A Variation on a Theme: Musical Imagery 

I suppose one of the observations I have had over the years with my own behavior and tendencies is that whatever subject or endeavor that I am interested in, my focus goes full boar. All in.

For example, I don’t just listen to classical music, I become engrossed in classical music. I listen to music daily and at times select a composer focus for the day. For a time, I kept my listening to the B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. Then, on another day, the Sonatas of Liszt and Chopin. Whoever the focus might be, I become fascinated by the carriage of their tunes, the push and the pull, the climbing and descending, the lilts and the hammers. When I listen, I want to hear the variations, consider the emphasis, play, or spirit of the music. Sometimes, I try to imagine what the composer might have been thinking at the time the music was created, what drama might have been playing out in his life, what imagery was he or she exposed to, what beauty or pain was he attempting to craft within the energy of the piece.

For me, that is what music offers. It’s an illustration of life’s moments. When I listen, it is hard for me to not consider these things because that is the very nature of music. I see pictures when I hear music.

A bird in flight.

A man walking a lane alone.

A dog lying on a beach with his tail swishing the sand and the waves as they come in while his owner is lying on a blanket nearby, shading his eyes from the sun. Then, the man’s arm comes back down because a cloud has formed overhead providing him with some relief from the glare. Now, the sun gone, the rain begins. Moments pass and then the waves begin to crash just a little more fervently than before and with each tumble up the beach towards the shore, the dog becomes more and more wet until finally, the dog rises and walks up towards his master lying nearby. The man on queue rises from his lying position, gathers up the blanket and calls the dog to join him back up the path towards the house. Afternoon siesta is over, time to run for cover. The sky has now fully opened up and the rain is pouring down in large sheets and the man moves his blanket to cover his head while running towards the house. The dog moves faster and faster as well, following his master up the path, now up the front stairs onto the porch and they end with their retreat into the homes’ safe walls.

This is not a scientific experience for me, necessarily. I guess I am just particularly driven to imagery. And, music helps me launch my writing to places I otherwise may not venture.

Today, I decided I wanted to experience some Schumann and I was delighted to have the benefit of hearing his music through the hands of Mitsuko Uchida, a pianist to whom I was recently introduced within the editorial page of International Piano magazine which I picked up at the local bookstore. Again, all in. I purchased a keyboard recently and I am relearning the piano, as an adult who has been away from the ivory keys for over thirty two years. In my return to the piano, I grab all the information I can get my hands on and find inspiration and motivation through talented offerings on my Spotify app and through my lessons on Udemy. All good stuff. And, as I listen to a new piece- a Piano Sonata No 11 in A- I hear a lullaby. A gentle piece that encourages a child to seek courage. To move beyond comfort, to walk towards hope. A story bubbles.

I imagine a time during the Victorian Era, a young boy of perhaps eight or nine years of age. He wears one of those blue sailor suits; a cotton combination with Bermuda length shorts. He sits on the floor of the parlor – his legs splayed wide as he bats his big blue ball from one hand to the other – back and forth in front of himself. Nearby, his mother is at the piano. The boy is bored. He wants to play outside. There are no children to play with. He continues batting the ball between his right and left hands and then pushes it at an angle so that ball rolls towards his black leather clad foot. He kicks it lightly and it rolls across the floor and gently hits his springer spaniel on the backside of his leg, as he lay sleeping nearby. The dog wakes and wags his tail at the image of the boy before him. This swishing action of his tail pushes the ball back towards the boy but not quite in a straight line. The ball stops and rests near the boy but somewhat out of reach. He will have to get up to retrieve the ball. The boy smiles at the dog. The dog’s tail wags some more. They’ve connected and that was exactly what the boy had in mind. The boy moves from his sitting position up to a standing position. He walks over and picks up the ball and pushes it under his arm pit, cradling it with his other arm. The dog gets up very slowly as well, exhibiting the ache in his extremities that come from his old age. This faithful friend has played many a game of fetch with the boy and although tired, he makes his way up to a full standing position and begins his sway back and forth as he manages to follow his master outside to play ball. The boy walks slowly to allow the dog to keep up. These are two soul mates that care deeply for one another.

They make their way together past the manicured gardens and out toward the open field, still in view of the home’s bay window where mother continues her scales up and down the keyboard. The sun is shining. The boy left the door open so that as he plays with his dog, he can still hear his mother’s measured tones and occasional high shrills as she now makes her way through Mozart’s Sonata Facile No 16 in C; a piece that is as well known in his system from the years of hearing it as it is in his mother’s fingers. The boy allows the ball to fall from his hands and bounce slightly. With his right foot he begins the gentle kick of the ball forward and catches it with his left foot as he steps forward. He does this again with the left foot and catches it as he lunges forward with his right foot. And he turns and faces the dog who has now sat down to take a break. “How are you, Sir Thomas?” The dog cocks his head in response and opens his mouth to bring in some fresh air and cool down. It’s as if he is smiling back at little Jack. Jack moves to the dog and kneels and places his arms around the dog “it’s Ok Sir Thomas, no need to work up a sweat today”. The dog immediately lays down on the grass in gratitude and shows his belly and looks up at Jack “Pet Me” he seems to be saying. And Jack obliges. And then finds himself laying down beside him, and moving onto his side, he pets Sir Thomas on the belly vigorously- as requested. Sir Thomas’ left leg begins a gentle beat of gratitude as Jack hits just the right spots. They linger in this way enjoying the sunshine together, cherishing these summer moment, which will soon be over since school starts in just a few days.

And there is the start of the story of a boy and his dog Sir Thomas. Thank you Schumann, Mozart & Mitsuko.

Mozart over, the music turns to Albinoni, the piece now is Adagio in G. As I listen, I experience the sorrow as it slowly moves from a high note to the depths of the keyboard into a dark area. In one moment there is hope and in another there is despair. I sense a quiet hollow sadness as if grief is in the air, there is a feeling of just having missed a critical opportunity or that something or someone has been lost. With this change in composer and piece, I thus find myself walking down a very different lane. On this path, there is a deep sense of loss and I imagine that an unexpected tragedy has befallen my heroine.

Daria sits in the bay window on a padded bench, her one hand holds the curtain up to gaze outside, in the hope that he will return at any moment. She tugs at her lower lip with her upper teeth, a small lesion forms there and blood appears. She had not realized she was cutting herself so harshly with her incisors. She sucks the blood into her mouth, licks her lip and tastes the salt. She gets up and paces. She is grateful that Gertrude is gone, she would only make matters worse. Yes, she is glad she is alone at least to bear this burden alone, with no background chatter. She couldn’t bear having to listen to a narrative about her silliness and self centered behavior. No, not today. Then she hears it, the thunder of hooves outside coming closer and closer to the front entrance of their family’s manor home. She rushes to the mirror to check her image and push some loose auburn strands back into her bun. She pinches her cheeks and smoothes her billowing skirts. She goes to the front door. She waits for his knock and then finally, it comes. She slowly opens the door and tightens her facial features so that they are as dead pan as possible. They must not call her out. Calm, cool and unaffected. This must be her demeanor if she is to save any face in this situation.
“Daria, forgive me” he utters in a barely audible tone. “I don’t know what came over me” Oskar looks at her with eyes of plight, as if to say – please Daria, please give me one more chance.
Daria keeps Oskar in suspense. She moves her eyes up and over his brow and looks over at the side chair in the foyer.

