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?

Pinching the flow of creativity

In Julia Cameron’s book: The Artist’s Way, I find a compelling chapter that covers the importance of recovering a sense of self-protection when it comes to one’s creative potential.   This protection is against the blocks that each artist employs to pinch the flow of creativity.   It’s as if once we have really gotten going, it’s the natural order of things to try to squelch it. To sabotage the wide range of possibilities that exists within each of us.

 

The various methods of blocking we employ range from food abuse, sex abuse, liquor or drug abuse, distracting ourselves with busyness – and other addictions in general.

Why is it that we do this pinching off of creative flow on purpose?

 

Fear.

 

It’s plain and simple fear.

 

It’s as if the hunger for the high that comes from the wave we ride is too much to handle.

 

Or, perhaps it’s that the small snapshot of hope that this life is extraordinary is dampened by the reality that life is hard.   We reach dramatically for the high only knowing that the high is really just outside our grasp and even if we push ourselves to reach even higher, we will never truly grasp the golden egg.   Not really. It’s there within reach, but something always forces us back down to earth and we must start over again.

 

And that is exhausting.

 

So, after time, perhaps we reach less fervently.

 

We barely extend the arm and we still climb, but we don’t climb as high.   For then, the drop is less painful.

 

And then one day, we look up and once again we wish and hope that we were wrong.

 

And, we try again. And we push ourselves to go to heights we never reached before and then, we fall. Again.   And, we’re not sure why we tried again in the first place.

 

Did we forgot what the fall would feel like? The disappointment. The disgust. The fear of failure. All over again.   The cycle. Again.

 

Perhaps it is a matter of reaching this time for some help.

 

To not climb on our own.   To rely on a circle of like minding individuals who can cheer us on and remind us of our full potential. To not isolate ourselves in our art. But to reach for other artists, in whatever discipline that art form yields.   And to listen to their stories, their motivations, their hopes.

 

Where are these people?     They can be found at (perhaps) an Artist’s Way Group near you. Search for it on the internet- you’d be surprised. I found one and I am headed there later today.   I have only attended one session back on a cold February night at a local library when a storm was brewing. Many  made it that night, despite the horrible ice and snow crusted road conditions. And we spoke, each one of us, about what our creativity outlets were and how are creativity flowed.   And, it was a marvelous evening.  The memory of it dances around my mind as one of the most delightful times I have spent with other human company.     Tonight, we will discuss what makes for Authentic Creativity- and the focus is on Julia Cameron’s book- week 10 (chapter 10).

 

Cameron shares in in this chapter:

“The choice to block is a creative U-Turn. We turn back on ourselves. Like water forced to a standstill, we turn stagnant. The self-honesty lurking in us all always knows when we choose against our greater good. It marks a little jot on our spiritual blackboard: “Did it again.”.   And then: “It takes grace and courage to admit and surrender our blocking devices.”   And also: “As we become aware of our blocking devices – food, busyness, alcohol, sex, other drugs- we can feel our U-turn as we make them. The blocks no longer work effectively. Over time, we will try – perhaps slowly at first and erratically – to ride out the anxiety and see where we emerge. Anxiety is fuel. We can use it to write with, paint with and worth with.”

 

 

As I consider the years and years of wasted time. Finding distractions. Not following through. Reaching but not grasping. Shutting off the flow.   Dulling the ache with food and binge TV watching. Putting off creativity.   I realize how much truth lies in Cameron’s words.   And how marvelous it is that she wrote this book to reach the many who would pick up the book in an effort to reach deep inside and find the creative well that exists within each one of us, and tap it.

 

So grateful for these moments of discovery and awareness – and hope.

A Room to Write.

 

 

There are so many potential distractions as I make my way to a place of writing.   My mind is all over the place.   I pick up my iPad to check on the WordPress stats. I browse through other people’s posts. I like this one, comment on another. Consider other social media. And then there are web searches for ideas on what to write about.   There is a time and a place for all of this activity. But when the time comes when I am to sit and just write, I need to pull myself away from those distractions and focus my attention completely on the vital task at hand. Daily pages. Morning pages.

