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Welcome to our little blizzard. Yep, parts of the Midwest of this United States of America have been hit hard. We have…how many inches? I brought the yardstick outside to try and gauge the exact amount. Twelve inches? Fourteen inches? And the storm has not stopped yet.
I awoke at 5:45 a.m. and blearily logged onto the Internet to see if school/work had been cancelled. No announcements. But I was pretty sure that we would not be having school. The wind rushed and screamed outside the window at maybe 40 miles per hour. The snow blew sideways. I predicted: no school. But settled down beneath blankets on the couch to wait. I admired the way our little ceramic Christmas tree reflected in the window as dawn approached.
The call came at 6:30. Our principal announced “No School”. Hurray! A day off work.
Most of my day was spent inside with the front door securely latched. But, never fear!, I remembered the outdoor commitment. Divided it into three mini-portions. The first involved a meandering to the mailbox. One truly must meander very slowly during a blizzard. The foot goes up in the air, sinks down in the heavy snow. Slowly one makes her way through the leaden snow drifts. The wind blows snow sideways in your face. You persevere. You get the mail. You head back to the house.
The second trip outdoors…what did I do? I don’t remember. Maybe I just stood around hoping to catch the wind whipping up blizzard-like snow. My eyelashes turned snowy. It didn’t feel too cold, though.
The third trip outside, after dark, involved digging out buried cars. This was truly a job. A snow scraper isn’t enough. One must find a push broom in the garage, and then broom off the foot or more of snow. It helps to blare Christmas music from the car’s speakers. It helps to have one’s husband atop his tractor, fitted with a snowplow, beaming light around the driveway.
On the bright side, I accomplished much indoors today. (Shhh…this is suppose to be an outdoor blog. I’m not suppose to tell you about indoor activities.) I finished the novel that I’ve been writing for NaNoWriMo since November 1st. It’s somewhere between 60,000-63,000 words. It all ended rather well. The heroine did not die, although she almost did. She married the hero and we hope they are going to live happily ever after. The novel combined a true historical setting from around our area…and some of my favorite things, spirituality and dreaming. I am happy. The characters in the novel are happy. Now, with a little editing, it might someday be possible to actually SHOW the novel to someone! Excuse me. I mean a LOT of editing.
Happy Thanksgiving all you blog readers!
Even if you don’t celebrate thanksgiving, I am thankful for YOU.
Today (besides being the once or twice a year our mostly-vegetarian lips touch meat…that’s if you don’t count fish) we ate Thomas Turkey. He tasted quite good. Baked to that fall-apart perfection. Add some mashed potatoes, gravy and homemade stuffing and you’ve got a dinner to be grateful for. We said our words of thanks. I read a poem by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez entitled Grace. We included our family and friends, near and far, into the heart of our prayers. We ate.
It was snowing this morning. A very light snow, dusting the ground and then melting into it. Flakes danced from the sky and melted in odd patterns everywhere.
I was truly fascinated with the way the snow melted on the car. How interesting! What loops, what hieroglyphs, what symmetry! One has a lot to be grateful for when the snow melting on one’s car is more entertaining than a movie or a Macy’s parade, don’t you think?
Barry put up the bird feeder a couple days ago. We’ve been waiting breathlessly for the arrival of the chickadees and nuthatches. They have been calling and chirping all around us in the past few days. They kept singing, “Where is our bird feeder? Where is our bird feeder?” but when we finally put it up, they were nowhere around. Until this afternoon when we put the turkey in the oven. Then there were a dozen of them pecking away in the feeder. I was too busy to photograph their majesties.
Excuse the insertion of this green moss photo. It was taken yesterday, before the world turned white. Isn’t it a stunning color of bright green against the autumn leaves?
