just ran together, they didn’t make sense. I fumbled on the pronunciation when speaking with my grandmother on the phone. “Anyway,” I told her. “It’s a good thing. The idea is you write a novel in a month.”

I was at Target, talking on my cellphone while browsing the “school supplies” section. I absentmindedly placed a white wire wastebasket in the cart. It was a good deal. $5. Then I took it out–nobody as broke as me needs to be spending money on something as trashy as a wastebasket. But I could just picture crumpling a piece of writing paper into a ball, tossing it into the cute wire wastebasket. Real “writerly”. But I already had a system for recycling paper–a medium-sized Priority box at the foot of my oak dresser. The paper goes in there, uncrumpled, and becomes firestarter. Quick. Easy. Cheap. Not glamorous but not frivolous either.

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Nah – noh – rye – moh.

I’d never set big writing goals for November, though I had heard of NaNoWriMo. My novel (my memoir) was written first over many, many years of recounting and recording painful and joyous events from childhood–scene by scene. Then in 2016 I spent one full summer preparing the manuscript for submission to a Portland editor (getting it into chapters). I got the manuscript there within the deadline, but it became apparent that the manuscript still needed a LOT of work! Especially the ending.

I took a few days off-the-grid in January 2017 to work on it. It felt like my coffee had barely cooled before I already had to pack up and go. I didn’t get a lot done. I had barely “tapped into the mindset” before I was thrust back into reality: moving, since my partner bought a home, starting a farm and small business, taking care of myself, working and earning money, and um, using Social Media. You know, RL stuff.

I guess NaNoWriMo kind of takes all of those excuses and RL factors and throws them to the wind. Like a 48-hour film contest or something. You get a lot done in a small (ish) amount of time. In essence: you fucking hustle. Boundaries are set. Word counts are recorded and, importantly, we writers are all in this together. Social Media outlets like Instagram unite NaNoWriMo participants unlike any other previous club. Local libraries support the cause by hosting weekly groups for local writers participating in NaNoWriMo.

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At Target I settled on one large Sketch Pad. Sleek with a black cover, wide blank white pages that opened nicely and stayed down on their own. Some journals are made for looks with cheap paper or kitschy covers. Not this one. I put two in the basket, but at $8.99 a pop, I put one back.

I started really thinking about NaNoWriMo: would I start a new novel? I have a fresh idea rolling around in my head. Do you have to be just starting out with your book? In a lot of ways I am. I have “only” been working on my book for a decade. Some people spend twice that. I can’t see the end in sight: I should probably work on this one then. Wouldn’t you say it has the most potential? Hell, if I am about to write a book in a month it better be the one I’ve been writing for the past 10 years.

Step One: Google NaNoWriMo, again. See that local literary group Wordcrafters is hosting a free event at the Springfield Downtown Public Library Saturday’s through November 1-3 p.m. Record in weekly planner. Write with finest print.

Step Two: Email Wordcrafters to confirm event and “network.” Also this helps make the dream more likely to become reality. Establish accountability, in essence.

Step Three: Pace excitedly a bit. Make coffee and decide today I will “prepare my life for NaNoWriMo”. Pick up a few items around the house, because the dog chewed them up and has strewn them about–mostly gnawed on pieces of kindling. Add wood to the fire. Sip coffee. Plot inside mind. Decide I will sweep,  then clean my office. First, I eat a banana.

Step Four: Start a blog post to share rare enthusiastic rush of inspiration. Write because it is what I do and cannot be contained. (Also: then worry that said writing is getting in the way of “real” writing.)

Step Five: Get an email from Wordcrafters: No need to register. See you on Saturday! Decide it is time to sweep the floor.

Step Six: Music. Coffee. Radio. Broom. Paper. Office supplies. Could leap like a leprechaun today “feeling like a writer.” It is my first day alone in over a week and my last day off before going back to work. I am amazed every time I get a rush of fresh energy and doubly amazed at all that can be accomplished, reset, and improved over the span of one “Sunday”.