“I am not sure I can bear it, Oskar, all your nonsense”.
“What can I do to receive your forgiveness, what can I say?” He begs. He dips down to one knee and holds her delicate hand up to his lips “please tell me, please”.
She looks down at him and offers the slightest smile.
“Well, if I must – you can promise me that under no circumstance whatsoever, will you ever mistrust me again- or I daresay, I may never recover again.” She looks him deeply in the eye.  He returns her gaze and considers her ultimatum.
He kisses her hand “no, never, I will never underestimate you again my dearest, never again, you have my word.”
And with this he rises and kisses her fully on the lips, a long hungry kiss that lasts for many moments.
Then, when he withdraws from her and steps back “what happened to your lip, Daria- is it swollen?”.
“Oh, dear me” she responds “it must be the weather.”
They both smile and walk arm and arm through the foyer out towards the back door and down the garden steps, as if nothing had happened in the first place.  All is well again in paradise.
So it was not a tragedy after all, but rather a tease. A playful romantic exchange that offered a window into a somewhat superficial coupling laced in dishonesty and lack of integrity. A game that will likely end in hurt, someday. A relationship based on surface importance and one that misses deep purpose.
Indeed. Classic music. Instrumental fare. So much to consider, so many angles. So many settings and people and emotions and motivations. I could create a story of honor or one of frivolity. The beauty of writing is that I meet the players and experience the exchanges through each keystroke – both those typed and those heard. And, I will follow the keys and look forward to the next adventure and hope to share those along the way with others.
Thanks for stopping by, for reading and listening and hearing.

Quiet and Desperate

 

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Peering at the clock above my desk at work, I cringe at the realization that I have gone five minutes over the time I had anticipated the project would take. I am now late. And, I have more details to finish before I can even consider an exit. I will be late to my class tonight. This class I had committed to in order to follow my passion. The class that conflicts with my work life even though technically it is scheduled for thirty minutes after my work day ends. The commute is too long for this thirty minute window, so I have received permission to end my day one hour early, giving me an hour and a half to reach my destination.

But now, as I look at the work before me on the screen, as I feel my eyes and their dryness and the painful ache; as I feel the burn in my upper stomach from lack of nourishment, as I consider the exhaustion setting in from a day worked too hard; as I consider all of these things: I cave. I realize that the reality is that I will likely skip class.

I hate myself for this surrender.

I more than hate myself, I sense the guilt and oppression filling in the empty spaces within my soul. I am screaming inside that my life is simply too filled with stuff I have to do, instead of things I want to do.

It’s likely, for the most part, everyone’s story. Most people have certain obligations they are tied to because of what they signed up for: work, marriage, parenthood. The list goes on.

A life of quiet desperation. Have I not read that somewhere? I am sure that I have. It is some other famous person’s words. So of course I google it and I am struck by the fact that it is from Walden- Henry David Thoreau. A good friend of mine gifted me his book a few weeks ago. I have not yet read it, have not even thumbed through the pages. But it is a plight of mine- to live more authentically, to dive more deeply into a world that cradles my true self, my creative self and allows me to work towards my purpose. Isn’t it interesting then that the words about living a life of quiet desperation come to mind. All I know is that those words echo inside me- quiet desperation. Generally speaking, I don’t vocalize this too much with people, I just chug along on the expectations express highway. Each day peels off from the next until weeks and months pass and I reflect on years past when I had the same goals that I still carry with me today. Goals I have not achieved. And I grow bigger, and my face grows more white and splotchy. And my overall health looks questionable. I am not healthy. I am not in my best place.

I wrap up my work day thirty minutes later than I had wanted to and head for the parking ramp. I make it into the car with enough time to technically make it to class on time. Or at least I reflect that I should make it on time, barring any major accident or road construction that might have surfaced since my morning commute. I recall that on one bridge I use each day, the flashing bulbs of warning foretold of a lane closure bringing the bridge traffic down to one lane in each direction. Note to self, avoid that bridge for a few days.

And so I find myself in my car spinning down the floors of the ramp: 3 swing and turn, 2A swing and turn, 2 swing and turn and then 1; ground level and I exit the ramp and I make the appropriate turn to direct my car onto the freeway towards the downtown exits. I successfully navigate through traffic, no major accidents. I am about ten minutes away from class start time. My stomach growls, my eyes hurt. Do I really want to sit in a class for two hours listening to other people’s work? I should do this because these budding authors need my input as much as I needed theirs. It’s not fair leaving them high and dry. They need my insight … Or do they? I reach for the visor to check my reflection as I idle at a red stop light. Uggh. My complexion is pasty, my eyes are bloodshot, my eye makeup has completely rubbed off, my pores are wide open. My hair flat and dull. I look exhausted, I look like crap. I don’t feel like being in that class room right now. I just don’t feel like.

So I find my car passing the building where my class takes place and instead, I work my way back out of the downtown zone, back towards the freeway. But this time, I am on an on-ramp heading to a completely different part of the city, and I am not on my way home. I find myself moving in the opposite direction. What is at the end of this route? What types of restaurants or coffee houses that might offer food other than muffins? A place where there is WiFi and where I can pull out the keyboard and record my thoughts. Work on the novel. Spend time writing. Being alone. No one to bother me and no one to have any expectations of me. I need this right now. Barnes & Noble- at the mini-mall half way to my home. The one with the big cafe and many tables. The one that has the various affinity groups that meet throughout the week. Where community gathers. Yes. That one. I need to somehow navigate my way back towards home so I can stop there on my way and spend some much needed down time.

My car works its way through various routes and waits at numerous stop lights until I am safely situated in the parking lot of my favorite mega book shop location. Yes. Carmel Macchiato with a sandwich. That’s exactly what I need.

I refresh in the restroom and find my corner with the requisite refreshments and food. And, pull out this key board and start working. In the background, a group of seven are talking French. yes, that’s right, that French club that I participated in for one session all those months- maybe years now, ago. They are chatting away. None of them look familiar – for which I find some relief. It’s fun to hear them, I understand every word. But I push myself into a different plane – a space of reflection and writing. A safe space.

And I am glad that I listened to my inner voice. That I sit here instead of in a classroom. That I am allowing myself room to do what I need to do regardless of the class commitment.

Some would likely call me a cop out. Perhaps uncommitted. Perhaps, unreliable.