 

 

In an Advice series of posts on WordPress, author Amanda McCormick offers up encouragement to other writers. One of Amanda’s most recent posts offers that one must make time to write and she shares a quote from J.K Rowling which suggests: “I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards her firstborn egg”- I like that image. It’s vivid and feels active. Guard your time to write. With this focus, and Amanda’s urgings, I find her to be a generous soul. How kind to create a place other writers can go to get helpful information and resources on improving and reaching for their own goals. She shares in her profile that she has been writing since she was eleven years old. How magnificent for her that she knew so early on what her passion was. And how lovely that part of her writing make-up is to care about offering advice to others. She helps to propel others in a community of writers to forge their own way.

Amanda sets a goal of 1K words for herself a day.   And I consider that this is a manageable goal for me as well. I know it is physically possible because I pushed out around 1600 words a day during NaNoWriMo; of course, in that instance, I had a specific focus: a novel and a set of characters. And in that novel, I had investment – even from the very beginning. The core of the idea of the novel was bubbling up inside of me and pressing to get out.   And it was such fun. And, now I have this collection of 54000+ words to work through.   And even that stage is filled with excitement and enjoyment mixed in with some frustration and wonder. How will it end? I have the beginning and parts of the middle and need to finish it, re-arrange it and nurture it into its full potential.

 

During this next period of daily pages, I could lean into that project as well, when other things don’t pop up for me. Or, can I? Are daily pages meant to take me onto a completely different tack?   A way to talk to my inner self, to consult my wise soul and find new threads to explore?

 

On Thursday, I am going to a community Artist’s Way meeting.   On that day, I am encouraged to bring a sample representation of authentic creativity. It could be one of my former posts.  Am I ready to share my authentic self with a group of others? The whole point of my blog at the beginning was anonymity. It was safe. No one that I knew would push me down.   No one to invalidate my passion. I don’t know why I thought anyone would invalidate me. Maybe because I didn’t feel valid in the first place?   I didn’t feel I could honestly call myself a writer.   I mean, who did I think I was?

 

And now?   Who do I think I am?

 

Am I a writer?   Do I have the right to call myself a writer?

 

Isn’t it interesting how we can disqualify ourselves so easily?  Is it because we have a higher ideal of what we consider a valid writer?   Do I have a high standard and am I not sure that I measure up to it? What would it take? Is it because I never took formal training in writing?   My degree is in something else.   Had I spent four to eight years in formal schooling on writing, would that have done it for me?   Would I have felt more legitimate as a writer?   Would I have felt I could justifiably render and submit a quality product to an audience via a professional editor and publisher?   Am I not legitimate today because of this lack of formal training?

 

Still, I write. And when I write, I feel better.   It refreshes me and invigorates me.   When I am writing, I have an energy that feels positive and hopeful.   So, I will keep writing. And, if it turns into something of a professional quality and if someone feels it is good enough, then that’s a bonus.   The goal for me cannot be publication on its own.   I don’t want to just publish. I want to express, create, unfurl and extend what is inside of me onto the page. To see it before me so that I can better understand life, mine and the universe.   Connections. Mysteries. All of it.   One word at a time.

 

A year ago, I sought out the idea of organizing my life and creating a space to cradle my passion for writing.   I picked up books on organizing, including The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.   Up until then, my room was a disorganized mess. I did not have a place to write. The room had to contain all of my earthly belongings when I decided to move back into my parent’s home to help in their senior years. I got rid of so much when I moved in.   Sent things on to other homes that I felt could use the items. Offered up furnishings to people who had a need, kitchen supplies to others. The rest to Goodwill. Still, so much remained that had to be contained within one bedroom and a walk in closet.   The room was wall to wall stuff… a place of chaos and certainly not a place of peace and encouragement for creativity.   When I needed to write, I would go instead to coffee houses and plop down for a few hours to write.  It was a solution. But somehow required special planning. It was not as spontaneous as I would have liked. I really needed a safe and quiet place to go and write. A Room of My Own- to write.

