Show and Tell Time

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Since yesterday was a whirlwind of deadlines and today is a whirlwind of meetings, I thought for the blog today I’d share a bit of what I was working on yesterday.

The deadline was for the Arthouse Co-Op, located in Brooklyn.

I participated in a project they have going called The Fiction Project.

They sent me an 80 page Molskine notebook and challenged me to fill up the pages with stories. My topic for the stories was, “And suddenly…”

Whoo. And I thought this was going to be *so* easy to do. I love to write short stories and flash fiction. What a snap!

Silly me.

It was a fun challenge. Writing the stories wasn’t even the hard part, though it was hard enough. The rough part was in actually putting all the stories into the book in some coherent form. It’s harder than you’d think.

I thought I was done and had a full book of stories, but when I glued it all into a first draft piece, I still had four pages left to fill.

I suppose I could have left those four pages blank, but that seemed like cheating.

So I sat down to dash off something quick.

Dash off something quick. Har, har. Of course, that’s when writer’s block set in.

Anyhow, it took a while, but when I did finally write, what is below what came through.

It’s in need of more editing, but as I ran out of time, I had to just run with it. This is what covered the last four pages of my Moleskine book. For your perusal.

It’s called “And Suddenly…It’s Over”

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I look at my oldest, most reliable friend and plead silently, “speak to me!”

The blinking eye of the cursor just beats a perfect metronome rhythm back at me, waiting. The whole empty white page, devoid of the text I yearn for so much, mocks me openly.

I love the words, the black squiggles and marks on the page. Words that express how I feel, how I want to feel, how I ought to feel. But the words don’t flow so easily from my veins.

I plead with the empty page to fill up quick, but it never helps. So I take another course and appeal directly to The Muse. She is recalcitrant and obstinate, but I goad her along.

She wakes from her satin sheets, stretches her pale, lovely long arms, and rises.

“Oh, all right,” she concedes after I’ve wooed her with mimosas and caviar.

And so we sit down to write.

I step back, ceding control of my body, my thoughts, and my mind to The Muse. I let her dance. I let her sing. I let her weep if that’s where she wants to go.

I am at her service, totally, completely.

We write tales of the life cycles of the human, of cranky old men with faithful dogs riding in rusted old pickup trucks. We write of lost girls with music in their head and small town girls finding their way in the big city. (editors note, these were the topics of the other stories that filled the book)

Sometimes we write of horses and cows, other times about diamonds and millionaires. We write of everything and nothing. All of it and more.

Today, however, this day when there is nothing I want to do more than write, I can’t manage to coax her to give more than a single paragraph.

This is the worst. We begin the takeoff sequence, the words start to form, but I can’t get wind under my wings. Soon we stutter and the engine fails. We write, but then we don’t get very far before we don’t write anymore.

The cursor blinks. Waiting.

I sit, begging, pleading with her. I try to do it on my own, force the words to come through, but each letter oozes painfully out of me like blood from a fresh, deep wound. It’s not natural like when she does it.

I used to think this was a terminal condition, this writer’s block, and would last forever. Over the years I’ve come to know that the diva inside of me, she of all the ideas and brilliant turns of phrase, will always come back. No matter how firmly she leaves or how far she goes, one day, I know she will return.

And she does.

She’ll always find a way to embody my fingers and my soul because she just can’t resist. The pull toward the joy we feel in those moments when the words flow free is too great. It’s like an addiction, stronger than any drug or drink.

We write because we must write.

And so today, I wait her out. The first paragraph is written and I wait, blinking in time with the cursor.

If I don’t squeeze too hard, if I don’t press her, it will happen.

Magically, it will happen.

So I avert my eyes and pretend it doesn’t matter. I fix a cup of coffee and I read the news and I say in a sighing way, “oh, I guess we’re not going to write today.”

And finally, when I’ve got her fully convinced that it just doesn’t matter, The Muse shows up with a “who me?” look on her face and suddenly has the will to write.

So we take another go at that runway. Faster this time, we let the words start to flow free. Soon, with enough speed and plenty of ideas to fuel our ascent, we break away from the land below and we begin to rise.

The adjectives and adverbs and participles flow smoothly over the wingtips and we soar, together, my fingers are her engine while The Muse is pulling all the levers.

It’s magnificent. Suddenly, we kill off the main character and bank hard to the left. Oh this is a great run. Then a plot twist, some suspense, upward we climb, faster, faster.

And finally, when it feels like my fingers might snap off from the speed and the altitude, the climax of the story arrives and we climb to impossible heights and finally crest that hill.

Once over the apex we begin coasting down the story arc of the glorious dénouement.

Then, the story draws to a close. The engines slow, the fingers wind down, and we touch gently back to down earth, weary but fulfilled.

Flaps come up, we coast to a stop and ease our rig back into the slip.

And suddenly…it’s over.

It is then, with much melancholy, together we type the words…

The End

Deadlines

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Yeah. Had a big one today. Been looming out there since January.

Funny how May seems *so* far away in January.

And then without looking, it’s May 24th and you are NOT finished with your project.

Ugh.

Anyhow, it was a race across the finish line…but thankfully, I did cross the ol’ finish line.

And now:

Back to our regularly scheduled bloggy goodness tomorrow.

That’s not *supposed* to be funny

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And yet, it is.