Today, I have spent each waking hour being reliable to dozens of people- struggling to meet so many deadlines and so many expectations. My body aches from the stress and there is this part of me that wishes I could go home to a space of quiet where no one asked me questions, no one expected an answer. No one would become offended if I headed straight for my own space. No one would ask me to program the new land line phones waiting to be set-up since their purchase the night before; I recall the voicemail at work from Dad earlier today: “Sweetheart- can you program the dang phones when you get home? They are not working. Should I return them? Should I bring them to Best Buy’s Geek Squad to figure them out- pieces of garbage. Why do these things have to be so complicated? Ok- talk soon.” And the phone goes dead. I have a task tonight. Another tech support function to fix the issue before I can do my own thing. With this class, I was meant to be home after 9pm but without my help, the phones don’t work. And I realize that this is part of being at home in their golden years. Each night, always a task- always an expectations. Another reason I am glad to not be in class right now. Instead I am taking valuable time to just be with me, and express and type and figure out my life. As best I can. An attempt at reducing a bit of the desperation and replacing it with some peace and some fulfillment. Something to take me through the next day.

Follow Your Bliss

Have I disappointed God in my choices? I know that I have disappointed my mother. I don’t say parents because I don’t think my father has any real opinion on the topic. But I know that mother is disappointed. Mostly, she is concerned or at least that is how she offers it to me. Concern. She wants me to have the best and experience the best.  It’s my lack of church attendance that has her worried.

I get it.

As I look back on my experiences in certain company, I know that my comfort level has been way off kilter when I engage in relationships with people on a forced basis. In years past, I have spent hours of time in an effort at community through church fellowship with people based on a that shared commitment to a certain religious order. And while it is true that one of the dearest friends that I have ever enjoyed in my entire life came from that religious activity, she is the only one with whom I have had a truly authentic and deep friendship through any kind of religious organization.  Everyone else has felt surface and unsatisfying.

Guilt fills me when I open up and share this experience. Guilt because fellowship in spirit is not meant to really be for one’s own edification. It’s not meant to be about me. It’s meant to be about sharing with others, supporting others, giving to others, recognizing others, lifting others up. Being the hand of Christ to others. Being his ears to listen, his arms to hold and comfort, his eyes to see, his laughter and his encouragement and his counsel through breath and tongue and teeth as we express ourselves in love. Perhaps the reason I have been disappointed over the years is that my efforts in my quest to offer myself to others has felt like a one way street. And then, more guilt. For it is not in seeking to receive that we give.

So, instead, I walk solo most days. I have some friendships for which I have felt truly blessed. A co-worker whom I cherish beyond words and whose smile and whose life I hold very dear. I am so grateful for the growth we have experienced these past few years and look forward to many more exchanges and moments of connection with her.  Another friend whom I have enjoyed for two decades offers a connection and depth of understanding that encourages and reassures.

At this stage in my life, I need my exchanges and expenditures of time to be, for the most part, authentic. No longer can I invest time and energy into activities and responsibilities that do not support who I am at the core of my being. My exchanges with my co-worker are authentic. She helps fill a part of that hunger and need. And I hope I equally fulfill her in some way- and help her on her own path to find her way amidst the din and chaos of life.

On Sundays, these days, I feel more spiritually connected on a quiet morning with words, books, nature, my dog. I feel the blessings and I feel encouraged and energized to move into the week with a renewed commitment to offer love to my fellow man. And all of this feels like a blessing. Instead of heading into a building with hundreds of souls gathering, I find my way to a quiet place of peace. For now, this has to be acceptable. As I consider what my higher power would think of my behavior, I hope it would not involve disdain or disapproval.

These moments of quiet on Sundays have also led to moments of clarity. Inspiration. On one such day a few weeks ago, I had an urge to check on whether classes on writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis would be on offer for this coming fall. To my pleasant surprise, I found a class starting mid-July on novel writing. This six week session would be led by a published author of about forty novels, an author who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller List. While that is not necessarily my goal, the notion of finding guidance from one who has walked the road to publication and could have some valuable insights, tips and advice in general- was highly appealing. So, I signed up! And, my class starts tonight. My first official writing class. I have taken a Saturday workshop in the past, but only one workshop and that was over ten years ago. This step, this commitment, this movement towards a new reality- has me energized. It’s exciting. I know not where this might lead, but I feel it is in the right direction nevertheless.

Grateful for spiritual moments of introspection, when the noise and the busyness of the world retreats into the distant background and I find myself in front of my deepest yearnings and revelations of my purpose.

Perhaps, one day, this writing thing will be instrumental in helping another soul find his or her way to their own purpose and their own passion. It might give them the confidence to try something new, to shake themselves up and to reach for heights only imagined in childhood dreams. Those dreams that left us giddy in youth and offered moments of sparkle but for some reason got left behind or placed on a shelf in order to move in a more responsible direction, one that is walked only for the purpose of gaining approval and or to receive an acknowledgment from those that might have been serving in a role of leadership.   To what end?  What are we hoping to gain from such approvals?

One day, I hope I find myself on a cliff somewhere outside of a small cottage, sitting at a table with writing instruments before me. I hope to feel the soft wind blowing through the long tresses of my silver hair. I imagine I will be wearing a merino blend lace shawl in a color that evokes maple leaves and coco beans and gold leaf which I have knitted and wrapped around my body to chase away the chill. I see that a sweet canine with soft white and sable hair and perky little ears is curled up with her chin resting on the top of my foot. A bird soars overhead. I hear crashing waves below.  The willow tree branches on the tree next to me are swaying gently to and fro. And, I breathe. And, I smile. I have found my bliss here on this cliff, in my golden years.

Are you following your bliss?

A Conflict of Interest?

How do you feel today, Miss Katherine?
It’s a question I feel compelled to ask myself. Taking my pulse. Checking on my vitals.

I ask the question because I know that right now, I need an honest answer to it.

My answer:
I feel water logged. I feel shell shocked. I am dizzy from being blasted with too many canned marketing strategies and threats to my future if I don’t comply with the dictum. Yes. Overwhelmed and unsure.
I just attended a mandatory Certified Sandals Specialist Workshop. The pony show comes around each year and travel agencies that want to remain in good standing send off their agents to the training to ensure promotional benefits for the coming year.

It’s a power packed half day intensive product training that gets us up to speed on all of their resorts throughout the Caribbean. By itself, that sounds fine, right? After all, it’s important to know that whether this resort just had a full renovation of several lodging buildings and that this other resort now come with the plunge pools within the suites and that they have added privacy curtains so that other guests walking by the unit do not get a full frontal of the couple enjoying themselves on their balcony sans clothing. Sandals is not a nudist resort and not much in the Hedonism category so while it’s all about the romance, it is also all about elegance and decorum.
The reason I am vibrating at full decibel from the training is that the intensity of the message and how to grow our business, how to be successful, how to not fall behind, how to ensure optimum sales, is to dial into the Millennium Market. They are tech savvy and are not slowing down. The video they showed to illustrate who the Millennial Generation is- had me wanting to run for the hills. Why? Because all of this contradicts with a brand new door that I am considering opening which could lead me to a more peaceful existence – quite possibly  for the rest of my life. Simplicity. Minimalists. Leading a more meaningful life with less.