Step 7: More coffee. I’m taking advantage of this whole cool-weather thing.

Step 8: Dust desk with damp, then dry, cloth. Shuffle things around until they look feng-shui’d, American-girl style.

Step 9: Face, with a deep optimistic breath, the “memoir section” of my office. Note at least 11 unrelated items encroaching on the scene: local newspapers, greeting cards, and “watercolor pens”. Weed out unrelated materials. Dust again. Lightly finger manuscript for good luck. Smile at the fortune of having an office.

Step 10: Register for NaNoWriMo on NaNoWriMo.org. Complete profile, book title & description, and select a writing “region”. Select Eugene/Lane County, Oregon for my Home Region and San Francisco/Bay Area and Portland, Oregon for my other regions. Review this article written by a more experience NaNoWriMo’er to insure that I know what I am doing. Set aside 4 blank notebooks, The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, a decent ball point pen, a chipped empty vase from Mexico, vessel up; and sit back in my fuzzy slippers, grateful for the permission and support of writers from all over the world who are joining together in their own living rooms and offices to make magic and make words, sentences and waves.

For more information on NaNoWriMo, just Google it. If you want to support my cause, kindly ignore me for the next 31 days. Sending Corn Nuts or Jelly Belly’s is okay too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intentions for a New Season of Life

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Brave the world. Be in it just enough to observe, earn, and give back. Escape it daily in an attempt to soothe your tired animal mind; spilling at the seams of this complicated human life. Adhere to the hermit way, it comes naturally. You are stick and stone, fire and water, a hot pot of tea, you are a simple flower, a timid bear, a lone wolf. You. You. You do it on your own. Take a few select things into your own palms and generate a life from it. This won’t be the first year you’ve done so.

Pages turn in the wind. You waste $2.99 on a set of “good pens”. They are not. You regret going out and getting your paws wet, wasting money. Your fate is solitude and opportunity, solitude and opportunity. A pattern emerges in the sand mandala of your life. Impermanence is a cackling witch assuring you that even your creativity is not fixed. It will not wait patiently for a boyfriend to come and go or for you to lose enough interest that your art rises to the top again.

So you bold your capital letters at the beginning of every sentence. Although this is a handwritten journal, you think it is what the professionals would do. Bold the capitals. You’ve seen it done.

The downside of your closed writing fist–gripping the new, slick and slippery pen–crushes an amber-colored bug onto the page. You smear it away and it looks like taco sauce on the page. Two distractions: one, children zipping through the park in fall on metal scooters in the wind. Two: professional. What is it? you want to know. Professional, adjective: a person engaged in a specified activity as one’s main occupation, rather than a pastime; noun: a person qualified in a specific profession.

Intentions for a new season of life: avoid generalizations. Never, fucking ever, quit Your Dream. Or all the little dreams in-between. In your diligent, orderly way, plot your escape from novice to master. Stop speaking if you have to. Write what’s in your head. Connect the dots in the world you see. Sketch a constellation. Name it. Gain pages. Lose friends. Win them back again. Fear blank more than sloppy. Rest. Rinse. Repeat.

Semblance of Ol’

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ISO isolated cabin in the woods, at the sea, or in the desert.

An army cot, wood stove, and a pen (2).

Enough shelter to keep me and my notebook dry.

A brook, frozen or flowing.

Solitude and space, modestly provided.

A closed mouth, open mind.

A select few good books, but not enough to distract me indefinitely.

A miner’s flashlight, for exploring the pitch-black spaces within me.

Backup batteries, matches, and lighters, stored in a single box.

Crackers, chocolates, coffee and water, running or not.

The type of place that won’t take your AAA discount.

Absolutely no mirrors.

Or people.

The type of place that scares me at first (the dark, the wolves).

The type of place that purifies my soul.

I can’t tell if I’m asking a lot or nothing much:

A wise guy, before the term became derogatory.

A location where no one can come asking for me.

The ability to fly and stay grounded all at once.

A toilet to drop my phone into.

