Woods curl around our house, and on the scrubby lot to our south, opposite a strip of young aspens and oaks, sits a shack, half-hidden by brush and surrounded by wildflowers—asters, daisies, buttercups, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, purple vetch. The little structure boasts a tiny window, uneven roofline, stovepipe, and white door. Twenty years ago, when I first saw it, I thought of Charlie Bucket’s house in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, quirky, ramshackle, small but teeming with family, grandparents included, and packed floor-to-ceiling with love. [Read more…] about Abandoned
I didn’t notice it until the bird began occupying it for long stretches, clearly focused on the business of incubation. This bird—a cardinal—had built her nest in the Rose of Sharon outside our half-bath window. The clever cup of woven weeds, leaves, and twigs rested low in the bush and close to our house: a snug location, protected from spring showers and summer storms, and, for me, a lucky location. I had a front-row seat to a cool production.
But it wasn’t easy to get a glimpse of the eggs. For a while, all I could make out of the nest’s inhabitants was the female’s brownish head and alert eyes. Sometimes she’d sing. The male cardinal lingering nearby would bring her food, swooping into the bush, a flash of gorgeous red. [Read more…] about The Nest
A little after the birth of my daughter, I started writing early in the morning, and for the past twelve years, this ritual has satisfied me for many reasons, not the least of which is the pleasure of having a few quiet hours every day to myself. I could get into all of the other wonderful ways this vocation has enriched my life, but I want to be honest here and discuss a downside. Writing regularly has complicated what was once a profound and unmitigated delight: reading.
My husband Michael and I met twenty years ago. On one of our first times out together, we went to the cinema to see The Fellowship of the Rings. It was a great date. Certainly, the fellowship could have stood a little femaleship and (cripes, Hollywood) some diversity. And yes, I found the backstory detours and not-an-ending ending disconcerting. Still, the fantasy adventure had some things going for it. The mischievous Merlin-y Gandalf, the sweet and earnest Frodo, the terrifically terrifying Elf Queen Galadriel, and all that Legolas-Aragorn-Arwen gorgeousness, plus the stunning landscapes and special effects (Arwen’s summoning of the flood!) and the sweeping score, enhanced with a little Enya mystical magic: They dazzled me. Michael and I were transported. [Read more…] about Likably Unlikely
Of all the pottery-making stages—centering, opening, pulling, raising the wall, and shaping—maybe the most difficult to learn is the first. Centering involves placing the clay on the wheelhead, squeezing and lifting the mound into a tall cone, pressing it back down, and exerting pressure toward the center until the clay revolves smoothly.
It sounds so easy. I’m not sure why it isn’t. Centering gives most beginners a terrible time, but there’s no skipping or fudging this step. A centered mound provides a symmetrical starting point. Even pots can’t result from uneven beginnings. [Read more…] about Still
If you’ve ever seen a doctor about an injury, I bet you were asked to rate your pain. Was that hard for you? If your injury wasn’t obvious (no gushing blood, broken bones, blisters from burns), did you hesitate to confess the number that popped into your head? Did you fret you’d come across as a liar? As dramatic, pathetic, or weak? Did you worry giving too high a number would make the doctor suspicious your emergency was a ploy to get a pain meds prescription? Did you dread facing skepticism, doubt, a lecture? [Read more…] about From Zero to Ten
My twelve year old favors my husband’s side, appearance-wise, the long legs, straight back, and Brad-Pitt eyes, but she’s very much her own person. Confronted by one of her unique inclinations, my husband and I will sometimes marvel, “Who’d she get that from?” In one respect, however, she’s all mine: She doesn’t part with stuff, at least not easily. Her messy bedroom pains my husband, the neatest person I know, but she can’t seem to toss, donate, or recycle much of anything. “It’s too special,” she says. (Our ten year old couldn’t be more different. Case in point: He used to tidy his kindergarten teacher’s desk for her during recess. For fun.)
When I first started learning ceramics, my professor encouraged my classmates and me to make kiln gods for our glaze firing. This was an old tradition, he told us. We were going to position our greenware guardians near the kiln opening, just as the potters of ancient cultures did. The little gods would keep watch over our pieces during the firing. [Read more…] about Kiln Gods
There is a great in-between for creators. I’m in it now. A draft of a novel, completed and set aside. No new tale begun. No new tale even imagined. A lull.
Isn’t lull a beautiful word? Beautiful in sound, beautiful in meaning. The heart of lullaby. Kin to loll. Singing, sleeping, rocking, calm.
In a recent exchange of emails, I mentioned to a writer friend that I was in this lullsome state and realized after sending my message that my friend might think I’m depressed about this condition. I’m not. Though I don’t have a plan for a project, I’m enjoying my spell of anticipation. It’s a happy time, this dreaming, meandering hush. I read and read, all sorts of things, poems and plays, news and novels. I sit and think. I walk and watch. I dwell in possibility. I know there’s a novel out there somewhere, a gift for me. I can’t open it yet. I can’t even spy it. It’s hidden, like a living treasure, a rare bird nesting in a tree among trees, a tree in a thick forest.
While I was working on my last novel, my mind was a garden: planted, regularly watered and weeded, on its way to bearing fruit. There is no garden now. There’s only wilderness. I’m silent, wandering, lost in the loveliest way. When the gift’s ready to be found, it will sing, “Here I am,” and call me closer.
I will hear it because I have been listening.
“Forever is composed of nows.”
Happy New Year. It’s resolution time. Time to get thinner, stronger, smarter, richer. Time to heal our broken relationships. Time to find a new job. Time to quit procrastinating on that novel that needs to be written. But I’m tired. Are you tired, too? Too tired for big changes and improvements and overhauls?
This year, especially this year, maybe we deserve to cut ourselves some slack in the resolution department. If you have the energy for any or all of the above, good for you, but if you don’t and you’re a writer, a stressed-out writer who wants to pen a terrific novel or come up with a score of brilliant stories or poems, but is struggling to simply think straight, I have a suggestion. It’s something I’ve been doing. It’s easy. And it makes me happy. [Read more…] about Present and Accounted for