I ask myself:  Is this a big conflict of interest?
Last week, I had the great pleasure of being invited to see The Minimalists Movie by a cherished friend.  A kindred spirit.  We watched this documentary which was produced by two gentlemen and their team: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. They have been promoting their Minimalist lifestyle for several years now- they have written a few books, gone on some tour. It all started with one of them uncovering this lifestyle and finding happiness might very well be attainable within its principles. It talks about the fact that the recipe for Minimalists can vary by person- not everyone lives by the same recipe. Different strategies work best for different people. But, it’s about finding the right ingredients for oneself. And, ditching the rat race in time (because, even if you win the rat race, in the end you are still just a rat) and in its place, seeking to find a much simpler way to make ends meet. Instead of chasing the American Dream (which boils down to chasing ways to acquire more stuff and with stuff, more status), they have opted to live a life of passions. And, knowing that each person has many passions. Not just one.   We are not born an accountant.  We are not born a sales person.   We are not born a lawyer.   These are things that comprise a more complex being that within him or herself contains many valuable attributes.  Our society does not seem to get that as it pushes each one of us into a box of one thing.  So we must fight this bent and instead, we must find a focus- for a time, focus on one of our passions.  And,  give everything we have to that one passion – all of it, all your energy.  Nurture it.  Developed it.  And, then, maybe- just maybe.. the passion will grow and flourish and one day, you mightfind an opportunity to make a living with the success of that passion.
In response to the oft asked question: “What Do You Do?” these guys offer that we all individually do lots of things: we brush our teeth, we take showers, we enjoy walks, we engage in hobbies perhaps- the “Do” in the question does not need to be answered in a way that seeks to fulfill the questioners real goal which is to figure out where you fit in within the construct of society: “How do you measure up against where I am- what do you do? How much do you make? What kind of car do you drive? What is your zip code? And thus, what is your value to society?” The goal behind the question feels a bit disgusting when it is spelled out. After all, we are worth more than what we make, right? We are worth more than the physical stuff we acquire, or how our homes look, or what kind of wheels take us from point A to point B, right?

For the past week, most waking moments that are not occupied with my work tasks, have been spent thinking about the concepts of The Minimalists. This past weekend, I gathered up two big trash bags of clothes from my closet and I donated them. It’s a start. I am intrigued by the idea of reducing my stuff, of reducing my debt, or reducing the required resources that only serve to rob me of my time and energy and focus on the things that I wish I had more time to focus on the most. Things like: Writing, Knitting, Reading, Walking my Dog, Sitting on a bench by the lake and feeling the wind on my face, enjoying my aging parents while they are still around.

I spend so much time commuting and working, as do most people. And I do this because it is expected and because I have to because I have filled my life with stuff that costs money and I am chasing that American Dream. Because after all, the American Dream is meant to make me happy. Right? I mean, right????
I took a class about two years that is called: Financial Peace University. It’s offered through churches, and the goal is to put side-by-side the concepts of money, of understanding that it’s not my money but that I am meant to be the keeper and manager of that money for God. It’s about values and understanding how an off-kilter value system creates chaos. The class was meant to whip me into financial shape and instill upon me some good values and reminders so that moving forward I would not make the same mistakes as previous years. Well, I still churn the debt merry-go-round. I have not really gotten off yet. Oh sure, I pay cash more than before. I have paid off some plastic. But occasionally, I pull out the plastic once again – even though I know it is insane behavior and I contribute once again to a necessary rat race craziness to pay that off once again.

It needs to stop. I need to stop.

At fifty, I feel as though I have little time before the ride is over. It’s an overstatement, but feels real. And then, I recall finding a picture of Dad at his fiftieth birthday party thrown by Mom in our Barrington, IL lower level. A big group gathered around tables with a larger than life picture of Dad behind him – a black and white that someone snapped at a previous party when he had just a few too many. He looked bloated and drunk in that picture. It was meant to be funny. I digress. It’s looking at his face on that October in 1979 that I realize that this party was 37 years ago!! He has had life for 37 more years from that time. And he has experienced so much. I can too. It’s not over. I may not be blessed to live the same 37+ years that Dad has, but hopefully, at least ten or twenty more. I hope. Barring disease and other catastrophic fates. And so, today is the day to start living those years well.
This afternoon, I am taking time for me after the morning blast of marketing campaigns aimed at getting me to energize and sell beach resort all inclusive vacations. Ringing in my ears are the words from our Business Development Manager at Sandals, urging me to give him 5 room bookings in the coming 30 days – if I do so, he will reward me with a $100 booking bonus and more! I look back over my shoulder at that memory from about four hours ago and I nod to it and say, ok- I will see what I can do. But not now.

 

I found myself two hours ago in a section of Barnes and Noble, browsing through the Arts & Crafts section of books. Within that shelf, I found a journal concept with a whole series of books designed to prompt the diary keeper. A journal that has headers at the top of each page that prods the writer to fill the page with ideas. I don’t need that kind of journal, I think to myself. No. I pass those up. And, then- I find a different kind of journal written by Keri Smith, author of Wreck This Journal. In this book that I found, the title jumps out at me: The Wander Society. I open to the introduction. And there, I find her reference to Walt Whitman and how his book: Leaves of Grass “the Deathbed Edition” moved and shook her. And I am curious. Why? What was it about Walt Whitman’s book that created such a stir? I continue through the introduction to learn that the Wandering Society is basically fueled by WW (Walt Whitman) – Wanderer Extraordinaire. Now that is something I can sink my teeth into. I am pulled into the fray. I must learn more. Keri shares that only a few times in her lifetime has she been so moved by a book than the afternoon she spent with Leaves of Grass. Her description of her reaction to his words are encapsulated with expressions like: “my chest ached, my breath quickened, and my face flushed”. Sounds like a passionate problem of sorts. And I admit, I want some of that. So, I grab Keri’s book because as I thumb through it, I see it is not a journal after all but a book filled with ideas on wandering. And I oh so want to wander. I want to find my path down uncharted weed growing brambles where my foot finds purchase on a rock as it moves from the woods to the shore and helps me make my way so that I can sit on a large boulder overlooking the ocean and watch the gulls plunge into the wild foam and spray.   This perch helps me to hear the shrieks of other distant gulls as they move inland to find rest. Oh my – where did that even come from? I press on.
The first few pages of Keri’s book has now fully grabbed my attention, I dare to surmise that Keri and I will likely get along very well together, and I somewhere down in the midst of this moment – thank her for writing this volume. I make my way to the Poetry Wall within Barnes and Noble, for now I must find Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass. And I find several versions. The first edition version, a small pocket book. And then, larger versions that contain the many editions. And then, the version that contains the first and deathbed version. I pull that one. And I sit to read the introduction. And once again, I am drawn into the mystery of poetry and of the voices of old that somehow captured a time that in many ways has been reimagined today. The same quandaries and burdens. It reminds of the timelessness of the Bible. Many discard the Bible – push it aside. It is not relevant. But how wrong they are. Principles for humanity do not change. We are basically the same as when man first began. We carry the same desperate wants and needs and passions and fears.
I decide I am satisfied with my selections and decide to add Walt to my pile. I consider one final idea, and that is to move to the writing wall. The “how to write” section, I call it. The reference wall. I want something that will give me knowledge on the basics of poetry writing. Unsuccessful in that quest.    I proceed to the check-out counter and I figure that I can look up Poetry Writing and theory … on-line. For now, I have plenty to keep me busy. And I feel satisfied,  truly satisfied.   I am investing time in my passion. I plan to sit and write and read and revel in the words of old. And dream big  dreams …of a new reality and a new plan. One step at a time. One poem at a time. One word at a time. I find my rest in this.