Another interjection: Remember when I told you about the NaNoWriMo commitment of writing a 50,000 page novel during the month of November? How many of you placed bets it couldn’t be done? Well, I am here to tell you that 51,214 words have been sprawled across 96 pages and I now have the official “prize”. You want to know what the prize is? I will upload it for you:
However, of course, the novel is not done. Nowhere near done. The characters are still deep involved in their drama, romance and historical fiction. Who knows when it will be finished. This month? Next? I do vow to finish it. Some of the writing is so raw I’m sure you could scrub countertops with it (ha ha, how’s that for a metaphor?) but other passages are almost…almost…fairly decent. The editor would have to utilize an eraser and thesaurus before anyone could ever read it.
Just wanted to let you know the status of this secondary commitment. Which didn’t really interfere with the outdoor commitment at all, did it?
What else can I tell you about this Thanksgiving night? How about the bald eagle which landed in the tree over the garage and sat there a long time? Barry said he’s seen it there two or three times lately. I tried to grab the camera and capture his majestic wings in flight but he flapped away with his broad wingsweep the very moment the front door opened. Like all good trackers, I followed him up the road. He landed in a tree. I approached; he flew away. I shook my head and wandered back home, photographing ice crystals instead.
As for the front porch: oh my! Very dangerous. An unsuspecting walker, say, someone with birdseed in his hands, could take a sliding dive on the icy steps. Luckily, we maintained our wits. We walked oh-so-carefully. No one tumbled. No one fell.
We were truly thankful as we said our Thanksgiving prayer this year.
Sending you all Thanksgiving blessings, as well.
****Darn! Darn! I almost forgot to tell you THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Phew. Memory is not always the best. Dawn, Sahlah, had a great suggestion for Black Friday. I will paste her idea here:
I have an idea – we can all give virtual rocks/feathers/twigs/puddles whatever to each other in our blogs!
We could spend Black Friday searching for those “just right” images…
So that’s going to be MY Black Friday shopping. I’m going to officially shop for rocks. And a few other goodies from the woods. Virtual presents for all of YOU!
It’s been 336 days now. Three hundred thirty-six days of opening the door, walking outside. In rain, in snow, in sunshine, in happiness, in resentment, in indifference, in delight. The outdoors has opened itself to me, and I have opened myself to it.
One month from now, on December 21st, the Winter Solstice will occur. One year ago on the Winter Solstice we built a big bonfire back behind the house in a clearing in the woods. My daughter, Kiah, was home and we invited a good friend, Catherine, over for the official commitment ceremony. We each stated what we desired to accomplish during the next year and placed our slips of paper in the fire…which carried our intention to the heavens in the form of smoke and ash. If you want to read about that first evening by the roaring fire please click here.
And now the year is winding down, as the hours of sunlight decrease each day. Winter approaches. We’re moving toward the depths of the year, toward the darkest hours. Here is the place where we perhaps dream of next year. Where the seeds of our next movements are born.
We contemplate, we give thanks. We dream perhaps of new directions. Perhaps we’ve traveled west for a while; now it’s time to travel north. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I am still aiming to travel ALL directions!) We say goodbye to the green grasses and fallen leaves. Snow’s sleep will come upon them soon.
I spent lots of time outside today. How shall I count the ways? Outside helping Barry with his garage-addition project (two or three times). Outside picking stray wet leaves out of the perennial garden. And later on in the late afternoon, Barry and I decided to drive over to Keweenaw Bay to Carla’s Restaurant. I really didn’t need to eat out any more after last week’s eating-out-extravaganza in San Diego. But poor Barry hasn’t eaten out much lately…so over to Carla’s we drove.
On the way there I asked, “Would you like to see the hidden lake I discovered earlier this year?” Yes, he would like. It’s behind the Pow Wow grounds. You can read about the magical day of discovering the hidden lake here.
We followed the almost-hidden path back to the little lake just as dusk descended. He liked it. I was pleased to see the placid waters yet again. Ducks flew up in a squawking flight of wings as we approached. It looked like they were running across the lake as they attempted to rise. The lake was filled with invisible duck tracks that shimmered in the fading light.
We walked back to the car. “Hey! Look at that partridge over there on the fence!” I said. Grabbed the camera, stalked toward it (probably with all the finesse of a large elephant). Triumphant because the partridge was not moving. It would be the best partridge photo of the year! A National Geographic up-close wild animal shot.