 

Over the course of the last six months, I have employed other strategies to minimize my stuff. I took a class on Vision Mapping and came away with some good ideas. More bags exited the home containing clothes, household items, shoes and books. With this activity, I have made room.   And this morning is my first morning of writing in my new space, on a new desk. A corner of my room has now been officially  converted to my writing space.   The place I can go to write. A real desk. The window is open to my right, facing the woods. I hear the rustle of leaves as the wind ebbs and flows.   From my TV, I hear the gentle sounds of pan flutes and steel drums from the Soundscapes Channel that I turned on when I got myself ready to write.   The volume is quite low, barely audible. Truly background music. And, now that song ends and it morphs into a new piece by Matthew Labarge called “First Light”, a soft piano tune that quietly frames my writing space. I look over at the TV momentarily and I see that the Soundscape Channel screen offers quotes.   The one facing me now is:

 

“Resolve to know thyself; and know that he who finds himself loses his misery” – Matthew Arnold.

 

Well then!   Isn’t that part of finding an Authentic Self- and guiding that self into Authentic Creativity.   Tuning into our true self and sharing that in some way with others or even, with oneself. Is art not art unless it is shared? And, can the sharing be with oneself?   Must one have an immediate audience for the art to be enjoyed.   Can that audience not be the self? At least for the moment.   And there you go; 1K+ done!

 

I have more to write today, and more time to do it.   I now turn to the novel.   How does Nina get involved in the underground movement? Who draws her in? When exactly does it happen and what are the stages of it?   What are her fears and does she find purpose in it? What are her risks and what does she accomplish? So many threads.

 

Ah, yes. Indeed. It Is Time to Write.

To submit or to live- must it be a choice?

Another thread from my novel in progress.  .

Love this writing thing!

 

It was all too much to consider and answer here, sitting on a blanket with Frederika.   Still, Oslo wasn’t that far from Hvitsten.  How could she make sure that if she took the leap, she would still have at least a few visits permitted her in order to see her family each year?  Like Fred had from Halvor, allowing her permission to take off now and then to see Nina.  The truth is she was afraid of losing herself to someone else, like Frederika had lost herself to Halvor.   She was afraid of putting herself on the shelf for someone else, of having to ask for permission for things.  It seemed odd as an adult that she would not have authority over her own life.  Her thoughts shifted to her Tante Liv whose marriage, she was told, had begun as the romance of the decade only to end up in an abusive power hungry struggle filled with misery.

 

 

As a young girl, Nina had witnessed Tante Liv and Oncle Bjarte’s strained marriage, the sharpness of tongue that Bjarte threw upon Liv when he was displeased with her.  She never got any story right.  He would correct her and interrupt her at every turn.  Nina watched as Liv lost her voice over the years and ended up rarely vocalizing any opinion.  The playfulness that she remembered of Liv as a young woman when Nina was just a little girl, had all but vanished.  In its place was a pale woman that mostly obeyed her husband’s every whim and wish.   She knew Liv was this way in order to keep the peace at home.  Liv detested conflict.  It made Nina sad to watch Liv transform from this vibrant young woman with the most amazing smile and laugh, into a silent soul in the background of their lives.   It was a rare moment to hear her laugh anymore or to see her eyes twinkle as they had when they played and rode the horses together when she was a young girl.  Bjarte and Liv never had children and Nina wondered if maybe this was a part of the displeasure and irritation that accompanied Oncle Bjarte everywhere he went.

 

 

She wondered what life might have been like if Liv had been blessed with a child or two.  At least she would have a vessel into which she could direct her love.  As it was, she knew that Liv primarily focused on raising the pigs and making a clean home for Bjarte.  Their house was always immaculate and she wasn’t sure whether this was driven by Bjarte’s stern demeanor and demands or if this had been a natural inclination for Liv, perhaps a way for her to simply push forward and make life bearable.  Bjarte walked around as if the world was against him and that his fate was to endure it rather than enjoy the many instances of beauty one finds when each dawn breaks.