A round trip ticket to myself and back.

Real, legitimate time for grounding.

The sound of water

moving

roaring

whispering

dripping

the sound of trees

talking

laughing

and creaking

around the house.

Old friends.

New levels of love.

Stones turned over.

Bread baked and savored.

Old ways of living restored.

Favorite songs and hymns reverberating in my soul.

The quiet and the solitude to

form my thoughts

into gold.

Something,

anything,

that is some

semblance of ol’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cats

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I will never love again.

That’s how it feels.

First, she started peeing on the mat outside the litter box. Next, on my boyfriend’s pillow. Then she stopped sleeping in the bed with me. For three months or so, she “yowled” at night. Then, shortly after we got a puppy, she stopped doing that. We thought she was improving–but maybe she just didn’t have it in her to yowl anymore.

Fast forward to today. At 8 a.m., I drove to the new veterinary clinic in town, health record of Minnie the Mooch, DOB 2000, Breed Siamese, Sex F, Markings Blue Eyes, tucked into my purse; Minnie in her carrier–blue eyes glazing over, orifices excreting foul odor and liquids. Before we left the house, I told her “this is your home, baby girl, we love you so much. We love you so, so much.”

A beam of light was gathering on the hardwood floor, possibly her favorite thing ever, so I put the carrier there, opened it up, she lifted her face to the sun, and I cried. She looked at me concerned, not for her but for me. Because she was like that. Because that’s exactly what she was like.

At the vet, after we (the vet, Katie, and I) decided that euthanization was the appropriate route to take,  I tried to give her a treat I had brought, a greenie, but she wouldn’t take it. That affirmed how bad it had gotten. Just one week ago, I’d say “treat” and Minnie and the puppy would both come sit and receive their treat. Minnie got two treats, because I knew she was dying.

I set the greenie aside and rubbed behind her ears. I noticed all the blinds were closed in the clinic and I opened them up, the room was facing the east and sunlight filled the crematorium. Minnie lifted her head once again. She purred, if lightly.

“I love you Minnie, I love you Princess.”

I cried.

By now, I was waiting on the form to sign which authorized Katie to euthanize my cat.

Katie came in.

Minnie and I had spent the last hour together, so I felt that it was time. Plus, she was suffering–which was the whole point of the euthanization. Another gal, Jill, arrived too, to help hold her down.

“You don’t have to witness this if you don’t want to,” Katie told me.

“No, no. I want to be here. I want to give her lovin’.”

Katie and Jill nodded.

I stood in front of Minnie, got down at eye-level.

“I love you so much. I love you so so much.”

Pathetic.

I’d tried giving her one more greenie a few minutes earlier, while we were waiting, and she’d eaten it.  I didn’t manage to get the steamed milk from the pull-up coffee shop. Now that we were here, I just wanted it to be done with. Minnie had been shivering all morning, which was unlike her. It was eighty degrees out. Her body ran a gamut of issues, none of which I could afford to treat, if I am being honest.

One hundred and sixteen dollars  later, I was escorted out a side door. Jill carried Minnie’s body in a white cardboard box. White boxes are reserved for animals with the purest of souls, I imagined.

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In the summer of 1993 I was eight years old.

Our second favorite thing to do (second to swimming in the Smith River) was going to the Drive-In movies. Our second cousins ran the Drive-In, but we still popped our own popcorn, storing it in brown paper grocery sacks. Dad would buy us cokes and Red Vines when we got there. A lot of the time, he’d take as many kids as could fit in the camper of our pick-up truck. I was an only child, but the neighborhood kids, some of whom had 5 or 6 brothers and sisters, adopted me as a sibling and my Dad as a fill-in Dad. We never knew when we were going to the Drive-In and we rarely knew what was playing, but it didn’t matter. As soon as Dad said “Drive-In” we’d all be putting our long pants on, begging for popcorn, and gathering as many neighborhood kids as we could find.