Living Without You

“I can’t live, if living is without you.”.

The lyrics from the Air Supply Song of the late 1980s sprung to mind last night, as Mom came to me after their return from a Memorial Day Picnic celebration with friends and shared with me her most recent news.

 
Several months ago now, a friend from her Scandinavian social group had died of an aggressive cancer. She left behind her dear husband. Last night, Mom shares with me that this husband had expressed grief recently, stating he didn’t know how he would be able to live without her. It’s an expression, I am sure, often heard in these circles- as friends pass. This group is primarily senior in age, with people mostly in their 70s and 80s.

 
“You did hear about Bjarte didn’t you?” She asks, seemingly certain I should already know the news.

 
“No, Mom- what about Bjarte?”.

 
“He shot himself.”

 

“Mom – oh my, when did it happen? He shot himself?”

 

Mom nods “yes, they found him. The trauma of it put his daughter in law in the hospital. It happens you know, often with men. They can’t handle life when their wives did everything for them.”

 
I think of Mom and how she does every single thing for Dad. He would be lost without her. I would be there of course, if that happened. But it is true in that generation, the women cook, clean, lay out the clothes. It’s fairly common that these men just sit back on retirement and the wife does everything. She takes care of their bills. She now does the driving. She takes care of his pills.

 
She looks at me. “We must make time to go through everything. We just don’t know from day to day how much time we have. I need you to have a full understanding of all of his pills – it’s so important that you know the proper dosage of his blood pressure pills”. She looks away, and then at me again “and mine too, you need to know my list of pills.” I nod. “Yes, Mom- it’s very important, we must make the time”.

 
She continues “you need to know where everything is. Our papers. Everything”. I nod again and look her in the eye and hold her hand “of course, everything” I say.

 
It’s such a tender part of life, those years when friends- one after the other, pass away. Some suddenly, others after years of suffering.

 
“How many were at the party?” I interrupt the bleakness of the moment.

 
“About fifteen or so” she offers.

 
“How did they like your store bought lemon cake?” I ask with a smile.

 
“I don’t know, no one said, but I loved it. It was so delicious. Just like a homemade Blottkake from Norway” she smiled at me. “No one noticed, there were a lot of store bought items”.

I was glad she had opted to buy the cake. She had been stressed about it the day before and had procrastinated and had a headache that morning. It was good that she had given herself permission to buy instead of bake. In this case, anyway.

“The table was full of things and there were several deli containers – people do that you know?” She reflects “they just go to the deli and buy a pasta salad and their done”. “It’s ok to do that from time to time, Mom. No one will fault you for a barbecue or picnic” I offer.

“Hey you” she coos to my sweet Sofie lying next to me on a pillow. “Are you still lounging around?” She reaches for Sofie and Sofie just gazes back at he, her typical luxuriant self. I tap Sofie’s bottom gently to urge her to move closer to Mom. “Come now Sofie, say hi” I tease gently and she responds by moving right up to Mom and allowing herself within range of her caresses. “She is so beautiful” Mom says. She moves her hand up and down her silky fur. She smiles and gets up from the bed. “Well, I better head up” she says. “Goodnight, Mom”. “Goodnight, Katherine- love you.” “I love you too, Mom”.

She retreats and I linger on thoughts of her tonight. Hearing the news about Bjarte. The shock of it all. All of the people she has had to say goodbye to in the past year. Her likely reflection on mortality and the reality of it all. She is nearly eighty years old now. They are both so young in spirit, most of the time. But I see the slower pace. And, her difficulty in climbing the stairs, her right knee troubling her. Her hearing and her memory at times. Signs of age. And, Dad, nearing ninety.

While I will sit with her to go over everything, we will not focus on that inevitable moment in time when I will have to say goodbye to them. Instead, live each moment of each day as a celebration of the day we have today. We must cherish each day. And, I will plan fun outings to make the mundane more exciting. They have stopped traveling, so we must plan outings to celebrate our home city and state. Make life special. Each day.

And I must not focus on those words from Air Supply. I must find joy in moments alone so that I can must the courage to live without them, when the time comes.

Inspired by Sigrid

More than one hundred years ago, a Norwegian woman by the name of Sigrid Undset writes her first novel titled Marta Oulie: A Novel of Betrayal. It is a story about a woman who betrays her husband by having an affair with his best friend. In the early 1900s, this kind of novel was scandalous and did not make it to publication until many years later. The story is written in first person, mostly through letters and journal entries.

Sigrid Undset’s life as a writer was met with various challenges, in part due to her conversion to Catholicism, in a country whose citizens were primarily either Lutheran or Atheist.

As I read the entries, I am struck by the emotions that she describes by the act of confession, whether in journal form or in the form of oral confession with the privacy of a screen inside a church, between one soul and her priest. In both cases, the satisfying release of burden which allows the soul to then continue on her journey, unencumbered.

Reading this novel, I feel immediately connected to the protagonist who is writing her letters and expressing her deepest needs, fears and wishes. A character created by a woman in Norway in the early 1900s. There exists between myself and this character, a resonance that bridges the divide of so many years and such difference circumstances. This is the joy of reading, the connection between humans across continents and centuries. And while the words I read are those of a character, they are a depth of the author funneled through her character. I want to know more about Sigrid with each paragraph that I read of Marta Oullie.

While Sigrid’s first novel does not get immediately published by the Danish House to whom she submits the work, many years later she would win a Nobel Prize for another work titled: Kristin Lavransdatter; a book set in the Middle Ages of Norway with a vast array of characters that brought to the page the time period when one found a cross over from Paganism to Christianity and the harsh realities of the Black Death; mid 1300s. Within those pages, we find a rich tapestry of characters that forms an incredible saga of Norwegian history. Within that prize, the committee also acknowledged Sigrid’s first piece of work.

During WW II, Sigrid fled to Sweden and then New York City. She had been known for her outspoken criticism against Hitler, so she felt it best to seek safer shores. Sigrid experienced many tragedies in her lifetime, including the death of two children. Her life and her writing have me enthralled.

I remember as a teenager, with my own mother hailing from Norway, that there was excitement in gifting me with the three volume collection of Kristin Lavransdatter. Back then, I had felt it a very long read and a bit dry in places. I did not have the patience for it then. Now, I am intrigued and want to get my hands on all of Sigrid’s writings, to find her within the pages. To have a chance to get to know her better.

Sigrid Undset inspires me to press on in my own writing and in my readings a continuing education. I long to read more, classics, history and biographies. To spend time learning and most of all learning to write better. I am so grateful for the bold and courageous writers in the past that have laid the path for those of us in the present to embrace our own passions, and push onward to better heights.

Who do you carry close to your heart in your own reading world that offers inspiration and ignites your passion?

Characters: Organic and Planned.