Was reading an article today in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, the SFGate with the headline of “Flushed jail items cause S.F. court flooding.”

The article talks about how inmates at the San Francisco Hall of Justice managed to flush two orange jumpsuits and a bed sheet down the toilet, thus causing a major backup of raw sewage into the courtrooms.

Workers got the mess cleaned up last night only to have it flood again in the morning.

Just. Ew. Talk about a crappy day at work.

Sorry. No really, I actually am sorry. I’ve been on a pun kick lately. But that’s not the funny part.

The funny part comes toward the end of the article.

Here, I’ll quote it directly:

“…the last major problem occurred in the mid-1990s and prompted the city to purchase grinders, known as ‘muffin monsters,’ that are installed on sewage pipes.”

Giggle. *snort* Chuckle. Guffaw.

Muffin monsters?

Ok really. Honestly?

How am I not supposed to laugh at that?

I immediately dashed into the other room to share my new phrase with The Good Man.

Thus proving once more that I am the intellectual equivalent of a twelve-year-old boy.

But come ON. Muffin monsters?

Ok, ok, they really exist and that’s really what the manufacturer calls them.

They look like this:

That’s all well and good, but I don’t care who you are, that’s still funny!

*giggle snort*

The things that matter

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I had a really great time being in southern New Mexico over the weekend. I got to spend time with many of my old Ag College friends who still rely on the weather and the earth to make a good part of their living.

I got back to my rural roots. It was a fresh reminder.

While I whine and complain about all the rain we got this year in Northern California, I was reminded, plenty reminded, that water is still the heart of life in a town like Las Cruces.

Simple water. Yet not so simple.

As we drove out to my best friend’s house, which is well and gone north of Las Cruces, my old senses kicked in. I smelled the water before I saw it. We rounded a corner and could see that the main irrigation ditch was running high.

“Someone must have ordered water,” I said aloud to no one in particular.

“That looks like almond trees going in,” I pointed out to my husband.

“Whoa, that used to be a cotton field…looks like they put in chile,” I commented.

I greeted each pasture and expanse of farmland like an old friend.

“Chickens!” I exclaimed when we came to a traffic jam on the road (us and another car). The Good Man had asked, “um, why are we stopped?” and I had the better view around the car ahead.

There was a bantam rooster doing his strut on the warm asphalt of that rural New Mexico state road. We all waited for him to go by. He took his time.

Once at the party, The Good Man and I at one point talked with my best friend’s dad. He said that they were having trouble with a neighbor up the road diverting their water. They’d order and not enough would show up.

I’ve been reading a lot of Louis L’Amour stories lately. In those books, diverting someone’s water is a killing sort of offense.

I said to my dad-by-proxy, “you oughta weld that guy’s gate shut” and he laughed. Don’t think he hadn’t already considered it. (and by gate, I meant irrigation gate, not the entry to his driveway)

As the night wore on, it got to be about two o’clock in the morning. The evening dew, such that it was, was starting to settle. I said to my husband, “this is good hay cutting weather.” He asked why, and I said, “the dew makes the stalks wet and they bend instead of break.”

I used to date a guy in college who had to end our dates fairly early because he had to get home and cut hay. I learned to recognize that smell. It meant it was time for him to scoot on home. Time to work when the water is in the air….

The next day, out at my friend’s place, I learned the water in the irrigation ditch was running so high because it was a “free day” for the community. They got to water as needed.

I was wearing flip-flops and I tromped around the soggy yard helping my god-dog look for his favorite ball. The water made the air smell sweet. It also made the frogs come out and sing their sexy mating songs rather loudly.

We ate dinner outside with a chorus of humping frogs to accompany our meal.

All because of water.

Living in the city like I do, I take water for granted. I turn on the tap, and there it is. It falls from the sky and I curse the nuisance.

Yesterday, I was shopping at Nordstrom for a nice outfit to wear for a very important meeting today.

While I shopped in luxury, I looked down at my flip-flops. They still bore the dried mud from my friend’s home. I tossed back my head and laughed at the beautiful, grounding irony of it all.

May I never forget the land and the people who rely daily on the value of pure, simple water.

Rather out of focus photo of my cranky god-cat and the gate at my friend’s place.

Seeing myself in a new way

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You know, looking at a photograph of myself is always an interesting and somewhat humbling experience.

In a photo, I never quite look the way that I imagine I look.

Where did those lines around the eyes come from? Do my hips really look like that?

Ah well.

The other day, I received an interesting photograph that surely has me pondering some things.

Here, I’ll share the photo with you, my fabulous readers, so you can see what I’m talking about.

It is a fun photo of me driving! Isn’t that neat! A perspective one doesn’t often get.

Look at me…intense expression on my face. Hands firmly at ten and two. Or maybe more like eleven and one, but no matter.

That’s a concentrated and skillful driver, no?

Yup, that photo was kindly mailed to me by the Superior Court of the county where I live.

Wasn’t that sweet?

It appears they are of the belief that I didn’t stop fully before making a right turn at a red light into a very busy intersection.

And so for the luxury of a faboo photo of me behind the wheel, I was charged $500.

I’m *ever* so pleased about that. Tickled pink. And other euphemisms I can’t think of right now to sarcastically convey that I’m not very pleased AT ALL!

Next step: onward to driving school. Yay me.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate red light cameras? Oh I really hate them.