One evening, I’d been helping the Philpott’s get their Drive-In supplies together–blankets, pillows, ninja-turtles. Sleeping bags were a thing and every kid owned one. I’d hoisted a sleeping bag up over my shoulder, like I’d seen my dad do with hay bales and bags of dog food. We needed to be at the Drive-In by dark, and the sun was already escaping behind the mountains.

I walked through the Philpott’s sliding glass door, perpetually dirty with handprints of boys; I couldn’t see as the sleeping bag was smothering my head. I just needed to make it down the few short steps off of the porch and into the bed of the truck.

Crunch.

Something crunched beneath my foot. I lifted my heel, I lifted the soft, but heavy, sleeping bag, craned my neck, and peeked behind me.

Beneath my heel lay an orange tabby kitten, writhing with pain.

The Philpott’s Mom was upon me immediately, not angry, just concerned.

“Go get your dad. Go get your dad. Go get your dad,” she told me.

The cat convulsed, its head seemed to be glued to the porch, while its small, bony body tried to get away but couldn’t.

Cut scene.

Open scene.

I am standing behind the trunk of a tree. My fingers are in my mouth–a nervous gesture–and I am horrified. The kitten is on a tree stump used as a chopping block, and my father is raising an ax to the sky. It’s been so little time since I stepped on the kitten that it isn’t even dark yet. I do not remember now if I “got my Dad” like Francine had asked me, or if somebody else did. One of the boys probably beat me to it, because that’s what boys are good for. They come in handy in times like this.

Blood.

End scene.

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My first love was named after our property manager, Kitty Rose. My father brought her home for me as a kitten not long after my mother left. To fill the void.

Dad taught me how to hold the cat, by cradling her bottom, not by holding her under her armpits. He told me that cats don’t like to be petted when they’re eating. We kept her food and water by the garage door.

By the time we moved to the mountains, Kitty Rose was my confidant. Kitty Rose is my best friend, I wrote in my dairy. Kitty Rose was also full grown and not spayed. It wasn’t long before she became impregnated.

“Your cats a slut,” one of my older, more in-the-know friends told me. “I saw her over at our house, and then I saw her at the neighbors house across the street.”

“No she’s not,” I defended her.

But from then on I kind of thought that she was. Kitty Rose was very pretty, with her full white collar and striped fur, and with the limited knowledge that I possessed, well I thought slut and pretty were synonymous. Or at least closely related.

I tried to push it out of my mind when, after Kitty Rose prematurely gave birth to a litter of kittens behind the tool shed, Dad told me he thought she’d eaten a couple of them.

Did not, did not, I told myself. I stored it with the very few things down in the basement of my mind which I just could not, would not accept about the world. I moved on. I kept my cat calendar fixed to the month with the cat that looked just like Kitty Rose. It was my birthday month, and the kitten sat in a pumpkin patch. If only life really were so simple.

At least one of Kitty Rose’s kittens survived. Dad named him “Junior Rose”. I was kind of peeved that Dad named the cat without me, but I had to give it to him–he always picked good names. Junior Rose had identical markings as Kitty Rose, but he was short-haired. He wasn’t nearly as sweet. He was a “wild cat,” Dad said, and  he only came around to eat and when he did he wouldn’t let you pet him, just scampered off into the trees.

I tried not to think too hard on why Kitty Rose didn’t run around with him or lick him or care for him. He was still young, though pretty big. Everyday Junior Rose got stronger and more independent until eventually we rarely saw him at all. Hardened as he was, physically and emotionally, we didn’t even think to bring him when we moved back to town. Junior Rose was his own thing. His mother’s abandonment had made sure of that. Though I truly believe she’d done her best.

1999.

The family is splitting up. Dad is going one way and I am going another. We aren’t sure who to blame it on but I am blaming the pastor of his new church. I toilet paper the pastor’s house in protest.

Kitty Rose is stuck in the middle. I am a teenager now, and she is no longer my best friend. My boyfriend is, because I am stupid. Stupid in that young kind of way. Not surprisingly, my boyfriend has no interest in hanging out with my cat, who now lives at my Aunt Julie’s house–a neutral location. Someone will come for her, Dad and I tell her separately, when things get sorted out.