 

 

Nina did not understand people who couldn’t see how amazing nature was and all that was within it.  One only had to stop moving, look around and listen.  Become aware of  one’s surroundings.   These experiences placed a struggle within Nina whenever she considered a life shared with another soul.  If she committed herself to someone else, would that someone drain her of her own soul and energy?

 

 

At her age, she should be thinking mostly of the excitement of romance and the thrill of love.   But unlike some of her contemporaries, she had an observant tendency and when she expressed those observations out loud, particularly at school, she would be chastised.   She kept most of it to herself but was keenly aware of the downfalls of being partnered with a mismatched suitor.  So she wanted to pace herself when it came to marriage and hoped that she would see signs of danger before it was too late for her.  Until she found someone who seemed to share in her passions, she knew deep down that a partnership with the wrong person would be a life sentence of loneliness.

 

 

 

 

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.

All is Clear on the Extremities Front!

It’s amazing what one water pill will do. I can already feel the positive effects of this drug on my body. My legs, ankles and feet are still just a bit swollen, but progress is a foot (pun intended).

I returned from my marvelous adventure in Greece late Saturday night and continued to worry about my legs and ankles. I had traversed many countries via four flights, taking me from Mykonos to Athens, Athens to Munich, Munich to Chicago and finally, Chicago to Minneapolis. My feet and ankles ached from the skin being stretched, and my legs had an overall feeling of having been bruised. Each step hurt. So, I decided to check in with the GP. Better safe than sorry. Doc asked me to describe in detail all of the events of the past week, and he was concerned. While he could offer a water pill and we could see how it goes- he didn’t feel comfortable because of the range of symptoms. So, he ordered the ultrasound of both legs and an MRI of my chest, to rule out clots and pulmonary embolism.

After a few hours at St. Paul Radiology last night, I was given the all clear. With much relief, I headed to the pharmacy to fill the water pill RX which doc suggested would ease the excess water in the legs. “You should notice an improvement within three to four days” he said. “If not, call me”. The odd ash all over my legs and feet itched like a crazy obsession, and he recommended some Benadryl should take care of it.

I slept so much better last night with this diagnosis. No back of the mind fears of a clot traveling to my heart or lungs, or brain. Had it not been for my Factor V Leiden condition, I might have been less over cautious. But, now that I know all is just fine, I will wait for the swelling to reduce and the itching to stop.
It’s back to life as normal. And that certainly feels good. All is clear on the extremities front, and this offers me a chance to redirect my attention onto more energizing matters.

While all this was going on this weekend, we had company on Sunday. It had been shared that I was working on a novel and they asked that I read some of it to them. I read a part of my novel that I had not looked at for over six months. As I read it, it felt good. It felt right. And it gave me another boost of energy to think about focusing my attention back onto the novel. Here is that excerpt:

As a preface- the main character Nina enjoys a visit from her best friend Frederika. The story is set in the late 1930s, just prior to the Nazi occupation of Norway.


It was nearly three o’clock and Nina knew by now that Fredrika would just be arriving at the top of the roadway.  She eagerly finished up with milking Lisbet, tugging for one last draw from her teat and then wiped her hands on the towel laying on her lap before rising and pulling the milking stool out from under her.  She gently patted Lisbet “good girl” she cooed.   She walked back to the refrigeration system to deposit the afternoon’s product making sure to properly seal the container and wipe around it.   She grabbed the large mop that was hung high up on the barn wall and pushed it into the large pail of warm sudsy water and then quickly swished it throughout the milking area to clean up any residue.   She didn’t mind the milking duties.  Half the time she was deep in thought about one of the books she was reading or her next outing with Lilly.   But she always looked forward to a visit from Fred and she quickly made her way out of the barn to Lilly, already saddled and waiting just outside.  She mounted her and gently urged her to trot up the roadway towards the gate.  On her way out she passed Vera who was on her way to the barn “enjoy your painting time” Nina offered.   “Is it already time for Fred’s arrival?” asked Vera.  “Yes, she should be here by now”.    “Say hi and tell her we look forward to seeing her at dinner”.  With that Vera waved her sister on and smiled.  Those two had been inseparable since they were first enrolled in that choir when they were about ten years old.  It was an amazing bond and she wished she had a friend as close to her as Fred was to Nina.       

