Saturday, March 30, 2019

Home, Cleveland, Home Again

Wednesday was one of those perfect early spring days on November Hill, with horses, donkeys, pony,  dogs, and cats enjoying the sunshine and the very nice weather. The porch is a favorite spot and Clem loves it along with the rest of us.

Speaking of porches, I finally got a preliminary estimate for adding the same size porch to the back of our house, replacing the deck, and it’s so much less than what we expected I think it is actually going to be doable pretty soon. It will be so nice having covered relaxing space on the back side of our home.

Wednesday evening my daughter and I flew to Cleveland where she presented her lemur research at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. It was a fun trip among a great group of dedicated scientists.

As usual, it’s good to be home again. Clementine is growing like a weed, the redbuds have popped, and dogwoods are close to blooming as well. My son and daughter-in-law arrive in a couple of days for a nice spring break visit so the house will be full and I’ll be a happy, happy mom.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Synchronicity and the writing life

I stopped by NCSU’s Gregg Museum today and was charmed to see that all three of their current exhibits held special meaning for me.

“Borderlands” is a poignant set of large photographs and actual items collected by the artist along the US/Mexico border. Clothing, personal articles, pathways through trees and signs of river crossings. The writing project next in line is intimately connected with the border and border crossings and I was stunned to see the artist’s documentation of what is happening there.

“Explorations” is a found object sculptor’s use of seismograph “bowls” she purchased at a government surplus outlet. She has created a way to connect them to the USGS earthquake site and as you’re standing there small arms using golf balls as striking instruments sound the bowls to mark real time seismic activity. There’s also a meter showing your footsteps and the “mark” you’re making on the earth as you walk through the exhibit. Yesterday I was editing a novel chapter titled “Little Earthquakes” and today I was listening to the sounds marking little earthquakes happening around the world.

The third exhibit was called “Liberty” and showcased NC visionary folk artists, which is a special interest of mine. I have several pieces by NC artists working in this genre and I adore the Wilmington, NC artist Minnie Evans, who had work hanging today. What a treat!

The writing life is sometimes difficult because it involves a certain amount of what an old writer friend calls “ass in chair.” But it also has its mystical moments, and today was a treasure chest of them!

The final synchronicity: when I went to the bathroom and washed my hands as I left, I tossed some soap suds onto the counter by accident. Check it out.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 71

We’ve been busy here, and I haven’t had time to write. But we’ve bumped out of the extreme rain mode we were in and are starting to dry out some, which is a good thing. The pollinator beds are all cleared of last year’s growth and everything is coming back, which is so inspiring to see. My farm helper dug out the invasive, non-native roses that were a problem last spring and summer, and cut back the overwhelming butterfly bushes. I couldn’t bring myself to take them out but they were seriously overshading some natives, so they remain, but are under tight control.

A sad event that must be noted: Ciro was returned to his trainer. He is such a great dog, but he was having issues with spooking on leash and also a hyperalertness in every setting but riding in the back seat of our car. We felt the life he would lead with us would be hard for him and one of the jobs we needed him to do was not going to be possible with the spooking. His trainers came to get him and he was overjoyed to see them, so while it was heartbreaking, we are glad he was happy to go back to a more familiar setting where he can relax.

Meanwhile, more research and hard decisions yielded this:

Her name is Clementine (we call her Clem) and she is here and already quite settled in and beginning her training to be a service dog. She is bold, confident, calm, and so sweet. The Corgi boys love her and she loves them back. She comes from a long and strong line of service dogs and we’re happy to welcome her into our family. 

Yesterday ended with a Corgi romp and one of the most gorgeous sunsets I’ve seen in awhile. The herd enjoyed it from the back field and the setting sun put on a show behind them. Talk about living in the light. Keil Bay was of course right in the center of that.

On my way up the path I stopped several times to celebrate this amazing end to the day. 

Puppies, illuminated Bay, sunsets that blaze the skies, all these are remedies for the hard stuff in life. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Recreating the writing space...

AKA when you need a writing retreat but can’t travel.

That’s where I’ve been the past few weeks. I just had a writing retreat in February and it was wonderful, productive, and both grounding and exhilarating creatively.

Back home, we’ve had rain, and mud, and mud, and rain, and now cold weather and wind. There are too many things on my to do list and getting to the writing time has been hard.

I needed a getaway, a place to do the deep work that I’ve committed to this year, but the garret was a mess. I craved space to spread things out, a room where I can close the door if I want to and leave things sitting. The garret had litter boxes in it, so I couldn’t close it off, but then the kittens started using the bathroom outside the litter boxes and I needed to shake that up to stop it. The litter boxes were moved and the garret door closed until further notice.

Something about seeing the door closed tipped a domino and I went on a wild purging rampage last weekend. I cleared and cleaned, cleaned and cleared. Got ideas, abandoned them. Looked at expensive Pottery Barn desks, shopped in my basement storage room. Moved furniture, got rid of furniture.

Went through every single piece of paper in the room. Sent a feed bag’s worth out the door.

This is what is left.

This wasn’t anywhere on my to do list, but it had to be done to get me writing again.

See the skinny thing hanging on the wall behind my iPad? That’s a storyteller, created by a local artist I love. She’s the guardian of writing time. 

The sun hits the window in the morning and the golden hour illuminates the crow forest outside the window in the late afternoon. And of course there are cats. 

My grandma’s old sewing machine is still in the room for little excursions to the past when a drawer full of buttons and threads of every color mesmerized me.

There are still four large piles of papers that need sorting and filing but guess what? I resubmitted a story today, I edited the novel for over an hour, and I did research on where to submit several other stories and essays awaiting attention. I think the tempest in the teapot has been set free. 

Sunday, March 03, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 70

We’re soggy with rain tonight, but once this rolls out, it looks like a clear (but colder) week ahead. I’ll happily take the cold along with the sunshine.

This past week the volunteer peach trees bloomed, the daffodils and crocuses are still blooming, and everything else remains dormant but I’m waiting to see what pops out next. It will likely the the redbuds.

Yesterday was warm and dry with sunshine and one of my farm helpers was here and managed to get the entire farm mucked and dumped, which made me happy. I used the time to get to a project that’s been waiting and slipped into deep cleaning mode this weekend. I had an idea to rearrange my garret which ended up with me going through every single bit of paper in the office (and cleaning a feed bag’s worth of it out) and deciding to go ahead and purge my 25-year old rickety desk, filing cabinet, and recliner.

Our old dining table is in the basement along with a long narrow table that will fit perfectly along the sloped wall in the garret. I’ve moved my grandma’s old sewing machine to where my old desk sat, and have the space ready for the “new” desk - the dining table - which will give me room to spread out papers and have desktop, iPad, and writing pad all lined up for working and positioned so I can see out the window.

For some reason with my current novel edits, the side burner writing that I’m trying to get to, and the ongoing research I’m doing, the need to have a large desk space has been pushing at me. I hope to have things set up in the next couple of days.

Right now the twin guest bed is stacked with what’s left of my files and I still have to move the old filing cabinet out, but it’s amazing how much lighter it feels in there without the rickety desk, the chair, and all that paper. I think it will feel good to write there again.

About the time I finished up what I could do tonight, I needed something out of my bedroom closet and suddenly grabbed a stack of things to take to the thrift store. I had to stop myself from diving in and cleaning out the entire closet as it, too, needs some purging. I’ll get to that another time!

All of this has to mean spring is moving closer, right?