Things do not get sorted out. In my absence, Kitty Rose wanders off into the woods behind the house and never returns.

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I guess I figured Minnie would do the same. Abandon me for a better life. Retire. Expire. You hear of people who say their cat slept under the porch or in the closet for a few days and then just died. In their sleep or while you were at work. Nice and easy. No ax.

I assumed that would be me. I was wrong. Never assume, how could I forget? It’s one of my favorite tenets.

Things got busy. She got worse. She is still eating and drinking, I kept saying. But then I noticed her food dish remaining fuller and fuller. Her water dish too. She stopped coming in to eat as much. She stopped coming in at all. She slept outside for 2 nights, but she didn’t die. She didn’t whimper either. Very quiet. Very still.

“I don’t know how to do this,” crept into my mind but I quickly stowed it down in the basement. I put my work boots on, kissed Minnie’s head, said she’ll either be fine or she’ll die when I’m gone. Nice and easy.

Bad got to worse in a matter of a weekend. By the time I recognized her agony, it was too late. It was then I realized, being the fighter  that she is, she wasn’t going anywhere easy.

“Baby girl,” I told her, “I love you so much. I love you so so much.”

More than words, I touched her. I petted her like I haven’t done in years. Maybe like that time she licked my tears away and I felt like I had a soul-companion. I held her close and stroked her, amazed.

Minnie, do you remember when you first came to my house? You were so curious, round, and loving.

And then there was when we lived on the outskirts of town, near where you lived with your family before me. You knew all the streets still, and you’d go and visit the neighbors. “Minnie! Minnie!” I would call and you’d come galloping down the road like a dog, the bell around your neck ringing, signaling your return. You were in your prime then.

Next we moved to Oregon. It was the biggest move of our life together, a huge shift for me. We whittled our belongings down to fit in one 2-door sports car–and we traveled for one month in California. Every house we stayed at, you were The Nice Cat. You didn’t pick  fights, you located the litter box, and when we stayed in hotels you peed in the bathtub drains.

In the redwoods you stalked a snake, but I picked you up before you could pounce.

When we got  to the ocean, I took you out to the sand. You didn’t love it, but I did. We didn’t stay long.

Everywhere you went you were loved. Everywhere you went you were love. You. Were. Love.

Minnie the Mooch
DOB 2000
Breed Siamese
Sex F
Markings Blue Eyes

My last love.

It hurts, it hurts. I want to tell someone.

It hurts, it hurts. She wanted to tell me.

Does anyone feel that the sky is falling? Some parts of the world are burning, other parts of the world are drowning. We are all turning to steam. A cat dies, a baby is born. You make a buck, you spend a buck. You get it together, you fall apart. You anchor to hope. “Hope’s just a word that maybe you said and maybe you heard, but that’s what you need man and you need it bad.” You quote Bob Dylan. You call a friend. You make something new when destruction surrounds you. You bury a pet and try to unearth her essence.

Yin

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All I know is new beginnings.

That’s what I told him in my latest attempt to avoid the possibility of heartache, like ever. It’s like, if I cut my own arm off it won’t hurt as bad. I will still be in control.

Everything is water and matter, water and matter. Work is matter, rest is water. He is matter, I am water. I am made of matter and water and my brains and my bones depend on its balance.

I run on land. I run away. But I am a water creature, a river rat, and a beach babe so I will make mistakes on land. My horoscope read water upon water upon water so watch out and before I even read part that I cried in the kitchen — more than usual, my tears hot in the soapy vat of dishwater. It was strange and not-common. I knew I was in the wrong because I couldn’t pinpoint, exactly, what was wrong. So I wished – slash – willed it away.