But wait a minute. As I got closer it didn’t look like a partridge anymore. It looked like…
…an owl wing.
An owl wing? What was an owl wing doing here on the fence?
But then I got the shivers.
The book I am writing for NaNoWriMo is about an Ojibway medicine man named Kookookoo’oo. (Well it’s partially about an Ojibway medicine man, but he’s a big part of the story.) And you know what Kookookoo’oo means? You got it.
I’m not 100% certain it’s an owl wing. It could be some kind of little hawk wing. (In which case the medicine man might be saying, “Change my name, will you?”) But I have found many owl and hawk feathers over the years and these looked more like owl.
OK. That’s the story of how today’s outdoor and indoor adventures and dreams all merged together.
Rain dripped from the sky most of the day. It was a drizzly damp afternoon. Mist descended upon the earth. Waves of fog rolled in.
By 3:30 it looked like dusk. A late autumn afternoon.
Here’s my daily confession. I went into the woods today. Shhhh…don’t tell anyone. You know you’re not suppose to hike in the woods during hunting season. Especially during the first week. But I couldn’t help myself. The woods called. I said, “No way, woods, I will not go in you.” The woods called again. I said, “OK, but just in a safe place where hunters surely won’t go. Near the lake.” The woods smiled. It knew I wouldn’t refuse.
Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle. Camera shutter going snap, snap, snap. (Christopher, out there in San Diego a few days ago, suggested I turn off the sound.) Heck no. I like the sound the camera makes. It sings a lively four-note tune when you turn it on. Maybe five notes.
I thought today about how our favorite places on the earth look different all the time. They look so different on a foggy day than, say, a bright sunny morning. They look different in snow, different in the jungle-depths of summer, different in the tentative green of spring, different when the autumn leaves fall. This may sound obvious. But isn’t it true of everything? We think people or things are always the same. But everything and everyone are constantly changing. You are brand new in every moment! And so am I! Isn’t this a miracle?
I have 2,000 more words to write on the NaNoWriMo novel before bed, so had better shut up here right now. The “novel” now has 32,328 words. After the first five days of sheer torture and probably terrible writing at the beginning of the month, I have had a great time birthing this story. We need to have 50,000 by November 30th to get our…I’m not sure what we get…an award? Praise? Inner contentment for actually writing a novel? Whatever!
Hope you all had sunlight after 3:30 p.m. If not, hope you enjoyed the early dusk.
P.S. I am definitely back in slower-Internet land. After uploading photos in ten seconds in San Diego…it’s back to almost three minutes per photo. I am trying to figure out what to do during those three minutes. Meditate? Read? Play a computer card game? You can’t check any other Internet applications because the Internet politely refuses to cooperate. Alas, the little problems in life, eh?
All good fairy-tales start with “Once upon a time.” Do you remember sitting on your mama’s lap, perhaps with a thumb in your mouth? Her voice gently soothed you as she read stories of long ago and far away. Her voice sounded like a lullaby as she brought you to lands from the past. You no longer lived in the present on your mama’s lap; you were gone into a story. So far gone that you later blinked and wondered where the time disappeared and how that story was so real, as real as your living room and your mama’s voice.
Stories have the ability to send us into other worlds. Where would we be without stories, without books, without tales of overcoming and learning and crying and loving?
I am thinking a LOT about stories since starting NaNoWriMo three days ago. About the value of stories, and the challenges of stories.
As some of you may have guessed, my fictional story is set in our nearby ghost town of Pequaming back in 1932. Henry Ford bought this village and aimed to make it into a model town, a sociological experiment. He insisted that the villagers get rid of their chickens and cows claiming the animals were unsanitary and that on $5.00 a day wages each family could afford to buy milk and eggs. He required each family to cultivate a garden. He banned drinking, insisted workers save a percentage of their wages and did “general surveillance” of their homes. He maintained stringent village rules, and pioneered an educational system in his private school system accredited by the University of Michigan.