 

 

It had been over three months already since Fredrika last visited on one of her weekend jaunts and Nina was so excited to hear the news on how things were going for her in Moss.  Although her Far could get some supplies locally and he had regularly scheduled deliveries of provisions, it could be months before they headed in to the bigger town south of them for a resupply of those essentials that only an in person excursion could render.  Nina had written to Fred a few weeks ago asking her to pick up a few things for them; a favorite shampoo and almond hand cream. And, there she was, on time as usual, already dismounted from Nordlys and she was working on the chain that held the gate closed.  The journey by horse from Moss to Hvitsten was likely around two hours and one would think by now that Fred, not to mention Nordlys, would need a rest.  Nordlys was an amazingly beautiful stallion with a coat so black it often had shines of blue and green depending on where he stood relative to the sea, sky and pastures.  His coat reflected the nature surrounding him and Fred thought of the name to describe the ethereal Northern Lights that often danced and played out before them in winter time, depending on the atmospheric conditions.  The colors as well as the lightness of the flowing sky were a wonderful description for this animal that could perform amazing feats in the ring.  Nina was glad that even though they had moved to the city, they could still have a few horses stabled at a nearby farm.   She was sure Fred would have gone crazy without her access to Nordlys.   “Hei Fred, so good to see you, here let me help.”   Fred gave her the famous broad smile and flipped her long thick flaxen braid back over her shoulder “Hi Nina, it’s been too long, so glad we could schedule the weekend… I love our time together and Halvor didn’t mind.  Do you want to head out over the meadow through the marsh? Maybe we could walk along the beach for a while until we get to the bend.”    About a year ago, Fred and Halvor moved to the small city of Moss situated twenty kilometers south to open a restaurant, a dream of Halvor’s for years.  With the opening of Den Minne Kjøkken (The Memory Kitchen), he was finally getting a chance to try his hand at cooking professionally.  Halvor’s concept was to offer food that would take every Norwegian down memory lane, to a time of comfort and gathering with those that were the most important.  The space itself was designed to create atmosphere and warmth, a place where one could come in and spend time with friends and family as if entertaining in one’s own home.   The ingredients that Halvor introduced as well as the changing menu were always fashioned to create moments of joy and connection for people and a reflection back to more secure times.  It was as if Halvor already knew times ahead were going to require this comfort.  As much as Fred enjoyed her life with Halvor in the small city of Moss, whenever she anticipated her visits with Nina, she would long for time spent on her favorite shoreline.   “Sure, that sounds perfect- let’s drop your pack and head out”.  

 

They both mounted their horses and walked up the roadway to the main house.   “Gunnar!” Nina called out, “Hei… come and take Fred’s pack for us”.   Gunnar came running down the dirt road towards them with a big smile.    Gunnar still harbored his childhood feelings for Frederika, and they had not diminished since the first time he set eyes on her when Nina came home with her from choir practice one day all those years ago.  Gunnar had seen her in the hallways at school, but never really had a chance to interact with her since he was a few grades behind them.   So when Nina announced one day that she had become friends with Fred and that she was inviting her to their home, Gunnar couldn’t believe his luck.  “Hi Fred, how are things?”   “Very good, Gunnar.  The business is just beginning to take off and Halvor is getting easier to live with now because of it” she beamed at Gunnar, never knowing that her mention of Halvor resulted in him feeling slighted once again.   




Fred never really knew the depth of Gunnar’s feelings for her.  Sure, she knew there was a slight crush but she had no idea how miserable he was when she was around because of how she played with him as if he were a little brother.  And besides, she was married now.  She felt that Gunnar must be over his childhood feelings by now.    Alas, no- as silly as it was he couldn’t shed his affections and still longed for her to look at him the way girls look at someone with whom they are deeply in love.   Gunnar shrugged knowing it was pointless and he felt embarrassed wondering if she had any inkling of the emotional rumblings going on in his gut.  He grabbed her overnight pack and waved them off “see you at the supper table when you get back!”, and with that he retreated back up the driveway to the house.