My efforts at novel writing during the recent NaNoWriMo contest this past November has provided the ground work or perhaps better stated, the initial soil, for a novel that has completely captured my senses. This jump start has provided a tremendous launch into a project that feels in some ways to be the project of my life. It is the corner on the street that, once I turned, I was brought face to face with a breakthrough in my life’s purpose. Strongly stated I know. Perhaps a bit dramatic. But it’s true. I absolutely love writing this novel, each day, in every way- love love love it!

I have stopped writing plot and have backed away from the 53,000 words I had accomplished during the contest. It is time to pause and to learn how to organize, structure, outline and develop the characters, plot, theme and purpose of this novel. I take a step back to ask vital questions and make sure I am on track. It seems a little out of sequence, but this time, because of how those 53,000 words poured out of me during those thirty days of writing, I find it important to step back and look at it with different eyes. It’s the only way. Next time, meaning with my next novel (crazy how I am even consider that prospect),  I will likely outline first. But to be honest, I didn’t even know what outlining was before I started this past NaNoWriMo contest. As such, I proceeded based on what flowed best from me at the time.

So, I am now starting with what are called: Character Sheets. These reside in my fairly newly purchased Scrivener program. Several authors have given me some tips with their own books on: how to write a novel. Before me, I have these 46 character questions that I am meant to answer for every character in my novel. For each and every character, I am called upon to answer specific questions. It starts with the basics: name, age, height, eye color, physical description. Then, there are some deeper questions that will help shape the character: favorite clothing, defining gestures, fondest memory, special skills, religion, favorite food, physical health, any phobias. There are questions relating to the character’s role in the novel, his or her purpose and goals. The list goes on: 46 questions.

 

I am amazed that this is a strategy employed by so many writers. I understand the benefit of this step. So far with my novel, my character introductions and developments have been an organic process. The characters have shown up on the page when they were needed. And now, I can see going back and filling in the gaps in terms of their individual backgrounds. But I am not sure how I would have known at the very beginning, before my novel was to the point where it is now, who these people would have been. I understand the concept of creating the main character first, and perhaps his or her major supporting role players. But there are many background characters that I simply would not have known about until the main character had encountered them.
For instance, in one scene, the main character in my novel has just moved to Oslo, Norway from her farm village situated south of the city. One night, after a full day of work at a family run bakery & grocery market, she stops in at the butcher shop on her way home. I wouldn’t have known about the young boy behind the counter that is helping an elderly lady and how he then turns to help Nina with her own order of pork and beef ground mixture planned for a meatball dinner that night. I would not have known about this little sprout until she opened the door to the butcher shop and walked in and found this adorable young boy working behind the counter. His stature is so slight that he can barely reach from behind the counter to provide the customers with their order. His thin wheat colored hair sticks straight up at the back of his head, perhaps from the dryness of the air and the electrical charges he is capturing in the room. He swims in his apron. His thin arms work hard as he digs into the meat mixture for Nina, using a very heavy metal scoop. Nina watches him work hard behind the glass case. He has wonderful manners and Nina wonders if he is the son or grandson of the butcher shop owner. All of this unfolds before my eyes as I brought Nina into the butcher shop. How would I have known about him before starting my story? And in my view, he is not a minor character, not really. Because I have this feeling in my gut that he and his family will play an instrumental part in a subplot surrounding the occupation of Norway and the ensuing underground movement. But even that is forming in my mind as I type this paragraph.

 

My way of writing forms as I go. I am on the adventure myself. The scenery changes as I pass through the scene with my characters, I layer in past impressions of places I have seen in these locals, images of people I have encountered, and actual moments I have experienced. Then, my imagination mixes it all together, and I create the tableau. It’s mesmerizing. Great fun. And I can only hope that one day, someone else will enjoy reading the adventure as much as I had enjoyment in writing it.

 

So the instructions I have to write out for the Character Questionnaire Sheets for every character in my book, before writing the novel itself, feels challenging to me. But, perhaps, I could complete this exercise for the major characters and since I have those 53000 words of the novel to work from, I have what I would consider to be some basic ingredients with which to craft the novel and it is exciting. All the while, I read anything I can get my hands on from as many expert writers as I can, to learn strategies on how to write a novel well.

 

In particular, I like ideas presented by Elizabeth George as well as K.M Weiland- and there are many others. It feels as if I have signed up for a Master Course on novel writing which I am taking on my own, without paying tuition, just diving into books written by great writers and applying principles to my daily efforts. It’s so much fun! While frustrating for moments, in the end I press on and progress happens.

 
One character question that launched me into a marvelous exploration yesterday, was the idea of favorite music. Suddenly, Nina is lying on her bed with the door open so she can hear her younger brother Gunnar practicing the piano downstairs. The music flows to the upper levels of the house. Nina loves to spend time listening to Gunnar because although he often practices scales, he also delves into the Romantic Era pieces which are Nina’s favorites. She relaxes completely on hearing Debussy’s: Girl With The Flaxen Hair. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s: Elegie in E flat minor, Op 23, No 1 – helps her to consider sadness mixed with moments of joy. There is despair in that piece as well as hope. When listening to music, Nina finds herself experiencing a movie in her mind. She imagines herself running free or riding Lilly, her fjord horse, along the fjord’s coastline. Schubert’s Trio No 2 in E Flat brings images of a horse show, with several horses in the ring – dancing in cadence with one another. With some pieces, she can actually feel the wind on her face and watch and listen to the birds soaring overhead. Music provides the backdrop for her day dreams.

 

And as I considered all this yesterday, it occurred to me that Gunnar, her little brother, has an amazing gift. He is not just talented but intimate and passionate about his music. He is gifted and a natural. He likes composing his own pieces and can spend hours playing. The rest of the family thoroughly enjoys his practice sessions and they look forward to them each day. And here, as I type, I suddenly sense that later in the book, after the war is over: is Gunnar still alive? Perhaps not- and does the silence from his absence and lack of playing become unbearable for his mother Mona.

 
These moments of character development are moments that simply happen. But, this moment happened by answering questions #29: Favorite bands, songs or type of music. I like these questions.

 
And it occurs to me that this cast of characters, this geographic area, the time period, the historic events, the nuances of plot and the main theme of war and romance and purpose, all of these things will likely bring me several years of writing pleasure. I hope that in the end, this novel will capture the hearts of others. But my goal is more natural than that- my goal is to get to know these people, the historic events of the Nazi occupation of Norway, and how these ordinary people get caught up in an extraordinary life.

A Company Exodus

Last night was an emotional evening with friends. Many expressed their feelings openly. It was a time to share experiences and individual truths relating to the exodus. And, there were a few people there last night which continue to work for Company XYZ, and are listening and witnessing the deep emotional scars of those that left. And, sharing the continued underlying problems of Company XYZ. I feel for them as they seek to continue to work there with dignity in their hard work and hope for their own futures. I think about all that went wrong and continues to go wrong with that place. And the saddest part is that everyone (for the most part) that left, had a strong connection with the place, in many cases because of the vision of the work. In our business, when you find a niche or market that fuels you with passion and purpose, it’s an amazing thing. I had that with Company XYZ. When I entered their doors as a new employee, I rejoiced at my good fortune. This was going to be it. I was surrounded by fellow lovers of a specific geographic location that warmed my heart, I would be helping create dreams of custom itineraries for the independent traveler throughout the countries of this glorious region. Finally, instead of being a travel agent that could offer the entire globe, I was now dialing down to a specific place on the planet which had my heart singing. And, I would be traveling to this collection of countries myself to network with our ground handlers, guides, business partners in travel to develop our products of hotels, sightseeing, transportation and more. I thought I had landed my dream job. I could use my language skills for specific countries relating to my mother’s homeland. And, for the first few years I felt I had made the right decision. The perfect decision.