I went to the beach the following day. I thought of what I’d said, “all I know are new beginnings.” I’ll admit, I’ve known a lot of them…but I am water…and I am river…and I am a wave. Water is in a constant state of movement, whether it is flowing, seemingly stagnant, or percolating through the earth, through the matter. I am part of a whole as water. I need not run, because everywhere I go is with him. And everywhere I go is with you. Every new beginning is still part of the whole. Yin. Yang. Beginning. End. I come to understand this.

Half-Truths or The Actual Woman

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I didn’t grow up to be who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to have oily hair or a messy bun. But I’ve settled for it. I wasn’t supposed to have unemployment, compromised driving privileges, trust issues, or a dying cat – that’s some other woman.

I didn’t grow up to be tame-haired and golden. I didn’t grow up to be worshiped by a man, doted on, a traffic-stopper, a perfect-in-every-way kind of girl. I’ve never been that.

Not only have I been to therapy, but I’ve walked away from it (that’s worse, it means I haven’t been helped yet). But this story is full of half-truths. You know, maybe I did grow up to be who I was supposed to be (how could I not? I was in control the entire time) (even that’s a half-truth).

I was supposed to be a role-model, for one. All nice girls wish to be role models, that’s how you know you’re good. But I couldn’t even pull that off (half-truth). You know you’re fucking up when a child asks you, “Are you a kid too!?” Eye.

Things have gotten better since then. I feel in control (half-truth). I accept the messy bun. I let the teenage neighbor kids see my climbing-out-of-the-car-with-two-paper-bags-of-groceries-clumsiness. I wish sometimes the girl could look at me with that want-to-be-like-her-when-I-grow-up-awe. You know the awe. But I don’t think I am that woman. I’ve accidentally watered the flowers in a see-through gown, waving at the neighbors. I’ve fallen in a hole chasing after the dog. I am someone else, slightly off-set of that woman. The alternate. The sister story. The girl with the hair falling in her eyes, needing to be washed. The girl with the floor needing to be swept, scrubbed. The woman in the gray dented station-wagon. The woman with the budding, not blooming, flower garden. The woman with $4.50 in fines at the library. The woman who just signed up for the Adult Reading Program (because she hopes to win a tote-bag). The woman who used to work in retail and now works in manual labor. The woman with a college degree, who makes $11 an hour. The woman who would rather paint and write more than anything. The woman with a few pretty dresses that she never wears. The woman who has many friends over the age of fifty. The woman who is apprehensive of parties, but loves them once she gets there. The woman who thinks she knows herself so well (but has a lot to learn). The woman who writes personal stories on her porch in the sunshine. The woman who wishes for tan legs, but won’t pay for them, or sit still long enough for them. The woman who wishes for the luxury of travel, an open road, snacks, a band to follow, cold beer…a bunch of things that aren’t really her, but maybe…The woman who has a defrosted chicken for the crockpot. The woman whose man will be home soon. The woman with her dog barking and her cat purring. The woman with the messy bun, fresh face, bare feet, tall grass, summer sun. The woman, the actual woman, I was meant to become.

Mantra for the Sane

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In writing I worry
I have said too much,
too little
I capitalize on
the funny parts
the sick parts
the sad parts
the parts
half worth
anything
to anyone
(likely not)
I leave out how
my Dad religiously
kissed my forehead every
morning before school
or that friends
parents often
said “we can’t afford
to keep  feeding her”
which only made
my hungrier
my cousins
called me
“oinker”
I leave out
the parts where
I was a happy, jolly
normal kid playing
make-believe and house
I leave out the parts where
I do not go hungry
But I remember
the good times
when I do the dishes,
the innocent times
when I sweep the floor,
the carefree times
when I call for the dog,
“I wanted this”
I recall
“This is all I ever
wanted”
I write my past
I plot my future
“I’ll be the husband
and you’ll be the wife”
I remember saying
“I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries”
It will be so much fun
It is all I ever wanted
It will be so much fun
I recall, hand swirling
in a vat of dishwater,
igniting the suds
It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted

This becomes a mantra
for the sane

It will be so much fun
to be grown
It is all I ever wanted
I’ll go to the store now
to get the groceries
It will be so much fun