 

 

They started off with a slow paced walk down through what they called the boulevard, which was a long straight path bordered by majestic birch trees that formed a privacy fence for several hundred meters before the path curved and opened up into the vast meadow where the sheep grazed in one paddock and the horses were contained just beyond in the other.  Both paddocks faced the ocean and between the two was a lovely alleyway formed by the fences which allowed one to stroll down to the beach. “How is the mill doing these days?  Is Mona getting stocked up enough for the next market? Is she showcasing any new colors this time?”    Mona had been busy for months dying the wools for the next fiber market held in Moss, an annual event in late May.   “Oh, you know Mor, each year she churns out more skeins than the last and the fiber community just loves her for it.  She has a new shade that she is calling Brilliant Amethyst which she is getting from the big crop of heather that she harvested last spring.  But it’s the Tyttebær Red that I think will be the biggest hit this year”.   The markets were an opportunity to help refill part of the farm’s working fund.    




Mona was an expert at harvesting the yarn from her prized Spælsau Sheep.   The fiber they provided was so silky and soft. They made incredibly beautiful sweaters that were prized for their softness and perfect for those that couldn’t handle the itch from other wool yarns.  Mona’s colors all came from the nature that surrounded the property; she mostly used the wild flowers and berries and various wild grasses, but occasionally she would incorporate fallen leaves, twigs – anything from which she could soak and harvest a unique pigment. She generally always had a batch of neutrals and also a colorful splash of brilliant prismatic colors which were great for combining with the neutrals or using on their own for an uplifting shawl or coat.   She had once made a coat out of the dye lot she made from the tart berry: Tyttebær, which not only made the best sauce accompaniment for her roasts and meatballs, but also created a deep blood garnet colored dye which ended up as one of the most beautiful full length wool capes that Fred had ever seen, bordering on the mystical.  




In winter time, Mona wore that cape everywhere she went and in the bleakness of winter, one could always locate her from afar by looking for the red splash of color amongst the dull white of the snow, and the ashen browns of the soggy brush and leafless tree limbs reaching for the sky.  She had recreated the shade once again, but this dye lot had a deeper tinge, an almost black red.  Along with the naturally brilliant colors of Mona’s dye lots, she also offered muted tones as well as natural whites, blacks and grey-blues which were a staple for every knitter and weaver.  Her skeins were sought after throughout the region and on opening day at market, most of her supply would dwindle down to a few dozen skeins.   This time she was working towards an even more substantial supply than the last market which she hoped would take her through at least two full days of the market.    “That’s wonderful, Nina.  I am so glad that Mona still thrives with her wool business.  Her yarns are so amazing”.    “I know what you mean- at market I don’t see anything that compares to it- those Spælsau sheep make all the difference.”        

 

***
So the novel is in progress. Characters are developing. Storylines are evolving. The project continues… I only wish I had more time to dedicate to it each day.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Thoreau.

Indeed.

Ginger Curls

The unforgiving wind whipped her grey toned skin as she lay bare under the chill of a February sky.  Her body tangled up in layers of seaweed. Her ginger curls had lost their spring, long soaked by the waves lapping up from the shore.  It could still be quite a while before someone happened upon her in this isolated bay in the middle of winter.  Perhaps a hardcore fisherman who ignored 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.

Who is she? How did she end up lying on the shores of the majestic Oslofjorden, lodged between a few hefty boulders and covered in seaweed. Wrong place at the wrong time? What was her involvement with “The Group”? Was she followed and then eliminated by a master plan? Did she know too much? Was she inappropriately inquisitive with the wrong people?