However, underneath the joy there was also doubt as I watched strong personalities bump heads and saw decisions made that in my view negatively impacted the company; but then, what did I know, I was merely a worker bee. They must know what they are doing, right? I glanced occasionally at my paltry bank account balance and justified my poor financial status in life to the fact that – after all, I work in travel. Everyone in the industry knows that travel doesn’t pay. If I had wanted money, I should have chosen another field; like law, or medicine. I chose travel because, honestly, I love languages and exploring the globe.  In this field, my bank account has been pathetic for most of my career, particularly someone in my age bracket.   The truth is it’s an accepted standard in the industry which makes living single almost impossible without some creativity in sourcing options.   What I didn’t know at the time was that this didn’t have to be the case.   During those years of meager income, I benefited from staying in the most luxurious places in the world and continue to enjoy the most high level services just about everywhere I go.   All on someone else’s dime. So, to properly evaluate my income, I need to remember to add what those items would cost to my annual figures. One year, a ten night trip through Norway staying mostly at historic deluxe inns owned by families that have been running the place for generations; sitting on my balcony with the fjord view. Of course, I would never have the money to personally pay for those ultra luxurious trips while working in this business, but the more that I sell certain things, the better chance at a familiarization excursion to test those services out myself; whether paid by my company or paid by the supplier itself. If paid by the company, the trips cost minimally as the suppliers organize these trips to showcase their offerings for our clients. It’s a perk, for sure. I don’t have to save up for a trip, I just wait for the glorious announcements of which suppliers are sponsoring the upcoming FAMS, and then learn who in the office gets which cherry assignment. Usually, these occur once or twice a year and in the fall season, when things slow down a bit for the average agency and certain destinations.
So what happened at Company XYZ?
So many abuses of power and many moments of poor leadership in general. When almost half the staff exits in one year, the management must look at their practices and consider what they may have done to contribute to the discontent. Was it wages? Poor direction? Financial struggles? Overall disrespect and disregard for the work produced by its workers? Common blatant overuse of criticism and infrequent praise. In Company XYZ’s case, all of that and so much more. Management’s recurring poor decisions in every aspect of running the business left the workers feeling devalued and irrelevant. At the end of my tenure there, I recall sitting at my desk wearing fingerless gloves and a billowing scarf around my neck to take the chill off my body as I tried to type on my computer; the recent move the summer before had been into an old building in a tiny strip mall that backed up against a motel known for being both a whore house and a narcotics headquarters for the local druggies. But our general manager moved us to this location because, I am sure, it was cheaper than the alternatives. So there we were freezing because of poor insulation and not permitted to use too many space heaters at once because it would overload the circuit breaker. Hun? This is where you work?

 

That summer move was a nightmare as they smooshed 10 of the staff in one department into a small walk in closet like space with industrial folding tables and folding chairs, wires coming out of the ceiling and landing behind our computers so that we could plug in.  No filtered water, just the bathroom sink so we filtered our water by hand for coffee using one of those tiny pods.  This placed into question for me each day, how sanitary is this? The thought going through my head was, maybe I am making too much of this.  The management tried to encourage by suggesting how great the space would be once finished next door.   The construction project took several months.  While we attempted to discourage in person client visits, and suggested we were not available for walk in services, some clients would pop in anyway to drop of payments for their trips or to talk to our consultants. Seeing them standing in the doorway of our closet made me wonder, how can they have confidence when they see how our working conditions look? And even if the new space was meant to be great- how could they not see the questionable locale?  It was embarrassing. But we were cheerful, we’re moving- pardon our mess.   When the move was completed, we had another surprise from management- all those heavy filing cabinets in the back storage of the temporary space- yea, those; they shall be moved by staff.  No moving company.    There I was with two damaged arms from previous injuries, being asked to buck up and move heavy furnishings from one space to another, while upper management GM is in Belgium sipping a brew with her hubby.  Yes- she opted to take a vacation during the worst part of the move.  And while it might be true that her trip had been scheduled earlier in the year, prior to the anticipated move- how ultra convenient for her that her trip fell in the busiest season of our business and during the worst part of the move.    Management was missing from that move and after several hours of heavy labor, I sat in a chair talking to myself in my head- this is the ultimate in horrible management.   No regard whatsoever.   Complete and utter nonsense and so unprofessional.  Workman’s comp anyone?  This is not acceptable.  And, they are clueless on how to handle staff.

 

After the move, it was the financial strains that sealed my decision later in the year. Supplier bills were not being paid and it was making it highly uncomfortable to reach out to these same suppliers now to request future bookings for our clients; whether hotels, guides, luggage services or transport. How can I ask a supplier to confirm a booking for me when we had not paid them for bookings from five months ago? And our fears and concerns are batted away and a legitimizing comment is made with venom if we questioned it.

 

So I was the first in the domino effect. When my opportunity came with a strong agency, financially at the top of their game, with solid opportunities for growth and an increase in pay my first year that would be infuse hope that the poverty standards of a travel agent did not have to be my own reality.   This new company was suggesting incentives and pay opportunities that would reward my efforts.  I would have been an idiot to say no.  So, I said yes. And, I left. And then, within a year- 9 are gone from Company XYZ; and they blame us. They hate us. They unfriendly us on FB. They speak perhaps poorly of us and our betrayal. To me, the betrayal was theirs. They either didn’t care, or if they cared- they were too proud to do anything positive to change the current mess. And, the place continues to struggle. And, my heart goes out to it, because deep down, I loved Company XYZ, and wanted it to be my final stop on the career track.
Now, a year later, I am thriving. My productivity at new Company ABC is right on track. And, it feel good. It feels good mostly to be acknowledged as being a positive contributor, of receiving praise for efforts well done. For being paid fairly. And, for knowing that my future has hope and promise.

Bliss or Pipe Dream?