Henry Ford was especially fond of Pequaming and annually spent a few days in his Bungalow, a seven-pillared, fourteen room home. When he arrived, the whole town turned out to greet him with a band concert and old-fashioned dances. Both the Mr. and Mrs. enjoyed dancing.
You may be wondering: what the heck am I writing about? OK, here’s the scoop. This is actually a story which has been rambling around in my head since I was in my late 20’s. It’s the story of a young school teacher who comes up on a train from Chicago and teaches in one of the four elementary school buildings in Pequaming. She has two suitors, a Ojibway fellow named David and a Finnish socialist (yep, there were a lot of Finnish socialists living here at that time) named Christian.
Barry, by the way, raised his eyebrows at the name of the suitors. What kind of name is “David” for the Ojibway suitor? Or “Christian” for that matter? I refused to budge. That was their names. End of story.
And, strangely enough, I later opened the history book of Pequaming and discovered that a chief named David King had sold Pequaming to a white logger named Hebard in 1879. Perhaps my make-believe David could be a descendant, do you think? And when wandering in the Pequaming cemetery on Sunday I noted one of the old-time graves belonging to a fellow named Christian.
Perhaps the ghosts are whispering the story to me…
Here is what I have learned about writing in three days:
1. Don’t believe your thoughts about the quality of your writing or whether you have a story to tell. Just keep writing. You can edit later.
2. Don’t believe your feelings of frustration about what you are writing. Feelings are like the weather. Changeable. One minute it’s raining and the next sunny on your inner landscape. Just keep writing.
3. It doesn’t take much time to sit down and write 1,600 words a day.
4. Just face the empty page and let the words come out. Just keep writing.
Every lesson I have learned while writing this novel has mirrored the lessons of this outdoor commitment. Do not believe your thoughts and feelings about why you don’t want to go outside. Why you prefer to stay inside. Why it’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too snowy. JUST GO OUTSIDE. You won’t regret it.
** Outdoor time today~~raking. And then more raking as Barry drove the little lawn tractor around chopping up leaves. Another autumn chore checked off!
This post is really about an indoor adventure. But since our indoor adventures sometimes mirror our outdoor adventures, they sometimes require announcement.
Here is my announcement: starting tomorrow morning, November 1st, I will be writing my first 50,000 word novel.
Did anyone choke on his or her coffee at that announcement?
I hope not, for it is most assuredly going to happen. We hope it’s going to happen. We’re pretty sure it’s going to happen…
This novel-writing month is happening courtesy of NaNoWriMo. (I dare you to say this really fast at least ten times!) Here is what the folks at NaNo say about this process:
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.
Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2008, we had over 119,000 participants. More than 21,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
Starting tomorrow morning I will now be maneuvering between TWO commitments, at least for the month of November. Writing between 1,600-2,000 words a day on a novel AND going outdoors and writing a nightly blog. Does this sound crazy? Yes, it’s crazy. Lets not forget two part-time jobs and a trip to San Diego mid-month to visit my son.
You want to know what the novel is about? Hmmmm….. I don’t know. I have a rough idea, a baby idea, a tiny plot. But who knows what will come out of the typing fingers tomorrow morning? You can start writing a love story and end up with a murder mystery. A historical piece and end up with fantasy. Fiction and end up with truth. Or, probably more accurately, you start off writing fiction and end up with a reflection.
Just wanted to let you know that my attention might be a little preoccupied this month. Knock me on the side of the head if you ask a question and I don’t answer. If I forget to read some of your blogs with as much diligence. If I start writing outdoor adventures that sound a little…strange. You guys keep me “real”. Please.
Actually, I think we need our outdoor times even more when we’re deeply involved in indoor activities. We need to breathe fresh air, to exercise, to walk slowly in the weather, to clear away the cobwebs words string in our minds. Don’t you agree?
P.S. I raked leaves today. Not once, not twice, but three times! Usually Barry is running his little lawn tractor around, chopping up leaves. But this year our grass is too wet for efficient chopping. Hopefully it will dry out before snow.