Anita generally asked too many questions. She needed to know every detail. Her discernment meter could be a bit off when it came to certain people. She trusted too much. Martin had been leery of her ability to follow orders when it came to discretion. He questioned Otto’s judgment in bringing her into The Group in the first place. During her training, Martin would call out instances of weaknesses in her approach to various assignments to the higher ups, only to find his opinions batted away. They liked her. More importantly, Otto liked her. They all wanted to believe in her. Martin worried about her safety and the safety of his comrades. Would she end up being their worst vulnerability? Could her personality and innocence result in harm to the team, or worse yet- a disastrous end to a vital assignment? Otto was unconvinced that she had been a mistake. He kept repeating over and over again that she could be the Ace up their sleeve, the honey to draw the bees. With her supple body, brilliant red curls and sultry ruby red smile, she could be useful in uncovering hidden plots through the plying of her charms to the enemy. It was risky, but he felt she could be that sweetheart that softened a Nazi soldier into giving away secrets. It had perhaps been a naive proposal.

At any rate, she had not received enough training and they had not allowed enough time to fully ensure that she had the full understanding and scope of her difficult assignments; that she had the right appreciation for the necessary precautions that she must take. They had needed more time to hone her instinct. They had likely sent her out into enemy lines way too early. But time was not something for which they had a surplus. Each day and each month deepened the hold the Nazis had on Norway. Letting time pass was not something Martin or any of the leaders of the Group wanted to nurture without some progress in thwarting the Nazi master plan. So they pushed her out of the nest early, and hoped she could fly. And she flew like the best of them for a time. What they had not counted on was that her heart would get tangled up in a romance with one of the Nazis. They had not fully considered that she was a feeling young woman with hungers and hopes for a future that included full fledged romance and belonging. And, poor sweet Anita had trusted the wrong man. While her parents had no idea where Anita ended up, The Group had a strong suspicion that her disappearance had something to do with Helmut. She had not returned from that last assignment, and that assignment had everything to do with Helmut. He had been the key to advancing their project, to gaining better insight into the next steps.

Was this her fate,then? Lying in a pool of seawater, her eyes staring up at the heavens as if asking for help a bit too late. Her face was void of any meaningful expression, her soft green eyes offering only a blank stare up at the sky, as if to say: “look there, a fluffy cloud”. The innocence of her death would break anyone’s heart, even the coldest enemy couldn’t take this scene in without knowing that on both sides, people – human beings, were casualties of this war. Regular citizens trying to make a difference, becoming involved in the layers of intelligence that in a normal healthy world, would never have been necessary. These civilians would have led simple lives with regular jobs and marriages and children. But in these years of occupation, people stepped up. Ordinary people. And in some cases, these ordinary people did not have the skills or insights to properly navigate the traitorous waters of war.

As Anita lay in this agitated pool of seawater, one could not see any trace of a final fear or any strain in her soft face. There was no detection of tragedy to mark her final moments of life. It was as if her death had been a soft and simple comma in a long string of hopeful words. There was no exclamation point to be found here. This was a fade to black moment on an otherwise beautiful sun drenched horizon which invited the waters into a soothing embrace of her body, leaving behind dark green moist ribbons of seaweed to cover her up from peering eyes.

 

No one in her personal circle missed her because she had been absent for so long. It had been years since her parents and sister had seen her. Thinking back, her family might say she had been gone almost since the moment that those u-boats headed up the Oslofjorden in the Spring of 1939. But it wasn’t quite that long ago. It was actually just over a year into the conflict and occupation that Anita had found her way into a friendship with Otto, and it had made all the difference in her world. Her parents had never met Otto, but they knew of him. Anita had mentioned Otto to them early on in her friendship with him, but then just as suddenly, she stopped talking of him. Her parents did not know this, but her silence came along once she had been officially recruited into The Group. When her parents would ask about him, she would offer vague responses and then change the subject. In fact, on most topics, her usual bubbly and energetic responses were lacking. She had become more and more secretive. She had changed.

 

When she disappeared on that day in late August of 1940, they were not that surprised. They had a feeling she had gotten involved in something to do with the underground, but they were not sure of the exact details. They missed their sweet Anita. She was one of those people that commanded an audience. She always entered a room with a full voice and lifted people out of the doldrums. She was a mood booster. She enjoyed people and they enjoyed her. Her absence was definitely felt. The world was not the same without her. As with most people, Anita’s mother hated the war, but she despised it all the more because it had taken Anita from her.

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?