Back to the grind stone.
On my way home from Mexico aboard Delta Airlines, I watched an episode of On Creativity, a serial that offers insights into the creative world hosted by Paula Wallace of the Savannah College of Art & Design. In this episode, one of her guests was Steve Lassater, co-creator of Pixar. During the interview, they showed his commencement speech at the college and he brought out of a bag a very well loved Woody doll from The Toy Story that had been sent to him by a young boy who no longer needed to love this Woody doll.  This boy included a letter that asked Mr. Lassater to bring Woody to a place where he could be with other dolls forever more. This was a tearful reading by Mr. Lassater as he held the Woody doll up to his audience for viewing, one could see that one foot was missing, the clothing on the doll was faded and stained and the limbs were limp and well worn. During the interview in general, the idea was conveyed by Mr. Lassater of the importance of carefully selecting a vocation for which one would not ever feel that they had worked a day in one’s life. Am I doing this with my life? Do I live to work? Or, do I work to live? I do enjoy the travel gig, in general. However, there are so many instances during the course of my work that I find my efforts less than appreciated or even respected.
While on my trip, I received word that one client had called the office ranting and raving about her rental car not having been fully prepaid and that she hoped the rest of the trip I had planned for her would not be an equal disaster. Never mind that during the booking process, I told her over the telephone that it would not be possible to set up her pre-cruise car rental on a prepaid basis as there was not a rental company that offered that possibility.  Instead, her rental rate would be guaranteed using her credit card but that her cost would be paid locally at time of rental pick up at the Houston Airport. And, with her final document package, I included a cover letter that went over all of the details including her car rental and it stated the same as noted above. These details were conveyed orally and in writing. She wasn’t listening, and she didn’t read. And, she then reads my administrator the riot act and uses explitives in the process. Nice. Another client was informed by telephone voicemail and email that I would be out of the office until December 8th, and that I would contact her on my return to set up an in person appointment to go over their final documents for their Europe trip happening over the holidays. While I am gone, she just shows up at the office asking to see me. Another client requests a 28 day honeymoon to Southeast Asia to start January 2nd, 2016; his inquiry came in October 26th. I work on this with two revisions, sending him complex independent custom itinerary proposals with everything they wanted to experience, including cooking classes, temple tours in Angkor Wat, couples massages, all private services, interior Asia flights, and five star hotels. And he sits on it for almost two months. Now, he is ready and I am scheduled to talk with him this morning. With his commitment, we now have to rush to book everything and hope things are still available because he just couldn’t get around to it.  And, take care of the Visas on a rush expedite basis.

I wish I could say that these stressors do not affect my gut. But the truth is, I just got done with an endoscopy yesterday and the damage is fairly severe… meds and modified lifestyle are required to heal. So, does this work give me joy? Am I in my element? Or, am I just another dog in the musher’s sled, always feeling the crack of the whip at my back and pushed to move move move… to someone else’s demands.
What would I do if I could do what I wanted to do? Well, I would learn to write well. I would busy myself in learning the craft, every aspect of it and making a life of writing for myself. I wouldn’t just spend an hour or two before work and some left over time after work and on weekends. I would throw myself into it with all my might. And, would this put me into my true bliss? Or, is this a grass is greener thing? Seeing all fo those resorts for the purpose of serving a bride somewhere wishing to wed on a beach, is that my calling? Serving clients traveling all over Europe and Asia, is that really it? Or, is it writing? How do I know the answer to that?  Is my writing dream a foolish pipe dream?
For now at least, one step in from of the other. I have over 50,000 words to work on to create a first novel. And, I must continue this daily writing practice, sign up for courses, workshops, get to know other writers perhaps. Come out of the vacuum.   Possibly work towards a retirement of writing bliss?  At least that’s a goal.

And the writing clips along…

I’ve been so busy dedicating myself to the task of the NaNoWriMo November Challenge, that I have neglected writing here, on WordPress.   I am so caught up in the whirl of the contest that I can hardly stand it.  I am having a blast with this new adventure and while I recognize that this may not be a successful endeavor, somehow it just doesn’t matter.   This is a first attempt at an actual story, and that in and of itself is an amazing feat for me.

I have a couple of teaser paragraphs to share today.  This novel began as potentially a historical piece of fiction – creative non-fiction if you will.  Here is my synopsis:
Historical fiction with a backdrop in Norway during the years leading up to and through WWII; people’s lives are affected by forces outside the country and within their own families which pull and sway them in varying directions. Relationships are tested between parent and child, best friends and lovers. Consequences result and families are divided. The novel explores various facets of life in Norway during the war, the occupation, victims who fear the outcome, fighters who take up the cause, individuals who turn to religion to cope, instigators who float from simple politics to becoming traitors. Relationships and war. A messy business.

Then somehow- I found myself writing a little entry piece that looked like this:
The unforgiving wind whipped her cheeks and slashed her arms as she lay bare skinned under the chill of a February sky.  Her dark mocha curls had long lost their spring since soaked from the waves lapping up onto her on the shore.  It could still be quite a while until someone happened upon her in this isolated bay in the middle of winter.  Perhaps a hardcore fisherman who ignores the harshness of the season.  This abandonment had been well planned to give plenty of time for the elements to do their thing.  There would be little left of her by the time the authorities became involved.  


Ok that was sombre… and, then a description of an encounter with strong tinges of romance:

Vidar played in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra that had been scheduled to accompany the school choir at the yearly spring concert.  Nina met him for the first time for her solo performance practice session the evening before the concert.   Nina had been practicing for months with her own choir but this was the first time she would actually experience accompaniment by a professional violinist.  Vidar was six years her senior, towered above her with his viking features of thick and wavy flaxen hair and green eyes.  She, with her azure blue eyes and ivory skin offset by her silky dark chocolate waves that cascaded down past her shoulders.  She was breathtaking to him.  He found himself completely and utterly in love with her at first sight and sound.  Her soft and pure soprano voice mesmerized anyone in ear shot, and when she sung the first stanza of “Solveig’s Song by Edvard Grieg” he was completely captured.  When her voice rose up into the higher octaves, the entire orchestra which was paused for the solo performance as well as anyone that might have been busy in the wings of the stage preparing for concert night, came to a complete stop.  Afterwards, he could think of nothing else but her until the next day when they met once again for the actual concert performance.  That night, when she performed, he was transfixed by her beauty.  He had never seen any woman as delicate and pure; she wore a simple white strapless gown and a fresh garland of white daisies mixed with baby’s breath which adorned her crown.  Soft tendrils of wavy brown hair caressed her tiny shoulders.  Her blue eyes sparkled as she seemed on top of the world.  You could sense that she truly in her element, where she was meant to be – on this stage, in front of this audience and with him by her side.  Her gentle demeanor was almost timid and she exuded humility in her talents.  She was not haughty but blessed with this voice that reached into the soul and brought peace and joy all at the same time. This physical and musical beauty created such a passion within him that he found himself playing the violin as if the violin itself was Nina cradled in his arms.   It was a challenge for him since she was under age.   She only had four months left until her eighteenth birthday.  They had only a few exchanges before and after the concert, but he sensed that the attraction was mutual.  As the concert had come to an end, he then committed to writing to her regularly in order to nurture this flame that he knew existed between them both and which he had never experienced before.  He felt this mutual attraction was still very immature and knew he would have his work cut out for him since she lived down south of Stavanger and she was busy with her school work as well as the farm chores.   Somehow, he would do everything in his power to make a lifetime commitment to this amazing young woman- a reality.
So what is this?   Where am I headed?   I have no idea – well, ok- I sort of have an idea, a general game plan but most of it is unfolding before my eyes and it is so much fun!!    Maybe one day, this deep urge to write and write and writes will produce something worthwhile.   For now, I am not worrying myself too much about form or style or content.  I am not concerned that I am doing this right or wrong.  Rather, I am just getting to know a few people on the page – and so far, these people are interesting to me and fun to be around.